How coaching helped me soften the edge of fear as a leader


J.J. wants more than a career.
And she’s willing to dance with the terror of being seen to pursue her passion.
Can I do this? Lead dance classes? It feels so intense. Like a tidal wave coming down on me…like it could crush me.

Even as a midwife, I was always more excited than scared. But this is like a tight ball of terror in my chest. Like a racing heart at 3 AM.

I’m booked to lead a series of dance classes at Esalen—my first big gig. I really have to step up.

I’d like not to be terrified. But I am.

The only thing I can relate it to was my first job: a 21-yr old, brand-new nurse at NYU teaching hospital. But, even in the intensive care unit—dealing with death daily—I didn’t feel this terror.

I chose this push-pull dance. I love this searching part of me. There’s a drive in me. It’s about being visible and capable. I want to talk up my dance classes, wanting people to come. Yet I don’t want to be seen!

It’s like the second time I was in labor…oh crap, I remember how it was … this sense that I didn’t want to get into this anxious place again.

I don’t know exactly what I’m giving birth to this time around.


Hot Damn! My knees shook, my insides trembled. I welcomed it and I pretty much “rocked it” leading 25 people on a JourneyDance on Esalen’s busiest day.

Thanks for reminding me that belief in myself must come from within, from my own voice, my words.

Faith is like a sap pulled up through the trunk of a tree…dancing moves the sap through my veins and arteries, into my gut, my heart, that swirling space in my chest…it was great to hear external praise, too. People wanted my card, where I teach—do I travel to lead dances?

My gut swirls with nerves before I lead…I welcome it…and I find surprising moments of calm and a surety that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

Sending you waves of gratitude!

Home again
At Esalen, I was anxious all week. Coiled belly, knotted throat. It didn’t stop me from seeing people and being seen, loving people—loving the dancers—allowing myself to be seen and loved.

But it wasn’t comfortable. Every day was breaking new ground. Building my toolbox.

Our work together helped me ride the waves rather than having them crash down on top of me. Before our coaching sessions, I couldn’t hear anything beyond the fear. But by welcoming the voice of fear, I can hear beyond it.

I know I won’t be overwhelmed. I can be with the fear and that is huge!

Now I’ve got a tool.  When I’m anxious, I can soften that tightness. I’m not trying to get away from it anymore. I still hear the critical voices inside my head. But I choose not to give them power. There’s a sense that under the fear is a pulsing aliveness, a powerhouse of wild sparkling energy that can serve me. I can morph it and use this in my dance.

Coaching has helped be to welcome the dark and the light. To look at opposites. Both sides. I can welcome both the terror, and I can acknowledge the brilliant light-filled, awesome, lucky-to-be-here me.

I’m confident. I know I can lead. I know I can create and lead a dance. I’m good at creating a place where people feel safe, where they have freedom and choice. That’s where the gold was.

(We want to thank J.J. for her generosity in allowing us to use her story. It shows the power of a kind of coaching we call “clearing” to transform emotional triggers into tools for the training ground of life. Her name has been changed for this article.)

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