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  • Leslie Merrell

Just ... me

As a young 20 year old woman, I chose to serve a mission for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had 3 older brothers who had served missions, and then had married wonderful women. I loved and respected and looked up to these women (still do). I observed their poise, and strength, and confidence, and devotion. I wanted to be like them. Noting that the common thread among them was that each of them had also served a mission, I decided to serve as well.

I had, in my mind, a clear picture of what a sister missionary is. She is, obviously, poised, strong, confident, and devoted. So, imagine my surprise and disappointment when I arrived at my mission assignment, only to find that I wasn't poised, strong, confident, and devoted, or at least not to the degree that I pictured so clearly. In fact, I was just ... me. Just the same self-conscious, awkward, flawed, imperfect, and immature person that I had been before. Only now I had a name tag that announced that I was called and set apart as a representative for my Savior, Jesus Christ, and His gospel.

I felt I had somehow missed the day that all of the "perfect missionary" traits were handed out. So, I tried my best to apply the "fake it 'til you make it" approach. My faith was real. My desire to share was real. My love for the people was real. But my outward actions and interactions were my best impression of the perfect sister missionary. I was pretending to be what I thought I was supposed to be. This resulted in me appearing polished, capable, ... and robotic.

A month or so after starting to work with my second companion, while I was teaching, I let the "perfect missionary" persona slip a bit, and a little of my authentically imperfect personality show through. After we had left the appointment, my companion looked at me and said, "You teach so much better when you are just being yourself." This shocked and confused me. How could this be true? All I had was me, in all my imperfect glory. She was giving me permission to be myself while being a missionary. In fact, she was saying that I was a better missionary when I wasn't trying so hard to be a better missionary! Total paradigm shift. From that moment onward, I was a different missionary. A better missionary.


Well, sometimes history has a way of repeating itself. When I learned about the principles of life coaching and thought work, my life was changed for the better. So much of what felt "off" in my life began to shift, and to make more sense, and to fall into place. I was changing in ways that were so positive and so sustainable. It was energizing and exciting to me, and I could feel the importance of sharing this work with others so that they could benefit as well. So, I tried to get two of my best friends to sign up for the training, because they would be the perfect life coaches. They turned me down, flat. They were not interested. At all. What??! How could that be?? They would be SO good at this!! Couldn't they see the importance of this work??

And then, like the Grinch, I thought of something I hadn't before. Perhaps, I felt the urgency and importance of this work, because I could be more. Perhaps this was my journey to take. And so, I signed up for the year-long training.

It was amazing, and hard, and soul-stretching training. I loved learning and growing and training and helping others.

When I finished the year of training, and began to work for myself, something strange happened. I began to notice that I wasn't like Jody Moore. And I wasn't like Brooke Castillo. And that felt very disappointing. After all that amazing training, at the end of the day, I was still just ... me.

Once again, I had a clear image of what I thought the perfect coach should be. She will have figured out all of her own crap. She will always know the right thing to say or to do. She will have unshakeable self-confidence. She will know exactly how, where, and when to advertise to attract her clients and how to run a business. She will be willing to take risks and to fail, but she never will actually fail. At anything. Ever.

How did I not become that person, despite a full year of excellent training?? To figure out what went wrong, I did what all of us regular coaches do. I hired a life coach. And, guess what she helped me to understand?? Nothing actually went wrong! It turns out that I am a human, and not a perfect life coach robot. My strengths, my weaknesses, my gifts and my imperfections, are part of what make me unique and help me to be better able to understand and help others. And, do you know what else?? It turns out that I am a better coach when I am not trying so hard to be a better/different coach. (Hmmm, ... This concept seems familiar somehow.....)


And so, my friends, the moral of the story is this: take that clear image you have of the perfect ____________ (parent, spouse, employee, friend, daughter/son, cook, gardener, etc., etc.), and flush it down the toilet, or put it through the shredder, or wad it up and burn it in a fire pit (unless you live in California--no more fires there, please), because the truth is, that you are a human, not a robot. You are a better ____________ when you stop trying so hard to be a better ___________. You, in all your imperfect glory, are exactly who you are supposed to be.