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#coached3 Permission to be human

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My granny always said Y is a crooked letter that you can’t make straight, but I am a “why” person. Why am I feeling so stressed out? Why am I feeling sick today? Why is parenting so hard? Why can’t I be less anxious? Why is there so much suffering? Why do I react to things this way? I’ve spent most of my life asking why, and it’s not always a bad thing – except when it keeps you looking backward instead of forward. Sterna explained that coaching looks at all the new possibilities that open up when we stop asking why, (our childhood, our trauma, our stuff) and look at what IS, and what we’re going to do about it! But I had one more obstacle to overcome.

“Aren’t we going to explore how NOT to feel stressed about the small things in life?” I asked. “Coaching is not about ‘fixing’ personality traits and working out how patterns of behavior first started. We look at what IS. And then we work with that, with conscious, deliberate strategies.” Again this word IS. I didn’t know how I felt about self awareness about what IS. To me, it sounded like accepting something unacceptable. Shouldn’t I be bigger than my emotions? Shouldn’t I be working on refining my reactions and perfecting my character?”

“Have you ever heard the saying: Tov meod hu malach hamoves? It means, “very good is the Angel of Death.” This saying sums up the dangers of too much good. Perfectionism is an affliction I have suffered since age 4, when apparently I would rip up perfectly good stick drawings, hellbent on creating a masterpiece. Good may be the enemy of great, but perfect is definitely the enemy of my mental health.

I have been demanding and expecting perfection from myself all my life, and no amount of awareness of how destructive it is, or where it originated have ever changed how much I struggle with accepting that I am nothing more or less than human. In the week that followed our session, I wrestled back and forth with the idea of looking at how things are, and formulating a plan based on this reality. I had not expected such emotional resistance to such a simple concept! To me, accepting how I feel, when those feelings are not gracious, or loving or wonderful, when they are angry, resentful, jealous or afraid feels like condoning something evil. It feels like giving up on being better. Sterna tried her hardest to give me permission to be human, but I wasn’t convinced.

And then, unexpectedly a fresh, new insight came to me. Trying to change an emotion that has already arisen is like trying to go back in time and change the past. And Hashem might expect a lot of us, but last I checked, time travel is not a mitzvah! Sterna was right, it really is time to look at what IS – without fear or shame or judgment. Because it’s already happened. It is what it is!

The real question, the only question, is what I’m going to do next. Self awareness means really knowing who I am right now. Coaching will use this information to choose a new direction. Instead of trying to change how I already reacted to something, maybe I can accept who I am right now, and see what choices open up for me. For now, I’m experimenting with the power of noticing what IS and giving up the need for it to be any other way – at least for five whole minutes! I wonder what’s next?

PS Feel free to try this one at home.
PPS I’d love to hear your thoughts about this blog – please comment!
PPPS If you’d like to get in touch with Sterna email coach@sterna.co.za

About the Author
Paula is a wife, mother and writer - based in Johannesburg, South Africa, dreaming of Israel. She is a full-time thinker, part-time copywriter at her husband's advertising agency, journalist and published author. The former editor of Jewish Life magazine, she is now a regular contributor with a passion for contributing goodness, kindness and wisdom to this world.