How hiring a life coach is like talking to a drunk girl at 3am

Nightclub toilets
"A life coaching session is almost exactly like meeting the 'bathroom girl' in a nightclub."

Every woman at some point in their life has met (or been) a “bathroom girl”. The “bathroom girl” is the girl you meet among the toilet stalls on a night out – usually when you’re quite drunk – with whom you put the world to rights. Your job, your friendships, your relationships – everything. And eventually she tells you that you’re the most beautiful, shining star in the whole world, you can achieve anything you put your mind to — and off you stumble back into the night.

A life coaching session is almost exactly like that. Except you’ll probably meet for sessions with your life-coach in an average coffee shop at four in the afternoon while you’re both (hopefully) sober. And of course, while bathroom girl is free, a life-coaching session can set you back anywhere from £20 to £450.

My life-coach, Lesley, is a softly spoken woman from Glasgow. She’s dressed down in jeans and a grey sweatshirt; she looks completely normal – not at all intimidating. In fact she seems very kind. I immediately relax.

I’m not sure where to start, so I ask her what people usually come to life coaches for. Do they focus on their careers, their love life, their family?

“Well,” she says and smiles, “where do you want to start?”  

I decided that the most floundering part of my life was probably my career. So I tentatively offered that out to Lesley to dissect: I’m a student journalist. I want to work on a national paper.

The first few questions seem to be textbook career coaching:  “Where do I see myself in five years’ time? What steps would I have to take to get there?”

These are all questions I ask myself on an almost daily basis. Lesley keeps smiling and nodding, goading me further along with gentle questions. It’s like a test to which there are no wrong answers or being on a date with someone who really wants to impress you. Everything I say is “brilliant”, or “really interesting”. At one point she tells me, “I’ve just met you, but I already think you’re awesome.”

Although I like to believe I’m a fairly charming person, this does make me suspicious – no one’s that fascinating. I’m starting to think that drumming up business for your life coaching business is reliant on constant positive reinforcement. But Lesley is so kind and encouraging that I’m inclined to believe it’s actually quite genuine.

Suddenly, amongst the generic questions, comes a real zinger: “how do you really feel about making mistakes?”

While this question seems like it’s been lifted from a TV show where a therapist is the protagonist (And how do you really feel about your father?), this elicits a real response from me for the first time: “I guess not very good.”

I suddenly feel that I’ve had a small revelation. Success! At last – something I could work on. Lesley leans back, looking satisfied. We come up with a small action plan – steps I can take which means perfectionism no longer gets in my way. These are fairly basic things: 1) not everything I do needs to live up to my exacting standards 2) realise that other people probably don’t notice my mistakes.

Does it work?

The steps we come up with are hardly revelatory – but perhaps the kind of people who look into life-coaching sessions aren’t looking for big revelations, just some direction. It was helpful to verbalise my worries and anxieties – I don’t think I needed anything else other than a few small nudges.

“The answer is always inside the client, somewhere,” Lesley says, “they always know what to do deep down. Life coaching, really, is just an inspiring conversation.”

Yet, if life-coaching is no more than “an inspiring conversation”, it still raises the question – why hire a life coach at all? I felt good at the end of the session. And I really liked Lesley, who at least made an attempt to seem genuinely enthusiastic. But I’m not sure I felt any better than when I have a constructive chat with my Mum – or in a bathroom stall with a really great girl at 3am.