Before experiencing coaching, I had little knowledge in understanding myself. For example, I didn’t see the interconnections between how you think and how you both look and act.

One in six young people have a diagnosable mental health condition. I’m one of them and have struggled with my mental health from an early age, something that stemmed from low self-esteem.

Little did I know this low self-esteem was building an ‘inner critic’, one obsessed with perfectionism and setting never-ending high standards.

Ultimately, this manifested itself into an eating disorder that dominated my teenage years, and I still struggle with to this day.

Fear and anxiety can torment our thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Fear is not your enemy… it is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow.[1]
—Steve Pavlina, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and self-help author

Exploring my fears and doubts through coaching has enabled me to reframe some of my thoughts. I’ve learnt how to be kinder to myself. I’ve learnt how to rest and what that looks like to me. I’ve learnt the need to “allow” myself a break, something we’re not taught enough in this ‘hustle culture’ that society thrives in.

Although my inner critic still shouts, “you don’t deserve this” or “you need to work harder”, I’m now better able to sit with these thoughts. While they remain uncomfortable, I can also conjure more helpful thoughts, often reminding myself of the phrase, “this too shall pass”.

Coaching allows us to speak about our wellbeing in an entirely judgement-free zone, which is the start for us to talk more openly about our mental health.

It was ‘time to talk day’ last month. This national campaign encourages conversations about mental health. I never used to feel confident talking about my mental health, but more recently I’ve been sharing my lived experiences and have become more confident in challenging the stigma attached to mental health.

This week welcomes another critically important awareness campaign ‘Beat’s Eating Disorder Awareness week.

Eating disorders are devastating mental illnesses affecting one in 50 people. The early warning signs of an eating disorder, which often have nothing to do with weight, go unnoticed even by GPs. That’s why it’s so important we speak openly and educate ourselves about the misconceptions, to prevent those we know, love and care for suffering from preventable serious mental health conditions.

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a single sentence to plant the seed to change the culture about how we can talk about our mental health. Sometimes, that’s all I can handle. I’ve learnt through coaching that I can choose the level of disclosure I want to give to protect my own wellbeing.

The power of saying “no” is a responsible choice when discussing sensitive topics or when determining which events to support. This influential technique has enabled me to be the most authentic version of myself when I do commit.

Coaching has taught me what my boundaries look like and the necessity to remember and stick to them. And, with this knowledge, I’ve been able to use my lived experiences to campaign for better mental health.

I recently shared some of my story in support of Mind’s campaign around the perils of over exercise and the importance of taking rest. The BBC News included my story, something that made me feel anxious before its publication and then both vulnerable and exposed.

Yet I tackled my inner critic and found the confidence to step far beyond my comfort zone by publicly speaking out about an issue that, like so many surrounding mental health, is not covered nearly enough.  

What I’m discovering is that while it remains uncomfortable to speak up and speak out, there is merit in Hermina Ibarra’s work ‘Act like a leader, think like a leader’. The Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School says:

The principle holds that the only way to think like a leader is to first act: to plunge yourself into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with unfamiliar ways of getting things done[2].

In other words, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Or, as social psychologist, author and TED Talk speaker, Amy Cuddy, famously coined:

Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.

This can give us the reassurance we need to create social change.


Article by Catherine Hogan, Founding Coachster