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  • Anna Knight

Embrace "and" instead of "but"...



I think sometimes the preconception that some people come to me with is that “I’m going to do a coaching programme with Anna and I’m going to be fixed”. I'll be less x, y or z. I'll be more a, b or c. I'd be able to [insert dream here] if I could only [fix flaw here].


That's not quite how it works, I'm afraid.


What needs fixing?


When I started my most recent group programme, I asked the participants to do an inventory of where they were up to in eight aspects of self-love. Some of them came back to the session with a really long list of things they thought they "weren't good enough at". Some of them couldn't even face looking at the activity because of the fear of what that level of self-enquiry would find.

Now, bear in mind I wasn't inviting them to list their deepest, darkest secrets. I was asking them to make observations on how often they talk kindly to themselves or prioritise their own fun. Important stuff, but I was deliberately keeping it to what they did, not who they were and still came The Fear.


I know The Fear intimately, and I have a sneaky suspicion you do too. The Fear whispers in your ear that there are parts of you that, if visible, would drive away those you hold dearest. If they knew, they would recoil in horror and run for the hills. You're just that awful. You'reflawed.


I've had a LOT of therapy in my time, so I am a pro at what Cognitive Behaviour Therapists call worry challenging - using facts to argue against fears. It's a great technique for some people, especially when it comes to a "what if" type of scenario. But the problem with The Fear is that sometimes, it's grounded in things that are undeniably true.


What kind of coach says your flaws are real?!


A flawed one, of course!


I could fill notebooks with all the things that are "wrong with me". I literally have the notebooks to prove it! I grew up female, closeted and queer with undiagnosed neurodiversity and acquired physical disabilities in a straight, white, able man's world. I'm also loud, clumsy, bookish and introverted. My ADHD impacts how my brain works and has since I was a very small child. Believe me, people have had opinions about how I fit into this world for as long as I can remember.


In my opinion, that's what turns a fact into a "flaw" - other people's noise about these facets of you.

For example, I wasn't born with the notion that my bisexuality was a "flaw", but I damn well believed it for the longest time. There are many factors that feed into how I formed that belief...


Some of them were cultural... before Buffy the Vampire Slayer gave us the glory that is "Twillow" - the relationship between Willow and Tara for the uninitiated - I had not seen two women in a loving relationship on television. I had not read about two women in a loving relationship in a book. I had literally kissed a girl two years before my first cultural exposure to the idea that two women in love was good and wholesome and to be celebrated.


What I had been exposed to were debates on Sunday morning television about the morality of same-gender marriage (bad). I'd been asked to pray for the gays to repent in church (because of all the sin). I grew up in Section 28 Britain, where it was literally illegal for teachers to promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".


Some of them were societal norms... a common insult when I was a teenager was to say "that's gay". It was synonymous with every word that meant something vaguely negative. Homework? Gay. Those trousers? So gay. My inability to pass the ball in PE classes. What a gay. I'm not

going to list all the slurs I heard on a regular basis, but you get the picture. Sexuality was linked with acceptability in the vocabularies of most 90s-00s teens, and I'm sure we weren't the first generation to think of it.


Some were projections of the people around me... little pitchers have big ears, and little Anna had bat-like hearing when it comes to the adults around her talking about gay rights issues. Older Anna took note every time someone said that bisexual people were slutty, attention seeking, indecisive, overly sexual... The bullying, the Sunday morning debates, the offhand comments, the jokes, all of it landed with me. Especially when they were said by friends and family - those ones hurt the most.


It all stayed with me, filed in my head under b for broken (as well as bi).


Now not everyone reading this will know this particular struggle, but I believe it works the same for pretty much everything we call a flaw. You weren't born thinking that your facets were flaws, but you can probably summon up memories from those three categories - evidence of all the times that being x made you "wrong".


My role is embodying the wisdom that you were never broken


Here's the thing - all of that conditioning, those memories - they're stories. They're the bit we can challenge. For me, being bisexual is a fact, but I can (and have) peeled away the layers of crap that tell me that's a flaw. The same with my lack of innate tidiness, my vocal volume control, my fluctuating energy levels, my tendency to procrastinate etc etc.


Quite often, we’ll say “Well – this positive thing is true.” and then we cancel it out with one of the “negative” stories. Like “I am kind, but minus when I did this thing”. Each time we didn't live up to our ideals somehow detracts from our net worth in this messed-up mental maths. We make ourselves worth less and less over time.


It's not kind, helpful or true.


When I look at the people who are my inspirations, I’m not drawn to the perfect people who have all their shit together. I’m drawn to the ones who go, “Yeah, it’s messy and hard. And I’m just out here trying every day to embody who I want to be and that’s okay. I’m going to go wrong. And that’s okay."


I believe finding the grace to do that is one of the biggest challenges of life. To not just own the good stuff, but the hard stuff as well and still value ourselves.


I love moving people into the “and” mindset

Yes, you're kind and you snapped at your kid.

Yes, you're great company and your house is untidy.

Yes, you're intelligent and you forgot to pay that fine.

Yes, you're looking gorgeous and you're a size 24.

Yes, you're amazing at your job and you need a day off.


Try it. And. And. And. AND. Say it so often that it gets wired into your nervous system.


None of these things change the sum of who you are.


None of them change the fact that you are whole, worthy and loveable.


It's really revolutionary to own your full self


I am imperfect. I am untidy and a bit disorganized and not very good at not swearing in situations where I really shouldn’t swear. I'm fat. My hair is pink but my roots are decidedly brown (and grey). I've definitely forgotten at least three things I was supposed to do today. My body feels a bit like I've been hit by a truck. I went back to bed for an hour today.


And I’m still a really worthwhile, lovable, phenomenal human... and so are you.




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