Vince is a creative producer at a technology company. With the support of his BetterUp Coach, he shares his journey towards releasing the pressure and expectations he's carried throughout his life. During a heartbreaking time of racial injustice in 2020, Vince was able to find peace and creative freedom on the other side of pain.
I suppose you could say I stumbled into the benefits of coaching. As part of the Black Employee Resource Group at my company, we were offered BetterUp coaching to pursue personal and professional development. There wasn’t anything I was working on that I thought I needed coaching. My job performance was fine. So was my relationship with my manager. I hadn’t ever worked with a coach before, so I figured that it might be a good opportunity to get more information that would help me career-wise.
In my first few sessions, my coach, Kelly, led the way. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. I was curious to see what would happen seeing as I’d never experienced coaching. Kelly took the lead in figuring out how to start, what kind of goals I wanted to work on, and started to help me see how I could use these conversations as a way to structure what I wanted to get out of the experience.
And then, on May 25, 2020, the George Floyd murder happened.
His murder was a boiling point for the Black community, and I was struggling with how I was to exist in a world where I felt more exposed than ever before. Coaching was an unexpected way to work through and process those feelings. Kelly helped open my eyes to understanding that what I was feeling wasn’t singular to me. There is community in knowing you’re not alone, no matter how far apart. She taught me what it meant to “grow my own garden” and protect my mental health in my day-to-day work.
When I mention being exposed, I mean that growing up in predominantly White neighborhoods means, to me, that you don’t see yourself as different until someone points it out, or there is a cultural moment large enough to feel a shift. That’s when the feeling of being exposed surfaces. In the past I’ve compartmentalized these feelings and left them on the shelf with no sign of an outlet. Moments like Mr. Floyd’s death push you to confront those feelings. Coaching allowed me to gain a different outlook and realize that my experience is shared with other young Black men who likely have the same stories and feelings that I have. This recognition of a connection and a community released a pressure valve of sorts for me.
I’ve felt internal pressure to be a spokesperson and make people aware of the struggle. Coaching gave me permission not to worry about carrying that mantle. It’s allowed me to lower that stress and protect my mental health. At work, it’s changed how I approach meetings. In the past, I felt an internal tension and worried about making sure I said something if it needed to be said. Whether that was good or bad, right or wrong. It sounds kind of simple when I recognize it, but backing off of that pressure has given me more peace of mind.
Now that those walls have been broken down, I’ve been working with Kelly to think more about my career. We talk a lot about career conversations at work. Coaching has really helped me action my thoughts, versus just having some vague ideas. What I’ve learned is that I have more time and space to be creative. It turns out I’m a creative person and the mental space I now have to explore that creativity, now that I’m not in a pressure cooker, has allowed me to explore that creativity both at work and outside. It’s given me some additional confidence to pursue my creative ideas without being afraid of what these ideas might do to my career or the impact they may have on my relationships. I have spent more time examining the “what if’s” instead of shutting down creative ideas because of my typical pragmatic approach.
Coaching isn’t easy. In fact, I think my favorite part about it is that it’s really hard. Kelly challenges my thinking every single time we talk. She doesn’t wait, she dives right in and asks really hard questions that I hardly ever know the answer to immediately. And then we talk and I think hard about my ideas and she magnifies those moments. She drives me to seek a deeper meaning. That’s definitely surprised me, having come in with almost no expectations. It’s been a deeply personal journey for me. It could work differently for you, and I’d say being open to the process and open to what other’s perspectives are can make it as awesome for you as it has been for me.