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There are people in my life – who shall remain nameless even though they would never in a million years read this, ahem – who are extremely disparaging about personal development, convinced such as they are that it is the neurotic endeavour of naval gazing fools who are permanently in a state of pretence and self-obsession. SAVAGE I know. Ouch. What I love about this is that they manage to communicate this belief with the mere flick of the eyes whenever I talk about anything work related. Such fun!

The problem is that being the kind of deep thinking ummmm… naval gazer…. that I am, I do actually end up ruminating over such ideas. I get where they are coming from. I’m sure you do to. We all know someone wounded who is in permanently trying to fix themselves and their uncomfortable feelings. We have all seen the way that they refuse to be laid bare. That they come at people with scary positivity and very little self-awareness. That they like to ‘teach’ before they like to take a genuine, long hard look at themselves. Yup. These people do exist. Of course they do… And if I am honest, they can come across as a little insufferable at times…

Does this person exist in me too? I think so. I can recall many an evangelical moment where I was all ‘oooooh now I am so wise, look at me’ or other times where I was all ‘nope nope nothing to see here, move along, I definitely do NOT have a problem with boundaries, leave me alone while I crash into this boundary right here mmmkay?’. I also do LOVE a personality profile, talking about myself, and generally spending ages contemplating my naval and trying to ‘understand’ myself. I could do that s**t for hours.

But here’s the thing (you knew there would be a thing), SO BLOODY WHAT. Please tell me any human endeavour that doesn’t attract insufferable fools sometimes. Politics? Hello! Football? No brainer. Train spotting? I have my suspicions. Academia, medicine, law, media, science, any other religion ever. Yup, yup, yup, yup, yup, and yup. I’ve even seen some dramas amongst the staff at Tesco (and my local Tesco is great!).

I appreciate that when working with the most vulnerable parts of people, as we do in personal development, we need to be extra vigilant and take responsibility for not being a twat. However, it is too much to ask to expect us not to be human. Yes, personal development can be used for unhealthy ends, like anything else. However, it also offers some really, truly powerful stuff if you are ready, willing, and able to show up to it authentically and embracing your own light and dark. When people do that, they get rewards you can’t find elsewhere. And that is why I’m proud. Because I keep getting in the ring, I am emotionally brave, and I am holding myself accountable to the best of my ability.

For me, I could never return to the time before personal development when I was full of unconscious patterns and unreleased blocks (I still am but just a little more conscious and a little less blocked…), there’s only one way forward. And I don’t expect myself to be perfect at it. How about you?

Dr. Helen Johnson

Dr Helen Johnson coaches creative, complex thinkers, and leaders in their field to challenge themselves, be more effective, and lighten up. Through her group programme, Deeper, she offers a way to hone your coaching and personal development skills while also doing the powerful work on yourself.

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