(im)balance

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I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade (oh, who am I kidding?), but what is going on in the minds of people who can’t hack their own careers or lives and decide to be life coaches?

I am all for self-improvement and can even support the very Scandinavian/European concept of admitting you’ve “hit the wall” (i.e. succumbed to a kind of existential stress that means you aren’t going to be working for a few months or even a year). I have met so many people who have experienced this, who have felt the overwhelming exhaustion of this stress and its more sinister physical manifestations. I feel for them; I am in fact pleased for them that they live in – and possibly have grown up in – a system that lets them feel comfortable with this and supports them until they get back to full (mental/emotional) health. I did not grow up in such a system, so it’s next to impossible for me to square myself with the idea that this kind of “break” (either the breakdown or the taking a break) is possible. I don’t think it is possible in my conscience, and I would need to be catatonic/unconscious to be forced into this kind of break.

I am not saying my approach is good or right. Having a stress breakdown and taking time off as a result feels wrong for me. We all handle stress differently. What I call stress is not what someone else calls or experiences as stress. As part of my trying to live my life in understanding and compassion, I applaud people for being in touch with what they need, with recognizing debilitating and damaging stress and doing what they need to for themselves, hopefully learning to cope.

But what gets me (and isn’t there always a ‘but’?) is when these same individuals who were so stressed out (sometimes more than once in their career) that they had to take extended sick leave and sometimes retrain for a less stressful career become ‘work-life balance’ coaches.

Yes, seriously.

Seriously. I have seen no fewer than three former colleagues take this exact path.

I won’t argue that they didn’t get some coping mechanisms from their time off. But I will argue that someone who found him/herself in that situation in the first place is not qualified to teach me anything about finding a balance between work and life. Ending up as a life coach in the first place somehow screams, “I couldn’t manage anything myself; I kind of failed at all my other goals, so now I am going to tell you how to manage your life”. Maybe I am extraordinarily closed-minded; maybe through the experience of ‘failure’ (I recognize the harshness of this word) these people have found a calling (helping others), but I am not signing up for seminars in rock-bottom reinvention.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

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