The Golden Cage: Learning to Ask for Help When You’re in the Helping Profession

Or: Even Experts Get the Blues

Or: Just Because You’re an Internet Sensation, Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Crack Up a Bit

Or: Cracking up a Bit and Asking for Help Doesn’t Mean Spewing all Over Your Social Media and Freaking Everyone Out

Or: What To Do When You’re a Coach/Blogger/Brand and You Freak Out Publicly and Don’t Know What to Do Next

Or: You’re Human, Aren’t You?

Or: Learning to Ask for Help, No Matter Who You Are Or How Many Clients/Page-Views/Followers/”Likes”/Fans You Have

Let me paint a little picture for you…

You are amazing. You are creative and funny and eloquent, and just so fabulous you run off and get yourself some training (formal or otherwise) and decide to go into business for yourself. You have the sparkliest website. You get a kajillion comments/hits/RTs. Your posts are stumbled. You build a brand in your name. Your social media presence is impeccable. Your Klout score is through the roof.

You have more clients than you know what to do with.

Suddenly, you start feeling a little lackluster.

Maybe you’re a body image coach and you realize that while you’ve been telling everyone to occupy their day loving their bodies, you kind of can’t stand your own. Or [GASP] you decide you want to lose some weight. Maybe you’re a relationship guru who one day finds yourself packing up your bag in a panic, because the cracks are starting to show in the foundation of your marriage. Maybe you’ve spent the last five years building a reputation on being the most calm and loving entity on the entire internet, but now you’re finding yourself screaming at your children in public, flipping people off in traffic, or consumed with boiling, hot anger.

In other words – maybe you’re coming to the startling realization that you are in fact human, and you feel a little guilty.

The thing about the internet is that with 24/7 access to people – if you are in fact, a “brand” – you might start to feel like you need to be LIT UP, sparkly, fresh, hot, enlightened, inspiring, and genius all day, every day. With clients friending you on your personal Facebook page instead of your fan page, or a twitter following that is 40 % best friends, 40 % business collaborators, and 20% prospective clients, suddenly the line between personal and professional gets very, very blurry.

You sort of start to get the feeling that you need to present a perfect, carefully-lit, glossy finish to your life, so that you can get ahead in the world. Your business is hinged on your ability to selectively share with your networks. You want to appear smart but not obnoxious, pretty but not photo-shopped, transcendent but not unreachably woo-woo.

It’s exhausting, and, on occasion, explodes in inconvenient firestorms in public internet spaces. 

It can feel like you can’t be truly honest with anyone, because it might damage your business.

It can be extremely alienating.

It can kind of feel like dieting. You are really really really good for a little while, but then all of a sudden you find yourself sitting in a corner in your kitchen with chocolate all over your hands and a mess of cookie boxes in your lap. Or, you know, the internet version of that.

Sometimes, you forget that even those who are in the business of helping others need to stop and ask for help every once and a while.

You forget that you are FIRST AND FOREMOST a human being, and that means you have human feelings/needs/wishes/fears. You forget that showing weakness and vulnerability can be very appealing.

It means capitalizing on our strengths AND our weaknesses.

It means telling the truth, and believing that the right clients/followers/money stream will find us.

It means being completely transparent about our motivations.

It means that we do not need to aspire to perfection, no matter WHAT our tagline reads.

It means getting real with social media outlets, but not spewing all over them just because we’re having a bad day.

But mostly, it means believing that we are enough just the way that we are.

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30 thoughts on “The Golden Cage: Learning to Ask for Help When You’re in the Helping Profession”

  1. yes yes yes HELL YES to the being enough, Oh MM.

    This also made me recall when I was getting my masters (oh youth 🙂 it was indeed wasted on me) and we HAD to get counseling in order to graduate (it was a counseling program :))

    it was only then I realized/learned that the best THERAPISTS COACHES WHATEVERS indeed have their *own* THERAPISTS COACHES WHATEVERS too.

    always.

    xo

    • YES! This is really something that influenced this post – in my masters program we are heavily encouraged to seek counseling ourselves, which I think can be extremely valuable both in terms of learning how to model our own therapy practice AND helping us heal ourselves while we are healing others. It can be enormously difficult work energy-wise, and sometimes it helps to have someone who is completely on your team. Thanks for stopping by – I always really appreciate hearing your thoughts. xo

      • I agree with both of you. I’ve had the same therapist on and off for 20 years and have had a coach since 2009. Just last week I broke down in a coaching session because my OWN gremlins have gotten the best of me (Um, and I recently wrote an ebook/workbook and taught a course on the topic) because (GASP!) my business is growing faster than I expected.
        We ALL need help. 🙂 Great one again, MM! xoxo

        • Yes, yes, yes!! I tell my clients that I have reached out for counseling when I need the support. I would feel like a hypocrite if I didn’t use therapy for myself. First, because why would expect clients to do something I won’t do. And second, because I preach a lot of self-care. For me, having good mental health support *is* good self-care.

          I also think that the culture of silence around our painful moments hurts us all. I believe that my clients relate to me better when they know that I have struggled too. And no, I don’t discuss the specifics, I just state that I use therapy when I need it!

  2. This is an interesting topic! I think it can apply to a lot of things, too. For example, I think a lot of my readers assume I never struggle with food issues or body issues. While most of the time I do have a healthy attitude about food, fitness,diet, etc I do have my moments where I’ll feel really bad about myself/my body. I think it’s normal. I think people who are honest about their struggles as well as their successes are the ones that attract readers. Honesty is what readers want.

