published Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Shavin: Inner conflict never stops

Dana Shavin

There's a battle going on in my head, and I'm embarrassed to say about what. I'm going to fess up, in the hopes that (as Drs. Oz and Phil suggest) pain exposed is pain deposed. The battle is between two long-standing rivals: the unshakable belief in my general superiority and the unshakable belief in my general inferiority. There, I admitted it. (Thus making me superior to those who fight the same battle but deny it.)

What incited this latest sparring contest in my head was a coaching supervision session in which my performance was so utterly sub-par that I literally stopped talking halfway through the conference call. Minutes of dead air ensued, during which my coachee (a fellow coach-in-supervision) waited patiently for me to regain my footing. I did, but needless to say, I scored quite low on the evaluation sheet. Oh, but that's not all. In an attempt to keep my spirits high and assure my fellow coach trainees that I was "Absolutely Undaunted" by their low opinion of my abilities, I made a horrendous and completely inappropriate joke about how a certain coaching exercise is somehow like dilation of the birth canal.

And then it was over. I hung up the phone, went into the living room where my husband, just back from a wildly successful art-selling trip, lay on the sofa beneath the caress of the ceiling fan.

"I'm terrible at this," I said. "I am a horrible coach. I am incredibly incompetent." Every declarative sentence a nail in my coaching coffin. He gave me a pitying look. A lump welled up in my throat. Tears arrived. And then a funny thing happened. I did not cry. Great, I thought. I am not even capable of crying anymore.

One reason the coaching-gone-wrong session felt so bad is because it was the third time I have totally lost command of the English language while in supervision. The other reason is because, as someone who for 15 years was a therapist, I should be good at this. And not just good. My coaching sessions should feel like lightning strikes. "After all," I said to my own coach, in a remark that (later) seemed slightly passive aggressive, "Coaching isn't rocket science."

The bottom line is, I've done therapy for years, ergo, I am superior at all manner of helping, especially simple, not-rocket-science coaching.

Except for the fact that I cannot prove it to anyone. Which is something every single one of my coach trainee colleagues can do. In supervised sessions, they are all amazing coaches. They are all way superior to me. They probably even cry better.

Which leaves me in this no-man's land where, if I can't be completely superior and I can't be completely inferior, I am forced to define myself in some hideously balanced way, which frankly, has never been my forte. In graduate school, a certain career/personality assessment test revealed that I had a wickedly high achievement motivation paired with a devastating lack of drive, and a burning desire to help people coupled with a ruinous hatred of the human race. Or something to that effect.

And so here I am again, neither one thing nor the other but both. Or, as we say in coaching, "Both And." Whatever that means. (I'm pretty sure it's further proof that coaching isn't rocket science and that someone besides me has lost command of the English language.)

Or maybe it means something about seeking balance in one's life, so that every day isn't a ricochet from emotional pillar to emotional post. Imagine that.

I would, if I were capable.

Dana Shavin is a life coach in training. Her website is CoachingByDana.com.

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