People who don't know much about life coaching love to poo poo life coaching. Like, looooove.
And I understand why. The idea that a 25-year-old with two years of work experience knows what it takes to make you a CEO... is a little absurd.
But... that's not all life coaches.
Some have relevant or niche experiences that make them qualified to analyze and optimize various parts of your life. For example, matchmakers and dating coaches can be tremendously valuable for frustrated singles. Beyond sending you out on dates, they will listen to you describe the date, and maybe even give you feedback based on how your partner felt about the experience.
Plus, because they've worked with other people like you before, they can help you adjust your expectations accordingly and prevent you from making dumb mistakes.
Life coaches can help you identify personality traits and behaviors that make you less charismatic, less confident, or less "hirable" or "promotable".
They can be a shoulder to cry on. An ear to discuss problems with, especially when friends and family don't have the time, interest or expertise to help.
They may be trained in (or naturally good at) communication skills, meaning they won't do well-meaning but stupid shit, like proposing solutions before they fully understand the problem. (See also: It’s not that women “don’t want solutions.” It’s that men don’t listen to the problem.)
Not to mention, we live in a world where people are increasingly depressed, anxious, and addicted. It's obvious that several aspects of the modern world cause restlessness ad loneliness and obliterate happiness.
A life coach might be able to help you overcome that.
A good life coach could help get you on the path to happiness and success.
And, yes. It seems like most life coaches are women.
Which might, at least partly, explain why people love to poo poo on it. Everything women like more than men is frivolous and petty. Everything men like more than women is manly and cool.
Makeup? Silly woman stuff.
Cigars? Full-bodied, robust, and worth every penny.
Fashion? Dumb waste of money.
NBA results? SO COOL AND IMPORTANT!
Again, not all of the criticism is undeserved. There are a lot of shammy "life coaches" out there.
But there are some very valuable ones, too.
While discussing this with a friend the other day, we came to a realization:
Might life coaching simply be women's attempt to monetize their unpaid emotional labor?
Let me be the first to cringe at my use of the phrase "unpaid emotional labor." Or, really, any phrase that originally meant one specific thing, but is now used as a catch-all for that and several other things.
(I love language -- what can I say? See also:It's Not RE-Diculous. It's Ridiculous. Here's Why ; It's Not Prejudice -- it's Prejudice. Here's Why ; Not to Nitpick, but "Try" Takes the Infinitive or a Gerund, Not a Conjunction ; Why I HATE The Word Vagina ; and If You're Not a Psychologist, "Positive Reinforcement" Probably Means the OPPOSITE of What You Think It Does.)
"Emotional labor" isn't administrative or logistical labor. It's not activism or clerical work. It kind of is, because these things may elicit emotions, like frustration, boredom, or antsiness. Not to mention, these are all tasks that are disproportionately assigned to or assumed to be handled by women.
But technically, it's not. Emotional labor, as defined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feelings, means managing and fixing other people's feelings, which is common in the service sector. And, I suppose, to some degree, our interpersonal relationships.
But a lot of what some women would call "emotional labor" in their relationships... I would call "bad communication."
As I wrote in Men Can Learn From the "You Should Have Asked" Comic -- But So Can Women, this:
does not have to be your reality.
Like, really? You’re going to sit around and bitch about your husband to your friends? Have you tried, you know, COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR PARTNER?
That said, I've definitely written multiple (like, two) songs about the emotional services I'm supposed to provide boyfriends and male friends. And if you're good at something, why not monetize? As I told a gang of over-emotional and very triggered alumni from my high school (they were upset because I'd written about a public Facebook controversy on my blog, which -- gasp! -- makes money!!!!):
Of course I've monetized! It would be stupid not to!
Couldn't the same be said for women who find themselves constantly managing the emotions of others?
The Guardian wrote in 2015 that emotional labor might be feminism's next frontier. I scoffed repeatedly throughout the article... but it made some good points.
Maybe it is. And maybe life coaching is feminism's answer.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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