Bridging the online business and humanitarian worlds

I love the coaching and online business world. As I celebrate my two-year coaching business anniversary, I am beyond-words grateful to the people who helped me get here and for the opportunities that enabled my successes to happen. When I originally thought up this whole online business idea, I could have never imagined that it would lead me to the life I live, the work I do, the growth I’ve experienced, and the unorthodox friendships that I have today.

However, lately I’ve started to feel some discomfort settle in. There is a tension in my heart that I can’t quite articulate. This tension often grows when I go to a coaching or online business events, find myself surrounded by people in our field, or am scrolling through my social media feed. I have been unable to put my finger on what exactly is making me feel so uncomfortable around these beautiful people and this magnificent industry.

Whenever I try to explain it, I find myself getting anxious. If I don’t articulate the complex feeling I have in my heart well, will I offend people I admire in my field? Will it sound full of unfair judgement, major overgeneralisation, or soaked with ungratefulness? Despite this anxiety, I have a feeling in my bones that I must share this tension I feel and that I’m perhaps not alone in feeling it. Although I fear what might happen if I don’t get the nuance right, today I’m going to try.

As a relatively new life coach with a background in psychology and government, I was surprised by how quickly and deeply I fell in love with the ‘positive’ and ‘forward moving’ world of coaching. She and I were seemingly a perfect match. A life long learner growing and deepening within herself, and working in a field that enabled her to help others do the same. Coaching and I found ourselves entangled in a love affair where we both reaped the rewards.

Taking great pride in my work and my ability to best serve my clients, I invested in multiple training programs, regularly attended workshops and conferences, and buried myself in books written by experts in the field.

Phrases like ‘shine bright’, ‘step into your light’, ‘it’s your turn to shine’, ‘master your inner critic’, ‘prioritise your own needs’, ‘put yourself out there’, ‘accept compliments’, and ‘love yourself wholeheartedly’ were absorbed through my ears and eyes, often leaving my own mouth and writing, landing upon the ears and eyes of others.

Inspiring event after inspiring event teaching me and others how to grow our businesses and our brands, how to get more clients, and how to become the ‘successful’ coach and online business owner that we desired.

So much focus on ‘self’ – with the assumption that this would then benefit ‘other’.

Alongside my coaching and online business journey, I also found my love for humanitarianism and human rights take a tight grip on me. I began to attend humanitarian events, interact with advocates online, volunteer my time and services to human rights causes, become an Engaging Women ambassador, start my Dream For Others podcast, and even enrol in a Master of Human Rights. I found a deep passion for helping people use their platform, passions and uniqueness to create a better and more fair world grow.

My experience of the humananitarian world, people and events was so different to that of the coaching and online business world. In the humanitarian world, the focus first and foremost was always on ‘other’, not on ‘self’. In fact, each time I heard an advocate, activist, or human rights academic speak – it was almost always entangled with the impact and sacrifice their commitment had on ‘self’ and their life.

Each time I went to a coaching and online business event, I couldn’t help but shake this feeling like we had a lot we could learn from the human rights world (and I’m sure vice versa). I found my heart desperately pushing for me to try and find a bridge between the two worlds.

In theory, the coaching and humanitarian worlds shouldn’t be so different. They should both be about serving ‘other’.

Yes, it isn’t completely black and white and it never should be. Yes, we do need to take care of ‘self’ in order to take care of ‘other’. But I’ve been feeling some concern lately that maybe we focus a bit too much on the former rather than the latter in the coaching and online business industries at times (with the presumption that this will then lead to helping others). In doing this – in constantly focusing on growing our businesses and profile, confidently accepting praise and accolades, becoming confident speakers (and often borderline performers), intently moving toward being our best self, and presenting ourselves and our businesses in a flattering (but still imperfect) light – do we risk losing our original motivations to help others and instead become distracted or motivated by chasing the light? Do we risk becoming addicted to the acclaim, success, and others’ perceived view of us?’t.believe.I’ but do we risk becoming narcissistic?

I hope not. I hope we can stand firm in our integrity and always be mindful of how we are balancing serving ourselves and others.

I’m not sure how exactly to bridge these two wonderful worlds that I find myself in. And I know that this blog post only partly touches what I’ve been feeling in my heart – with the rest not yet completely unearthed. I also know that at the moment I have more questions than answers. But as one of my own beautiful coaches, Claire Baker says, sometimes we just need to start with the questions in order to begin the conversation. So I guess that’s what I’m doing today.

Even though there are currently more unknowns than knowns for how we can bridge these two worlds – I do have some ideas. I will write about these separately in a future blog post. In the meantime, I’d love to know – am I alone in feeling this way? Do you too feel a tension sometimes around the coaching and online business industries? Do you wish we could form a bridge between them and the humanitarianism or social good worlds too? Please, please, please share in the comments below.

