Everybody says, “I’m ‘good.’”
Life presents many challenges related to health, relationships, career, finance, or personal and professional growth, and it is a natural tendency to seek help. For this we usually turn to our family members, friends, and colleagues. While having this support system is important and essential, it may not be sufficient to get lasting results. There is a huge difference between working with a trained professional like a coach or a counselor versus speaking to a friend or family member. Yet, people hold back from seeking help.
To get a deeper understanding on the South Asian mindset and perceptions, especially apprehensions around coaching or counseling, I spoke with several people in our community including IT professionals, homemakers, doctors, coaches, and business owners. My informal research brought up many interesting observations and viewpoints.
Social stigma and cultural attitudes deter South Asians from seeking professional help
There appears to be a stigma associated to seeking professional help. People fear being labeled and this may cause them to hold back. When asked, everybody says they are “good,” that all is well in their world. They may not want to admit, even to themselves, that things are not ok, and they would rather keep issues bottled up inside them. This could be very detrimental for their overall wellbeing and can further complicate matters.
Typically, in the South Asian community, people turn to their elders for advice, but we need to bear in mind that elders may be emotionally vested in their kin and may have opinions and world views that may be out of sync with another generation. Advice alone cannot bring change, but self-awareness can! Similarly at the work place, relying on one’s managers for direction and mentorship may not be enough, because they may not have the time, training, or inclination to take interest in one’s career growth. The onus is on the individual as the employee to take the initiative and invest in oneself.
In comparison to Eastern societies, the Western world seems to be more open to the idea of coaching and other services and incorporating them into their lives more easily. This could be related to the fact that Western society is more individiualistic and believes in investing in the self, whereas South Asians are more community oriented, so there is a lot of emphasis on social acceptance and ‘fitting in.’
Just as a doctor helps address physical health concerns, or a beautician enhances your appearance, coaches or counselors and therapists are available to help address emotional and mental wellness, which is so crucial. While there are similarities and overlaps in the professions of coaching, counseling, or therapy, they differ in the education and scope of practice. The International Coaching Federation or ICF website gives a detailed list of differences which can help decide which approach is most suitable for a given circumstance.
“Things have changed a lot,” says Licensed Professional Counselor, Aqsa Zareen Farooqui, LPC, in that people are much more open to the idea of seeing a professional today than before. There is a shift in thinking, and South Asians are leaning more towards spirituality. Awareness has risen and a need for awakening is being felt.
Coaching is still a new idea to many South Asians. They are very curious about it, and try to associate ‘Coach’ with a sports coach like a football or tennis coach. Professional coaching is similar in concept. Just as a sports coach helps to get past your challenges and champions you towards your athletic goals, professional coaches do the same for you at a personal and professional level.
For example, if one is generally in a good place mentally and emotionally, and ready to receive motivation or guidance, explore obstacles, and create plans for change, then coaching can be very useful and effective. Amidst busy, stressful schedules, many times our loved ones may not be able to give us the much needed time and attention. A trained, professional coach reserves time for you and knows the right skills and tools to take you through a structured process wherein you get to express yourself freely about your challenges, and that in itself brings great relief. The coach keeps matters confidential, is a great sounding board for ideas, and in a creative and objective manner helps you get clarity, perspective, and direction. Asking powerful questions that address your true needs and goals, and keeping accountability on action steps is a major part of making progress, and coaches know how to do that for you.
If the issues are a lot deeper, then counselors or therapists would be a better choice. So whether one seeks an enrichment model or a treatment model, these services are readily available and can bring powerful transformations that change lives.
“Things have changed a lot,” says Licensed Professional Counselor, Aqsa Zareen Farooqui, LPC, in that people are much more open to the idea of seeing a professional today than before. There is a shift in thinking, and South Asians are leaning more towards spirituality. Awareness has risen and a need for awakening is being felt. There is a desire to reach a vision and people seem driven towards fulfillment. Generally, women and teens are more open and receptive than men when it comes to reaching out, but even that is changing as more men are signing up for executive and career coaching.
Professional coaching translates into better, long lasting quality of life
Once people move past their initial apprehensions and experience coaching or therapy, they see tremendous benefits. They feel better physically and emotionally, experience higher energy and more drive and passion to follow their dreams. People report that they relate better to spouses, children, and colleagues and see great improvement in the quality of work and life. There is a desire to get up in the morning, and they are excited about the day; there is a sense of purpose! One learns to manage one’s life and time better, productivity improves, and people get a greater sense of satisfaction in life. They gain lasting improvement instead of just experiencing occasional spikes of happiness. They are no longer limited to feeling like a victim. Their focus shifts to how to evolve and grow to make a greater impact, for themselves and for those around them. They inspire others and make significant contributions, and this has a positive ripple effect.
“Give it a try, you have nothing to lose!” says pediatrician, Dr. Prabha Tyagi, who believes there is a real need for this outlet, where people can share freely, be heard, and “…complete their sentences without being interrupted!” She affirms that informal chats may not go far enough to get you the required support and guidance.
Ask yourself, “Is there a desire in me to evolve?” says Aqsa Zareen Farooqui. “If yes, check in with your heart and notice if you trust the coach/counselor, if it feels right. Without a certain amount of faith and trust, healing and change are not possible. Last but not least, if you notice like-mindedness (and similar values) with this individual, it could begin a great rewarding journey of self-discovery and happiness.”
At one point I too had my doubts, but when I experienced coaching first hand, my outlook towards life improved tremendously. I felt transformed and realigned with my life purpose. I had always wanted to make a difference, and with coaching I had found my calling––I became a Professional Coach!
Questions to ask oneself are Am I fulfilled? Am I the best version of myself? If not, then how can I get there? How can I rise to my full potential and live an incredible, meaningful, and joyful life?
In those answers lies the key to your fulfillment!
Rekha Radhakrishnan is a Professional Coach and the founder of Rise2Actualize LLC. Through one-to-one coaching, seminars, workshops, and personal development programs, she is dedicated to improving the quality of living experience and raising awareness about self-actualization.
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