Confessions of a naked coach

By Manu Henrard on 21/11/2016

My web design agency challenged me to put a large picture of myself on my website and start promoting my own name instead of only promoting my company's name.Manu Henrard

(Which is basically the same since my company, NineDots, consists only of me, myself and I.)

I loved the idea and was really excited when we developed some concepts. Still...as it started to become real, I felt naked and exposed. I became so anxious that I was tempted to step back and take a different direction. My gut was telling me to go for it, but the rest of my body was totally resistant. I was blocked and really confused about what to do.

Why was my body giving me such strong signals of danger when my instinct was pushing me forward in this direction? And if my instinct was right that it was time for me to stop hiding behind a corporate brand, why was I in such a panic?

As a practitioner of mindfulness, I’m accustomed to “observing” my body and mental activities - always trying to identify the origin of any discomfort. So, it quickly became clear that the unpleasant sensations came mainly from constrictions in my chest and throat and from the repetitive thought that I might be leaving myself too vulnerable to those who might want to judge me negatively.

The sensations in my body have always been a wise source of information when they are trying to protect my Self from the “dangerous outside world”. The constriction in my chest helps me to literally stay small and the constriction in my throat makes it difficult for me to speak aloud words I might later regret. Often these constrictions have protected me from painful criticisms and the negative impact they might have on my self-respect. Since they had been helpful in the past, I had continued to practice them to the point that they had become unconscious habits.

Aware that these constrictions are just conditioned habit learned earlier in life, could I trust that they still serve me well today in my path to becoming a respected Executive Coach?

Similarly, during my adolescence, I abruptly experienced that vulnerability could be painful and jeopardize my dignity so I had made the assessment that being vulnerable would not help me have a happy life. After that, I very often exercised control over vulnerability.

While some would agree that being vulnerable can affect life in a negative way, others would argue the opposite with the same conviction. This notion is an interpretation based on our personal histories, and, like all interpretations in life, they are neither true nor false, they simply serve or don’t serve us in a given time of our life. For so long I had lived with my “negative interpretation” of vulnerability and accepted it is as THE truth instead of MY truth.

Aware that this belief is just a mental habit learned earlier in my life, could I trust that it still serves me well today in my path to becoming a respected Executive Coach?

We all have our unique mental and physical “habits” resulting from our past experiences. They are part of what defines who we are as they influence how we interact with the world. Some of them are conscious, some are conditioned, some serve us, some don’t.

My awareness of my long-held responses to certain mental and physical stimuli has increased. Now I can decide to start new practices and create a “habit” of being authentic instead of being powerful. I can learn to challenge my assessments about vulnerability and declare a new view. When a repetitive thought goes through my head, I can start practicing a new declaration about vulnerability when I feel it could serve me. I can even learn to open up my chest and my throat when they constrict unnecessarily and breathe and speak with a new freedom.

With these practices and this awareness, I am free to decide whether or not I want to trust my gut. I am free to choose if I want to promote my own SELF or stay hidden behind a corporate identity.

Today I declare I commit to trust the power of my vulnerability.

Manu Henrard
Executive Recruiter & Leadership Development Coach

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