I think it’s safe to say that I am a product of various institutions growing up.  I went to an orphanage at the age of 3, and then was sent to boarding school at the age of seven, by my single-parent mother. In fact I attended two boarding schools in all and I can confirm, it wasn’t a positive or safe journey for me. 

I failed spectacularly educationally, notably culminating in failing to get into public school and was sent back to a state grammar school at 13, in my home town in South Wales.  

I suspect the aloneness, abandonment and abusiveness of boarding school contributed to my lack of educational attainment, at that time. 

I can remember my grandfather saying to me on the occasion  when I managed to achieve third place in my geography  class ‘What was wrong with first place?’ It was never good enough,…..or I felt I was never good enough.

Even as an adult having achieved two university degrees and a number of postgraduate diploma qualifications, I felt I was never praised for my achievements. My parents were notorious for their little sayings. Amongst the many was the infamous, ‘children should be seen and not heard.’

So to begin a journey of achieving a qualification as a life coach,  which incidentally is not obligatory, was the beginning of another personal development journey for me. 

This accreditation process is overseen by the IAPCM, a life coaching accreditation organisation which my inner child was still perceiving as just yet another institution. However, it felt important to me as an adult, and importantly for my clients, to achieve a level of expertise and to have that recognised for my sense of self-worth. Naturally, there was a lot of reading and learning to be done leading up to the final accreditation exam.  

Made slightly more convoluted by my obvious procrastination by avoiding setting a date for my exam. I did all the right things. I  prepared well. I garnered the support of fellow life coaches who I  trained with. I talked about it with friends and colleagues. Did lots of supervised practice sessions. Deciding to do it and then sharing about my progress and receiving support made it much easier to maintain momentum and commit to following it through. 

Most exam processes are anxiety-provoking and yet there would be additional anxiety for me, when battling with my younger self, who is still managing the implicit memories of an abusive institutional educational system. A system where there was a significant power dynamic between those in charge and delivering the education, and those smaller people who are receiving it. The abuse of power at that time was palpable.  

As a man in my mid-70s, I appreciate that the educational establishment in the 1950s was expected to have high levels of extreme discipline, punishment and various other negative, even abusive experiences. It was strangely, possibly, a cultural norm at that time.  

That was then, whereas this is now, and I’m fully aware of how I’m dealing with the normal anxiety of an exam process and the underlying early anxiety of managing the feelings associated with a belief of ‘not being good enough’. 

One point of this story is that there is huge potential for personal development in stepping outside my comfort zone, specifically in my case, managing an inner child’s self-limiting belief in that process.  

In the end, the exam went well. I ticked most of all the boxes required to pass and this was followed by an extensive self-reflection process both immediate verbal and a much longer written reflective process. It takes about three hours in all. To say I was delighted with my 83% pass mark is an understatement. Tears welled up as I read my assessor’s feedback. 

Tears of sadness, mixed with tears of joy, bubbled to the surface. This was an opportunity for me to spend time, grieving the loss of my early childhood experiences of lack of connection and validation. Grief is often the process that can unlock self-limiting beliefs, and make them available for change.  

I also chose to do something different, or at least different for me,  which was to tell everybody I know; family, friends and colleagues not only that I’d pass my exam but I passed it well. To exercise my bragging rights as a qualified and now accredited life coach. 

On further reflection through this process, there were other realisations that would also bubble to the surface. Despite an earlier career as an optometrist, I had now for many years been studying and practising as a counsellor a fully trained psychotherapist and now more recently, a life coach. So, I did a lot of personal development work. In my recent daily journal writing, I began to realise that part of my need, and part of my drive, to become an accredited coach was not just to satisfy my professional expertise and give my clients the confidence they can have in me as a coach, but also that I was tapping into a need to feel good enough by using the classic ‘driver’ behaviour of perfection.  

Now, I know that a desire for perfection, although impossible, is driven by a belief of not feeling good enough. My inner child believed that if I was perfect, I would at least feel loved and wanted. However, I had not connected the potential for a need to ‘be perfect’ and how it had become counterproductive in actually feeding a ‘not good enough’ self-limiting belief. 

If I have a self-limiting belief that I’m not good enough then I’m likely to offset that belief, or hide it, by wanting or wishing to be perfect or at least have this desire. Meaning perfectionist behaviour can maintain a self-limiting belief of not being good enough and keep it hidden or suppressed. Often locked down by affiliation with a negative emotion. In my case, shame.  

I now realise that there is another way. By allowing the self-limiting beliefs to surface and acknowledging the need for perfectionism with acceptance and compassion. I now have proof that I am in fact good enough and no longer use some kind of perfectionism to hide my potential for a greater sense of self-worth. 

Yet there’s another relationship that has arisen. A relationship between my adult self by achieving a positive exam result, and my inner child. The child in my early years, experienced neglect and lack of connection resulting in negative self-limiting beliefs. So there is clearly an important conversation to have with my inner child around validation and connection. 

There’s an important ongoing relationship to develop between the adult me and the inner child me. With perfectionism out of the way, I can now provide him with the positive nurturing parental guidance that he never got growing up. 

I can decide to set aside the need for perfectionism allowing me to be open to the possibility of accepting myself as good enough, just as I am. 

This whole idea of perfectionism runs deeper in that I can over-strive for personal development whilst ignoring the inner child, and repeating my early childhood abandonment.

Whereas it was important to do the personal development work needed to get my life on track. To heal and rid myself of harmful self-limiting beliefs that play out in my adult life. When that job is done, or at least under control, managed and understood, I can continue to strive for authenticity, rather than perfectionism. I no longer need to be a perfect person in order to finally feel loved or valued. 

In my case I was also using perfectionism as an obsession with personal development to the point that I was out of touch with the real problem. The real issue was addressing the self-limiting belief that ‘I’m not good enough’ with acceptance and self-compassion. Perfectionism was in fact getting in my way. 

So rather than beating myself up about this idea. Instead, I decided to pivot towards self-compassion and acceptance; and once and for all, work on the journey of truly accepting who I am. The greatest acceptance comes when my inner child hears, understands and believes that he is accepted by the adult part of who I am, protected from the adverse effects of perfectionism.

I now have a new affirmation that speaks to my inner child. ‘I am good enough; more than good enough, and no longer strive for perfection in an imperfect world.’ Given that I was abandoned as a child. It comes as no surprise that I also abandoned my inner child. 

As the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung said, 

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it”, in other words, in order to change, we must first accept ourselves.

The accreditation process I have just been through has helped me to reconnect with my inner child daily through journaling and positive affirmations, as well as to let go of the need for perfectionism.