Let’s soar together, 

Naomi x

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • So happy to find the words that have been in my heart written down. I have been in Natural Therapies for 25 years and coaching for one. This struggle has always, always been in the back of my mind. Not sure how but let’s do something about it.

    • I am so pleased to read that I’m not alone Rebecca. It has been on my mind so much that I decided to start exploring it deeper – through writing, volunteering, studying and now my Dream For Others podcast! I suspect there are lots of learnings ahead for both of us. x

  • Hello Beautiful Naomi!
    I LOVE this post. Thank you for sharing it, even though it felt difficult to do so. I too have had vague thoughts around this topic and you’ve articulated them for me. I think it’s an excellent conversation to open up. Sometimes things go from one extreme to another before they find a balance, and perhaps with some awareness in the coaching and online world we can check around our decisions and motivations, products and marketing, to be sure it’s not narcissism but instead comes from a blend of healthy self-respect and self-care practices, which enable/support us to be able contribute where we feel called to our world.. I don’t think to two worlds need be mutually exclusive and I love that you’re contemplating how to bridge them.

    I look forward to your future articles about this 🙂 xx

    • Thank you so much Nicola and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. Here’s to exploring the balance further! xx

  • Naomi, I love this conversation that you are opening up here and I look forward to hearing your ideas on bridging the two worlds. Those in the coaching world I think are naturally drawn to serving others and so sometimes all it takes (as you have highlighted with this post) is a reminder that we need to look beyond ourselves and our own communities when thinking about our purpose in this world. I also think that our conversations do need to extend beyond that of business tactics and self-care and stretch to how we can be part of greater change and the breaking of paradigms. This is when it gets tricky as this often means activism and advocacy – two things that might in the eyes of many not blend that well with business. But is the alternative of standing back and saying or doing nothing who we really are? I don’t think so.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and share your thoughts Lisa – I loved talking about this on the Dream For Others podcast together too! Great insights here as always. xx

  • Thank you Naomi, for your courage and boldness in starting this conversation. As I contemplate this topic I also find it is very complex and not easy to articulate. What is coming to mind is the word ‘authenticity’. I have noticed that often through suffering all the layers that we surround ourselves with are stripped away and we are left with the most real and vulnerable self – which is beautiful. Even if it is not ourself who is suffering at that time, I find that seeing that vulnerability and authenticity in another just goes straight to my heart. In the coaching world the focus is on life enhancement as we generally have our basic needs met. And I think it is a wonderful and essential to expand and evolve. Is the tricky thing here to still stay anchored in our heart and authenticity at a deep level. I still love it when I read or listen to a coach talk about some of their real struggles along side their triumphs. I find I can then relate to them at a more heart-felt level.. Even as we progress II believe our journey will be like the ocean with highs and lows – and not hiding the lows is what I feel helps generates real connection through authenticity.

    • Thank you for sharing Jodie. I love that the post sparked some reflections on authenticity and not hiding the highs and lows. Beautiful. Hope you’ve been well. x

  • Dear Naomi,

    Thank you for putting into words so beautifully, what I have not been able to word myself.

    If ever there was a woman to share these insights it is you, my friend, for you are the true embodiment of what I see to be an emerging paradigm of heart-centred coaches AND humanitarian work.

    I have had a feeling for over 8 months, an intuitive knowing, that my role is expanding into work beyond the coaching realm. I have felt my own resistance in the coaching industry and not until the last month been able to put my finger on why. I though it was just fear but I knew it was because there was more for me to explore.

    Enter in Humanitarian work, of which I am only beginning to touch the surface of what is in my heart. My vision is as big as my heart.

    I believe that self-care is important, but I sometimes wonder whether coaches use that as an excuse to not ‘do the work’ Building a business, empire and platform is hard work, and at times will be self-sacrificing. Maybe there is a beautiful lesson in all of this which is, as you say, a bridging the gap- magnificent blend of self-care whilst showing up to be of service in a way that serves collectives of groups in need. I am so grateful for you sharing so honestly your thoughts and feelings. I truly wondered whether I was the only one seeing and feeling this, and it is comforting to know that it is not just me!!

    I look forward to more of this conversation.

