On being positive, not perfect

Photo by Toni BirrerWhen I was training to be a coach, 11 years ago, I was also a mother-in-training. To be honest, I was finding the coaching a lot easier than the mothering bit, but I was muddling through.

One day, I turned up at the mother and baby group I went to. As usual, I was late. My daughter’s hair had porridge in it, I had baby sick on my shoulder and I’d managed to run the buggy wheels through some dog poo. But I had made it – I was out of the house! I gratefully took the mug of tea I’d been given and sat down to get some sanity time with the other mums. When the conversation turned to how we were keeping our brains active, I mentioned my coaching course, and one of the mums turned to me incredulously and said, “You? A coach?!? I can’t think of anyone less likely to be a coach than you!” She looked pointedly at my scruffy state and laughed, derisively.

I left the group early and burst into tears when I was out of the door. She was right. What on earth was I thinking? I couldn’t get my own life straight, let alone helping others with theirs. I didn’t return to the group, and I didn’t return to my coaching studies for almost a year.

Then, two things happened. The first was a conversation with the ever-wise Aboodi Shabi, who laughed when I told him I wasn’t ‘coachlike’ enough and that’s why I had stopped training. “Ugh. Who’d ever want to be coached by a ‘coachlike’ coach?” he asked, “How awful! Who would you rather be coached by: someone who had everything together and was perfect in every way, or someone who was real, and on their own upward journey?” Music to my soul. Shortly afterwards, serendipity led me to a phrase I read in passing on a website (and annoyingly could never find again): ‘positive, not perfect’. This resonated with me and has been my motto ever since.

Because that woman in that group years ago wasn’t right, morally or factually, to say that to me. The fact that I was at that group, seeking support in an unfamiliar and tricky phase in my life, showed that I was positive, not perfect. You can take advice from baby gurus, but the best support you can get is from someone else just ahead of you on the journey – someone who may have a dirty nappy festering away at the bottom of her changing bag but is still smiling.

They say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and I believe that’s http://www.mindanews.com/buy-levaquin/ true. I also believe that it shapes you into the person you are becoming. The crappy bits in my life like being bullied, bereavements and betrayals have been tough but have strengthened my resources and made me who I am today. I’m far from perfect (although the baby sick has gone now) but I’m pretty darn positive and getting more so with each setback.

This post wasn’t meant to be a me-fest. I want to invite you to celebrate your own failures, setbacks or personal dark places. Not in the midst of them, of course – that would be cloyingly ‘coachlike’! But I believe the world would be a better place if people felt that they could be open about events that have moulded them or setbacks they have overcome; if they could be the voice over the next hill shouting ‘it’s ok – the way is clear!’

Two of the women I worked with last year happened to be widowed. Though they didn’t know each other, they both struggled when they came to write their ‘About Me’ page for their websites, because being widowed wasn’t normally something that was talked about openly but it had given them both a new path which had ended up with their own – very different – businesses. Neither of them wanted to be maudlin, but they both felt it was something that had changed them fundamentally and given them a gift, even as it took away the ones they loved. Through our work together, they both created beautiful ‘About Me’ pages which honoured their being shaped and ultimately inspired by events outside their control. You can read Sarah’s here and Kate’s here.

At the time of writing this post, there is a campaign in the UK to ‘find Mike’, a man who had talked another man, Jonny Benjamin, down from a bridge he had been about to throw himself from. ‘Mike’, it turns out, told the man that he had suffered similar issues to Jonny’s and reassured him that there was a way forward and it was safe to keep on living. In turn, Jonny has gone on living and now helps others affected by mental health issues. Shitty stuff happens. But look at the good that being open about it can do.

How can you use your own experience of dark places to help shed light in others’?

How have the tough events in your life had a positive impact on who you are?

Do leave a comment – I’d love to hear your stories.

And if you’d like help with writing an ‘about me’ page which reflects your journey, get in touch.


© 2014, Straightforward Coaching



On being positive, not perfect — 6 Comments

    • Thanks for pointing that out – technical gremlins have been at play tonight! I think that Sarah’s website is temporarily down (was working this morning though, so hopefully will be sorted soon) and the dodgy link to Kate’s has now been fixed. Thanks for bearing with me!

  1. Great post Claire – so true. I feel really angry towards that woman who said that to you. Some people don’t understand the strength of words.

    As you know I too have learnt (through lots of ups and downs) that the way forward is by embracing(not running away from) imperfection. Brene Brown says that you cannot live a wholehearted life, have rewarding relationships, experience joy and be successful without being vulnerable. Being vulnerable means being open about our imperfections.


    • Thanks Thea. Yes, what she said hurt me at the time but I really don’t think she realised the impact her comments had had (and, like everyone else in the room at the time, she was probably suffering from extreme sleep deprivation and wouldn’t normally have been so snarky!) And I agree it’s important to be open to our imperfections, so long as we don’t use them as an excuse to keep ourselves playing small 🙂

  2. Fantastic piece that resonates in so many ways. So glad you found a way to become the awesome, inspiring, kind person you are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *