THE PATH OF SELF-DISCOVERY
Updated: Nov 14
2016 was the best and worst year of my life.
I was experiencing what others call a ‘midlife crisis’. I call it ‘midlife phase’. A phase in which people in their 40's to 60's, awaken to their true selves. Women like me, who have lived through the stages of marriage and parenthood, are particularly affected. We start to question the choices we’ve made, the way we’ve always complied with imposed rules, and the way we’ve sacrificed ourselves for the needs of others. I was bored out of my mind, asking myself: Is this all there is? Will I have to submit myself to the same robotic routine for the rest of my life? Something was boiling inside me. I was angry and confused. I’ve made all these decisions: To get married, to have children, to stop my career as a lawyer. But were these the right decisions? What was left? I was fairly satisfied with my relationship and my family life, but on a personal level, something was missing.
Flashback to 1998. I remember this lady sitting in front of me in my office. She came in for a divorce. She was crying and asking me if she was making the right decision. I couldn’t do anything for her, besides handing her some tissues and listening to her life story. She told me how they met, all the beautiful, romantic moments they had, how they build a home together and watched their children grow up... She was devastated. She loved him but felt that there was no hope. I was sitting there in my expensive lawyer suit, asking myself if I should just do my job as a professional, and tell her: “Ma’am, I’m not a therapist. I'm a divorce lawyer and you came here for a divorce so let’s get to it,” or follow my heart and tell her: “Why don’t you try it one last time?”
And so, there were many more.
I kept hanging on, for a decade. After all, this job gave me a pretty good income and allowed me to live a comfortable life. But at a certain moment, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It all felt fake. I realized I was living my father’s dream, not mine. I talked to him and, as always, he was supportive, although I can imagine how disappointed he must have felt. Not in me as a person, but in the future he envisioned for his law firm. When I left my job, many of my colleagues didn’t understand why I preferred to be a ‘stay-at-home mom’ when I could just bring my son to daycare. It was not that simple. I needed time and space for myself. To think about my life and what to do next.
Staying at home with a child who wasn’t able to have deep conversations, made me feel very isolated and lonely, but it was precisely that solitude that made me reconnect with my childhood creativity. I decided to channel my creativity into a home-based business. In 2007, I became a jewelry designer with my own brand, Diva Designs, making exclusive jewelry by request. It expanded in one year, so much so that I had to move the business to a separate location.
In 2008, I established one of the first bead shops in Aruba: Beads & Pieces, where I sold everything a jewelry maker needed, with a focus on high quality metals, semi-precious gemstone beads and Swarovski crystals. I had to do a crash course on how to operate a business and as a salesperson, I had to know what I was selling, so I opted to follow certification programs in business operations and crystal healing. With beads, there’s so much you can sell. And soon, all my clients were saturated. Sales came down and I didn’t want to give up. So, I transformed it into: Creative Expressions, and added handmade soaps, which I’d just learned to make. That boosted sales for a couple of months, so I added handmade shower gels, lotions, scrubs, you name it. Soon it became half bead shop and half bath & body shop.
At a certain point, the beads section became pretty much dormant. I found a buyer and sold all of my beads and jewelry-making inventory and used the money to establish Body Bar in 2011. Body Bar was my baby. I was absolutely in love with this concept: A blending bar where the customer could choose a shower gel, body lotion, or body spray base and choose a scent blend from my extensive collection of perfume oils, to customize their own bath or body product. People loved the experience of sitting at the bar, ordering their own custom products, and watching me blend them.
I poured all my energy and creativity into this new venture.
Still, I had a feeling of emptiness inside, which could not be filled, even when I’d managed to live the dream of converting all my hobbies into running businesses.
And then, in 2016, I found it. It flashed before my eyes in the form of a TED Talk that popped up after a video I watched on YouTube. Esther Perel was brilliant in her monologue. One of the best relationship talks I ever saw. I was mesmerized. This was it! My calling. What I was supposed to be doing all along...
But wasn't it much too late?
It's never too late. At 43 I had enough life, career and relationship experience to be a credible coach. So, I did some research and found a way to study what I’d always considered my true passion: Relationship Coaching.
But hey, it was 2016. While I was very excited about getting my certification, all my plans came crashing down. I had a series of panic attacks that sent me to the emergency room. I was put on medication, and I felt like I was walking in a dark tunnel with no end. My ego kept telling me: ‘You should be able to get out of this. Come on! You’re a coach, and you can’t even help yourself?’ It took me about eight months to realize that I was a simple human being who needed help. But I was afraid. Scared of what others might think of me, and terrified of the skeletons in my closet. It took quite some strength and courage to visit a therapist. But I am so glad I took that leap of faith.
While in therapy I discovered a lot about myself. As it turned out, I was always trying to be 'the bigger person' and do 'the right thing', dismissing everything that was not in alignment with the way I wanted to be perceived. My therapist had me focusing deep inside and I had to analyze myself profoundly. It was hard to take an honest look at myself, with all my failures and flaws. But his empathic nature was inspiring and made me realize, that we’re all human beings. That it’s ok to not be ‘perfect’. By learning how to reconcile the split parts of me and accept myself as a whole human being, I finally managed to find some peace. I came to understand that this pause at this crucial moment in my life was necessary, to learn from experience, how to be more understanding and empathic towards others.
To quote my therapist, Dimitri Halley: “The wounded healer is the healer that can truly ‘innerstand’ the person. The objective doctor stands outside and has no real deep impact & connection (empathy and compassion) by virtue of being aware of their own depression, sadness, and anxiety. In the end, it is the deep soul connection between two persons that heals both. Everyone suffers from anxiety, and it is, in carrying on the great tradition of Carl Jung, the degree to which we become aware of our own depression and anxiety or shadow which determines our personal and spiritual growth.”
Why so many changes? I was often asked.
Well, I get what I call 'downloads'. I believe I was divinely guided, to explore and find all the building blocks I needed to fulfill my calling. I started as a lawyer, so I also studied contract law. Now, as a coach, I make my own contracts and disclaimers and handle my own legal issues. Being a lawyer also taught me the communication and problem-solving skills I use daily in my coaching practice. Being an entrepreneur, studying business operations, and making mistakes along the way taught me how to start up and handle the ups and downs of a business, such as the coaching business. It challenged me to be innovative and creative, which are also principles I live by in my coaching business. I recently added 'author' to the list, by pouring all this creativity into ten books, which are currently available on Amazon.
So, my answer to that question is: Change is growth. Comfort zone is a safe and cozy environment, but nothing ever happens there. Without stepping out, taking risks, and walking other paths, you may never discover your true passion.
I’ve figured out pretty well who I am as a person, which ultimately led me to figure out who I am as a coach. A transformational coach helps you focus on who you are, who you're meant to be, and how to get there. Transformational coaching is the system I've been applying to myself for five years now.
I focus on self-development with the ultimate goal of relationship improvement. And for a very good reason. It all starts with you. If you have constant internal struggles and refuse to address them, all your relationships will suffer. You will unconsciously project your negativity onto others: Your partner, your family, your friends, your colleagues, and even strangers on the street.
So, if you think the world is against you, that ‘difficult, ‘problematic’, ‘toxic’ person, could be you. In that case, a crash course in self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-responsibility, might be what you need to help you evolve.
The process of self-discovery leads to many paths, side steps, and pauses which are all necessary.
If something calls out to you, don’t dismiss it, even if it seems silly and a waste of time or money.
Follow your gut, and trust that in the end, everything will make sense.
Certified Professional Coach
For in-depth information about my work, I invite you to purchase my book, Confessions to a Love Coach. The twelve short stories, collected during my first five years as a coach, describe client-coach dialogues in real coaching sessions. Each story has a message that might serve as a life lesson.
De Wit Van Dorp Store (Dakota)