    • YES YES YES YES. And, I have to admit, I love bravery + vulnerability + IMPERFECT PEOPLE. I love to know that the people that I admire screw up every once and a while. It really takes the pressure off.

      • Yes!!! My favourite coaches and gurus are the ones with chocolate faces and guilty looks, sharing their imperfections (hugely comforting) and even better, their solutions (which I can choose to copy, or not).

        I once followed a “perfect” enlightened spiritual master because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Lasted about five minutes before he revealed a massive imperfection, and it took me years to forgive him. I like my mentors and coaches and gurus human-sized and flawed. Much more comfortable. 😀

        Thanks for a fabulous post!

        • As a coach, I can not tell you how awesome this comment is to me. I struggle with how vulnerable I am on my blog/newsletter sometime and really appreciate that my people get it and crave it.

  3. This is brilliant, and so true– and gorgeously written.

    And this part made me laugh out loud:

    “It can kind of feel like dieting. You are really really really good for a little while, but then all of a sudden you find yourself sitting in a corner in your kitchen with chocolate all over your hands and a mess of cookie boxes in your lap. Or, you know, the internet version of that.”

  4. FUCK YEAH, GIRL! I have freakouts all over the place, and people still like me. In fact I think the freakouts and the vulnerability that picks (usually very inconvenient) moments to peek through are part of the reason that the internet likes me. And that PEOPLE like me. Because the internet isn’t everything. A lot. But not everything.

    • Hey Ela, This shows up alllllll over the place in my own experience, and as I closely watch the people around me, both in my real life and online, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the difficulties of brand/business vs. authenticity vs. personal interaction/friendships. I have been a huge fan of therapy for the majority of my life, and have found that some therapy/coaching/snuggling on the couch with my sisters while I obsess over something, is extremely helpful when I’m in a period of distress or distraction. I just like the idea of having someone else check in with your process, to highlight the things that you have been avoiding or haven’t been able to identify yourself. I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 xo

      • Thanks for sharing: I so agree that no one of us is infallible and that being able to fall back on others even when our own lives are in the public eye and people are depending upon us is such a major key to sanity.

  5. Love! Love love love love! Laugh cringe recognize resonate YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great and awesome writing too. Very sparkly and shiny! I LOVE IT. And can of course relate 10 billion percent. Except the part about the kajillion hits. LOL.

    • Well, Foodie, I read every single blog post that you write, and I know that you are a KICK-ASS performer. So I’m certain that you get at least half a kajillion hits 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by.

  6. Hear Hear to truth telling and just being enough, whatever/wherever we are at that moment. Thanks for saying this so eloquently and powerfully– it’s all, always, a process… not just a final destination that we get to park in permanently and never think about again!

  7. I made a conscious decision when I opened my biz that I wouldn’t hide my dark spots. If I’m going to help people with their stuckness and darkness, I can’t pretend like I don’t have my own. I promised myself that I wouldn’t portray myself as anything less (or exaggeratedly more) than human.

    Asking for help as never been easy, though, and it stays hard now. But because I’m committed to my own human-ness, I’ve made space in my heart to accept that sometimes, even then headologist needs to be headologised.

    • Haha – I love this. It is so true, if working towards my masters in social work and my work online here has taught me anything, it is that sometimes I need to pull someone else (or multiple someones) into the mix to get my ducks in a row. Though, it can still be extremely hard to truly fess up to my dark spots.

  8. what a wonderful topic. i wish i would have thought of it! certainly, this is an issue for all of us in helping professions. most of our social network sites have followers that make for a very strange melange! when our networking sites have numbers in excess of 50,000, we often forget or never knew who these followers even are. we all need to explore where that line may be in dealing with the never-before-amalgam of old, new and future clients. while some outbursts may be refreshingly authentic in this day of smiley faced pep-rally type life coaching there may be a price to be paid (and maybe something to be gained). i suppose we all need to decide what feels worth it. thank you so much for this contribution!

    • Thanks Jeanine! I’m glad that you liked this post. I agree that in the day of pep-rally type life coaching – less than peppy posting/tweeting/facebooking can cost you.. but I love the idea that there is something to be gained as well. I read a post today on Marie Forleo’s blog about alienating potential customers, to which she basically responds that when you are authentic/honest/do what feels good for YOU, you will attract customers that mesh with your vision of your business. That said, I agree that there is a fine line between being authentic and lashing out because you’re having a bad day. Some days it feels like juggling a lot of differing agendas! I’m trying to indulge in some serious face-time with friends to give my brain a bit of a break from online strategizing 😉 xo

  9. Ahh this is so great! I always wonder about this, too, and I don’t even have a social media brand or whatever. Even with facebook and my teeny blog on my own, it’s strange. Or at least, how much do we share about our struggles? We want to be real and honest, but we also don’t want to hear from our bosses about what they saw online. I always wonder about that, and it freaks me out.

  10. I SERIOUSLY love this post! I feel like I say that about all your posts (I’m very articulate that way).

    I think that in order to help people, you need to show them that you are human ~ that you are on their level. No one wants to take advice from someone who doesn’t actually understand what they are going through. No one wants to listen to someone who acts like they are better than everyone.

    By being open and honest about your mistakes and struggles you’re allowing others in, which in turn will inspire them to let you in (as a therapist, blogger, business owner, etc). Business has become so personal these days ~ you’re not going to buy into something that doesn’t fully resonate with you. Honesty is the best way to touch others’ lives.

  11. Brilliancy. Brilliancy. As both a coach and counsellor this sort of message is just so important. I have had much, much counselling of my own over the years and have benefited from it enormously and I’m starting with a new coach for ME tomorrow.

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