    Love Chelsea x

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings here Chelsea – it would seem that we are having many similar ‘inner conversations’ and reflections at the moment! This all resonated very much. Thank you xx

  • Yes! Naomi, you have articulated this so well. I always feel that I am a work in progress, and have always struggled with the notion that I must become an “aspirational brand” myself in order to be taken seriously, when my real strength lies in helping others not just in spite of my imperfections but because of them—because I have chosen to learn everything I possibly can along the way and because I have been so broken I can be deeply supportive of those in crisis. I think your crisis of sorts is filled with so much integrity because of the very desire to change the world by changing the world (as opposed to by changing ourselves…). All my love and a hearty high-five for bringing this discomfort to the table for discussion xx

    • Oh Ceri, talk about warm fuzzies – Integrity is the value I cherish most and consciously try to return to often – so reading this meant so much to me. It also made me all tingly to read about your personal strength and resilience – and how your imperfections and struggles are assisting you in supporting others. Thank you for sharing. xx

    • Thanks for your honest Naomi, I too feel called to serve in a much bigger way.. As a counsellor I felt increasingly conflicted about the model of working one on one for an hour session in a closed room with someone to talk about their issues, and questioned it’s relevance in our changing world – I knew a new way was needed, one where we widen our view, reconnect people to nature, start to think outside the box about what’s really needed now and facing the future. It was so hard to articulate when entire industries are built around this model, and are wedded to keeping it the same, without addressing the changing times need a different response.. And yet with coaching, I believe helping people awaken to who they are inside, to love and accept themselves is a crucial step in being able to see the world with more clarity and to connect to how they may be of greater service. Also in upskilling people with the resources and capacities they need – such as uncertainty tolerance, resilience, compassion – there is so much scope to do great work through coaching! You can’t serve so easily if you’re asleep on the treadmill of busy. I agree with you coaching would be more powerful if the benefit of service is emphasised rather than just being about finding your best self (because there is no such thing as your best self, we are complex and layered and beautiful in our imperfections). So I am heartened to see your conversation starting, because I can see many of us are being called to be a bridge between industries, to break down the barriers that lie between corporate, spiritual, psychology, medicine, coaching, law etc… it’s never been more important to integrate our knowledge and look for new options – new ways of serving. And many people are starting to do this! I look forward to seeing your progression. Having the platform you have created already in such a short time will surely help spread this newly emerging message you are now cultivating. Good luck and keep sharing these ideas with us x

  • Bravo brave one. I hear you. This is an important and overdue conversation Naomi. I have a similar discomfort often here in this online world. As a clinical Creative Arts Therapist and long-term, old-school entrepreneur (turned online relatively recently) – I cringe at the lack of authentic humanitarian presence. Often. There’s a pervading sense of ‘self’-preoccupied-saccharine-new-age-spiritual-frou-frou-pollyanna-ness.. And theres sooooooo much of it. I find it mostly boring. Unless it’s exceptional, of course. Lol.

    And yet – I must admit – part of my process in crossing the ‘other’ bridge (to the online arena) – has required me (at 45) to get over myself – my own fears of being ‘visible’ – to find my global tribe. It’s meant sharing my own process – because this is how I developed my work.. Quite a conundrum.. ♡

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience Kylian – I’m totally feeling all this too! I’m very happy to read that you’re getting over your fears of being ‘visible’, finding your global tribe, and sharing your process! These are all so important – as is the authentic humanitarian presence that you’ve mentioned. We can totally do both hey! x

  • Thank you so much Naomi for writing this article and for having the courage to share. I know how hard it can be to share our thoughts so openly and honestly, especially when we’re afraid that it might not come across as intended or offend people, so I admire your courage in writing — and sharing — this. I’m grateful that you opened up this conversation about this topic, and I too wish to be mindful of the balance of serving myself and others (and I also think you are an example of someone who does this beautifully!). Thank you for putting into words something I’ve been struggling to articulate myself. especially as I’m trying to navigate explaining to people my decision to pursue both coaching and mental health. I’m so looking forward to hearing your ideas on how we can bridge these two words together.


    • Oh Chloe, your words are always a beaming hug off the screen. Thank you. And you my dear are someone who I think role models the balance of serving self and other beautifully – so thank you for this also. xx

  • This was such an interesting read Naomi and as always you write with passion and intent. Thank you for such a thought provoking conversation.

    For me, if it is one thing I have come to understand after being in the counselling industry for 20 years and the coaching for 17, it is that if the counsellor/coach/healer/mentor does not continually work on their ‘self’ they run the risk of being a ‘wounded healer’, losing sight of their boundaries, transference, burn out, and so much more. People attracted to these industries are by and large women and by and large giving and selfless in nature. They do the work because they genuinely wish to have a wider impact on their communities and worlds as I know you do – and do already.

    And to me that positive impact on others is only possible if we turn within and heal, grow, focus and love the parts of us that need it most. Especially as women when we allow ourselves to shine – we consciously and unconsciously allow other women to do the same. When we work on our inner critic we become stronger at seeing where it lives and how it negatively impacts our clients and loved ones. When we prioritise our needs we lead by example in setting strong boundaries and openly showing others what our values are when it comes to how we wish to be treated. The above to me is very very different to the concepts of ‘chasing the light’ that you mention. That is ego. And narcissism is ego on steroids.

