Early in my business, a friend who was very enthusiastic and supportive of my new career invited me to a networking group. She thought it would be a great group for me to connect with – a strong source for referrals. She also said several of the members had health issues and she was sure I could help them. So off I went, excited to meet new people.
I walked into a dimly lit room. About 25 men and women from their mid-thirties to 60ish were gathered in small groups chatting, some in business attire, and others with that work-from-home casual look. Multiple scents filled the air – several colognes intermingled with the waft of salad greens, sandwiches and soup from a buffet against a wall. Rectangular tables were set up in a square shape surrounded by chairs, so everyone could face each other when they sat to begin the meeting. The only familiar face was my friend.
I made my way to the tables and claimed a spot next to her. We chatted and she soon spotted a middle-aged man, dressed in a suit just a few chairs away and she told me he was someone I really needed to meet. She introduced me by name and told him I was a health coach. As I extended my hand and began to say “nice to meet you,” his reaction took me quite by surprise – actually that’s an understatement. It stunned me.
His arms tensed as he gripped the arm rests and pushed his chair back with his feet, smashing his chair into a table behind him, causing dishes to rattle and water glasses to spill.
I thought to myself, "Wow, she told him I was a Health Coach, not that I had a communicable disease!" We had no time for further “niceties” as the host asked us to take our seats.
As the business of the meeting completed, members of the group were asked to introduce their guests. When it was my friend’s turn, she shared my name, how we met in the dance community and then said THOSE words, “She's a Health Coach.”
Once again - reactions I didn’t expect. I noticed three people used their arms to cover the food on the plates in front of them. One man, seated just a few feet from me exclaimed “oh – you’re no fun!”
I hadn't yet spoken a word. (For the record, I am fun.)
Fortunately, since that early outing, reactions to my profession haven’t been so dramatic. At first, I took these quite personally (you can’t blame me, can you?). I wondered what it was that was causing such a negative reaction, but I quickly realized, it’s not me. They are just responding to how they feel about themselves.
How do I know? Because most of us experience insecurity of some sort, myself included. For me it’s the feeling I used to get (true confession - I sometimes still do), when I walk into a room and see a group that's fashionably dressed. My initial reaction was to retreat. I used to say that you style-mavens intimidate me, but I know YOU aren’t doing anything but being your stylish selves. You aren’t doing anything to “intimidate” me – that’s my baggage.
And it’s the same for many people who have baggage about how they’re eating and taking care of themselves. They fear being judged. They fear change. The mere presence of “a health coach” conjures up images of deprivation, no longer enjoying “comfort” food, or deep down – facing what’s holding them back.
When I work with a client, that’s one of the first things we get to – what are your fears? And how do you feel about yourself. Being bullied or shamed into taking care of yourself is temporary – and harmful. True change comes from the heart, being comfortable with who you are and where you are.
So, instead of telling people I’m a “Health Coach,” I’m working on crafting the right words to describe how my clients feel. Perhaps it’s “I take people from self-loathing to self-loving.” Or “I help people get out of their own way to make better choices for their health and their life.” I welcome your thoughts.
Wishing you self-love,