How a Coach Can Help When you Hate Yourself

As a coach, one of my bugbears is the statement “I would have spoken to you sooner, but I was feeling terrible.” No matter how extroverted a person is, when we feel bad, we withdraw into ourselves and push others away. This behaviour has its roots in our evolution as a society, we don’t want others to see when we aren’t doing well.

A person’s time of need is exactly when they should see a coach.

Triggers and Self-Talk

Psychologists believe that the majority of our triggers stem from things that happened in the first few years of our lives. These triggers are attached to little, day-to-day traumas, and as adults we are sometimes caught off guard by these triggers, with no real knowledge of where they come from or why they exist. Even if/when their causes are identified, healing is, contrary to popular belief, a non-linear process; you might think that you have healed from something, when you really haven’t, or maybe the healing process isn’t complete, etc.

This is often called negative self-talk.

If the only person in your life that you are speaking to about your troubles is yourself, you get caught up in this situation where you are talking to, and criticising, yourself. This lack of an outside perspective leaves the smallest perceived infractions to blow up – a good example is when you talk to a friend about something along the lines of “You are not going to believe what I just did”, only for them to laugh at you, because from their perspective it is just a small, otherwise inconsequential thing, or because they see that you just made an honest mistake in the moment.

Negative self-talk starts as an expression of shame, which if left unchecked it can turn toxic.

Shame and Guilt

Shame is internal – “I am wrong”, “I have no value”, “I am broken” – and it functions like a feedback loop; when a person constantly talks to themselves like that, soon they start to believe the statements to be true. The problem with shame is that it makes us withdraw from our social circle, when we feel useless, or potentially even destructive, we want to ‘get out of the way’ to ‘keep others safe’.

A similar concept, often confused with shame, is guilt.

Guilt is external and unlike shame it pushes us to resolution – “I made a mistake”, “I could have done that better”, etc. When we make mistakes, when things don’t go as planned or when we accidentally hurt others, guilt is what pushes us to apologise and/or clarify.

How a Coach Can Help

As a feedback loop, shame makes it difficult to push for resolution, and this is where a coach comes in. In a recent article, I mentioned how our internal thought processes are abstract and how this abstraction can lead to catastrophising, where verbalising our thoughts forces us to add logic into the equation, which allows another person (a coach, in this case) to give feedback and ask questions.

This process forces people to stop ruminating, to turn abstract catastrophes into understandable challenges and to reach out to someone else for an outside perspective – which itself will lead to a switch from shame to guilt, and then a push for resolution.

Coaches aren’t interested in how you present yourself to them. Ideally, a session with a coach would include sharing your vulnerabilities and problems, in their entirety – shame, embarrassment and all. That’s what coaches are there for; trusted humans who are here to help.