    And so to me the worlds of the self and other when it comes to being a coach are inextricably linked. There can be no other without the self long term. The very best coaches I know understand that their own journey of ‘self’ requires their love, attention and diligence always, and that it is from that position they can then serve their clients one on one at deeper levels and from there – groups, communities, causes, issues and the wider world as well. For me personally the bridge is there and is strong for those who choose it to be.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts from significant experience in the coaching and online business worlds, Julie! Oh yes, yes, yes, absolutely regarding the importance of working on the self! So, so important. And I totally agree that the bridge is there and is strong for those who choose it to be (and I’d love for more people to choose it to be!). There are so many wonderful role models out there of people doing this beautifully – which is what I’m loving most about interviewing my guests on the Dream For Others podcast – learning new ways of how we can balance self and other – and use our platform, passions and uniqueness to help progress social change and create a more fair and just world. These are all things that I feel we can always be mindful of – especially in the growing online world of business, communications and possibilities.

  • Hi Naomi, thank you for writing this post. I too have been experiencing these questions and had been afraid to raise them lest I be branded a “hater” who’s afraid to “shine bright.” I’m inspired by your decision to bridge these seemingly different words. And I’m excited to follow your journey.

    • Thank you so much Kate – it’s comforting to know that you’ve been experiencing these questions too! It’s tricky to articulate without sounding like a ‘hater’ isn’t it!? That’s what I was so fearful of. Because I’m all for ‘shining bright’ – I’d be a pretty crappy coach if I wasn’t haha – but then there’s more to the whole ‘shining bright’ thing, a deeper complexity, a drive to create a better and more just world for others, something bigger than ourselves and our shining light, that I feel doesn’t always come through in the online world… See, still can’t articulate it that well hehe. Got any tips master copywriter? 😉

  • Naomi,
    I have total admiration for you. Australia and the world needs more people like you to be studying Human Rights in order to be a voice for those who cant have their own heard. Be well.

  • Hey Naomi, I 100% feel you. I haven’t got around to listening to your podcast yet, but I definitely will and am looking forward to hearing you speak about this in more depth. You’ve probably already come across her, but I’ve been enjoying Kelly Diels work recently too, which is connecting the online world with social justice, and deconstructing manipulative marketing tactics. In fact, if you haven’t already, Kelly could be a cool podcast guest for you! Thanks for starting this conversation, I’m looking forward to more x

    • Ohhh thank you Hayley – I’m pulling together the 2017 guests now, so will check Kelly out! Thank you so much – and I hope you enjoy the Dream For Others podcast when you get around to it. x

  • Hi Naomi,
    I can completely relate to that deep desire to reach beyond the world of coaching, and at first found it hard to reconcile my mission to ‘save the world’ with my unmistakable passion for coaching young people who – from the outside – had all their basic needs already met.

    As I delved further into coaching and learnt more about the biggest issues facing us as a global society, I realised that the humanitarian and environmental causes I was most passionate about – sex slavery, child labour and climate change – were largely perpetuated and ‘propped up’ by western, first world demand. Whether we are aware of it or not, our consumption of fast fashion, fast food and pornography is what keeps these industries turning over. And by voting with our wallets and demanding more as consumers, we have the power to change the way these industries are run and greatly impact the lives of those trapped within them.

    It was then that I could see the link between the work we do as coaches and the plight of men, women and children in the third world. As we work with our clients to pull back the layers of societal conditioning, we free them from the endless quest for happiness in consumerism – having the new car, the next diet and the latest iPhone – and awaken them to the reality that real, soul-fuelled fulfilment comes from using the gifts we have been given in the service of others. In doing so, we create a generation of conscious individuals who are not only aware of the impact their lifestyles have on the planet and it’s people, but are passionate about using their time, talent and resources to make a difference. (We can already see it in the rise of social enterprises like Thank you water and One Night Stand.)

    I get the urge daily to drop everything and go and build schools in Africa or teach at an orphanage in Cambodia, but I know that – for now – my work is here. I am constantly looking for new ways to use my platform to promote causes that speak to my heart (including partnering my last eCourse with Living Goods) and I know that as long as I hold steadfast in my desire to serve, I’m playing the role in healing the world that I was meant to play.

    • Yes, yes, YES – thank you for sharing Jae! What a beautiful role model you are for coaches and online business owners. What you have articulated so beautifully here is exactly what I’m hoping to see more in the coaching and online business world. You are an example of the bridge I speak of. Thank you Jae x

  • I have been thinking about this a LOT lately and I vaguely remembered that you had written about it so I had to come back and say a huge YES to it. I think that this is a super important conversation and mission to be on and one that we probably should all be on! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

    • Thanks so much for coming back and commenting, Katherine. I’m not one bit surprised that you’ve been thinking about it a lot too! Here’s to keeping the conversation going and doing what we can when we can hey! 🙂