Coaching the Gremlin

Author : Marie Stringer

coaching the gremlin blog

16th November 2018

I guess you could say that I had both a happy and unhappy childhood. Growing up in a single parent family with little money, brings you closer together as a family unit = Happy, but also sets you apart from a lot of peers = Unhappy. This coupled with a Mum with clinical depression and little surrounding family support, made me feel alone and “not equal” to everyone else from a very early age. Cue the birth of the Gremlin.

My Gremlin has been with me for as long as I can remember, but a bit like a family cat, who comes and goes as he pleases, is not glued to my side. I feel he is a “he”…I have no idea why but Freud would, I’m sure, make the link between him and my absent Father. My Gremlin hasn’t a name, but maybe for the sake of this writing lets just call him Burt.

It was very clear from early on that I had to do well at school- there was simply no other option, do well at school = try and get out of this sad and poor life, not do well = continue in a life that was extremely limiting. So I worked my little socks off, got good GCSEs and A levels, but sadly didn’t attend University through lack of funds and an ill Mum. At eighteen years old I left education in search of a job.

I wanted to be a social worker as I had a passion for helping people and I felt that maybe I could make a difference in the world. I was told that wouldn’t be possible because of the lack of degree, so after countless letters and copies of CV’s sent to various businesses, I landed a temping job at an investment house, local to where I lived. (Burt said I should stay local as that is what I knew).

After 3 years of working extremely hard, studying for a financial qualification and becoming a “team leader”, I wondered whether I could maybe try my hand at London. Getting a job in “the big smoke” sounded intriguing and full of hope, so I started contacting agencies to speak with. Burt wasn’t impressed and tried to fill my mind with all the reasons why I shouldn’t, but recognising the progress I had made in my current job, I shook them off and gave it a go.

I always remember the “interview evening” that I was sent to for Citibank, as it was then. My agency told me “its for a job in operations, you must mention you want to work in operations”… Operations, I thought, what the hell does that mean… so off I went into London, with my OK magazine in my bag. I got into the lift to go to the function suite, and in walked this dynamic young man, with a briefcase and a copy of the Financial Times under his arm. Well as you can imagine, Burt went crazy! “I told you this is not for you, what the hell are you thinking.” If people could adjust their size according to their confidence levels, I would have been a toddler of around three walking into that room. Three hours later and with lots of “I really want to work in Operations”, I left feeling numb and insecure. Burt was doing high fives on the way home as he had proved his point. But I got the job…?!! What the hell I thought, surely they called the wrong person?!

I won’t bore you with the rest of my working life, but it pretty much consisted of me working long hours, never believing I was any good apart from when managers explicitly told me so. Each appraisal I received was so positive about my skills but always said that my lack of confidence would hold me back. Time went by and Burt was still there but somehow, the validation I would receive for my work, kind of kept him subdued. It was like he was sleeping a lot and then each time I was put outside of my comfort zone, he would wake up and start screaming. But, I would still have at some point, someone telling me that it was OK so I started to feed from that. I just didn’t realise how much.

Roll forward quite a few years and I am a Vice President for a Japanese Investment bank and I’m juggling working and being a mother to two young children. Unfortunately my childcare fell through in March 2016 so I had to leave work suddenly. Initially my intentions were to source another provider as soon as I could, but that didn’t work out with the children’s ages and the fact that a school run and pre-school run were needed daily.

I knew I would struggle being at home, as after working for 20 years “work” became my definition of “who I was”. Who was going to tell me I was doing a good job now? Who was going to ask for my opinion on some big project, or ask me to resolve an ongoing issue. Above all, who was going to shut up Burt?!

A year off and feeling lost like a little girl in a large shopping centre, I realised that the “me” who I thought I was (the go getter, career minded, strong woman) was actually quite like a dressing up costume I stepped into each day.

The costume felt so comfortable that I kidded myself into thinking that was actually who I was. It wasn’t. I was still a young girl desperately seeking the approval of others. Desperately still trying to please those she loved. Although I had grown in age and wisdom, I hadn’t actually progressed my sense of self.

For me at that point, “work” was the answer. I knew I had to get back into the working mode so that I would reignite the feelings that working gave me; the pride, the sense of making progress and of course, the validation. I was discussing with my husband what I could do… a few gin and tonics were had (Burt often sleeps when I’m having a drink). “I want to work with people as I feel somehow I am good with them” whatever that means… I was possibly slurring as I said it. “What about a life coach?” said Hubby. Cue lightbulb moment.

I signed up to Animas in January 2017 and began training in April 2017. Where was Burt? Oh he was still there but I knew the longer I left trying something new, the more Burt would take over and tell me that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do anything.

I revelled in the reading of the modules as I find human behaviour so fascinating. But coaching is worlds away from a “general conversation” with someone and I found the studying hard, especially with the children still not that independent. Coaching was massively out of my comfort zone and Burt was not just shouting at me, he was wearing glitter and performing a Britney Spears number.

Little did I know that signing up to be a coach, would make me need a coach so badly! Being coached myself as part of the Animas course, has helped me:

Identify that I have a huge need for validation

Acknowledge when Burt arrives and “name” the negativity

Work on goals to combat the negativity and cut myself some slack

Overall work on self-acceptance of who I am as opposed to who I think I ‘should’ be.

Each training module has allowed me to make sense not just of coaching, but of myself. I now know for example that Burt’s technical term is a “limiting belief” and that my openness about my lack of confidence is a “pay off”.

Coaching has opened me up to a world where I see myself clearly now. I realise that my life script of “I’m not OK” has played a huge part in my life and has often held me back.

I understand that I am not often in the adult state of mind. My childhood meant that I was either in playful child trying to make people happy or the nurturing parent consoling my Mother. I tick all of the ‘Drivers’ of Be Strong, People Please, Try Hard, Be Perfect and Hurry Up. This awareness has enabled me to acknowledge “why” I am who I am. It has taken me one step further to self-acceptance.

I have always known honesty is a core value of mine. I am often too honest and you may also think so when reading this. But I am now utilising this as a positive, as I want to be who I want to be, and besides… who cares what others think?!

In some ways the last few months have been the hardest, facing my fears and stepping completely out of my comfort zone, but I know that going through this process is what I need and what will make me a better person and above all, a better coach. I signed up to Animas with the thought of trying to be the me that I was at the time. I had no idea I would be meeting and saying hello to my true self.

#dontletburtwin #feelthefear #embracechange #animascoaching

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