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Awesome Friends, Accountability and Pain

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

I have awesome friends, I mean you probably do to I bet, sure, but let’s talk about mine for a minute.

I’ve always been blessed with having a few good people in my life to be there with me, know all my messy details, just like I know theirs. All the O.G.s, you know who you are. (#bubblebutt)

But guess what you get after nearly a year of coach training? (In addition to priceless education, self discovery, personal growth, a couple of nice pens and a few dope credentials) You get a super tight bond with a diverse group of people who are really fun, passionate about helping others, who ask really good questions and are obsessed with growth. For me, it’s the friendship jackpot. (Shout out to the IPECers!!)

Some of my coaching besties and I have been keeping one another accountable for the past two weeks via a text thread. We do this to stay in alignment with our coaching goals, and continue the forward momentum.

Accountability is a thing. This might seem crazy but, have you ever said that you’re going to do something, and then... wait for it…. not done it? Am I the only one??

Didn't think so.

How much more likely would it be if you had a partner waiting to hear that the task was done? Someone who knows how important it is, and what it means to you to get it done. Accountability is why my friend returned her unused Peloton bike and got a personal trainer. It’s also why Weight Watchers works. Accountability is a great tool for helping us get stuff done and has a rightful place as a cornerstone of the coaching process.

So that’s what my super awesome coach friends and I have been doing this week. Sharing what action steps we’re taking and what’s happening in our lives.

Most of the time our accountability sounds like:

I’m finishing up that last 68 page workbook to submit online.


I have a coaching interview today, only 3 more left to complete.


I’m reviewing my manual to prepare for the final exam.

And of course, there are times when it’s not all action item accountability, puppy dogs and rainbows. See, all of us also have stuff in our lives happening while we are getting our coaching practices off the ground. We have bonkers day/night job schedules and sticky relationship issues. We have kid stuff, illnesses, injuries, elderly parents, bad tenets, social obligations and PTA fundraisers.

And we have pain. Yes, coaches feel pain.

So some days accountability for us looks like:

I’m going to the doctor to treat my physical exhaustion.


I’m spending time with my partner because they need me now.


I’m sitting here with my tissue box feeling my feelings.

Our accountability thread has evolved some. In addition to witnessing one another's accomplishments, we are also bearing witness to each other’s pain. And, we are finding that this is important.

At IPEC (The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, we have a foundation principle that states that “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Last Friday night while you had a little buzz on over at the Applebees, we talked for like 90 minutes about the nature of pain and suffering. (WHO DOES THIS??!!- I LOVE MY COACH FRIENDS)

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

We are human and feeling pain IS inevitable. We will get a paper cut, some sad news, break a bone, go through a breakup, lose a friend, a body part, a job, a dream. It hurts. Pain is inevitable.

But suffering. That is (hu)man made. This is where my super awesome friends I have begun to explore.

Humans have got a knack for fixating on the story, reliving it, feeling it over and over. Telling the story to friends, Barb in accounts receivable, anyone really, looking for sympathy, keeping it alive. We judge ourselves and our situation and become victims to the drama of what happened.

Just for fun, consider our animal friends. Go to the water and watch the ducks. You will find the fowl play foul, and after a skirmish over some hen, the offending drakes walk away from each other, they will physically “shake it off” - animals will actually shake their bodies releasing the energy, and resume ordinary duck life. Like it never happened.

Howard doesn’t waddle over to Daffy squawking about the beef he's got with Donald. He doesn't go to the local watering hole to drown his sorrows, or go shop for a new bad ass pickup truck to make himself feel like some tough duck that no one can ever hurt again, damn it. He felt the heat of conflict, the pain of Donald’s beak in his eyeball, lost the fight, physically shook it off but then moved on.

Humans are way worse than animals at moving on. How long do we have to feel the ache? Sure it hurts, but the residual suffering we create makes it worse- like a festering secondary infection.

Remarkably, humanity has a tremendous ability to run away from pain and prolong suffering.

Here's a few ways that we do it. Some of what coach Brooke Castillio (The Life Coach School Podcast) calls “buffering." Just for the heck of it, see which ones sound like you. Giving up, overworking, over working out, over drinking, seeking praise and approval, eating the entire refrigerator, getting angry and hurting people, spending money, I’m too busy-ness, non stop entertainment, sex/porn, over churching, drugs. All of these activities may help us feel better in the short term, but when the buzz wears off, we come to and the pain is still there, and now with a side order of hangover, a few extra pounds and a warrant for your arrest that you have yet to find out about.

If this is hard, don’t feel bad, you ain't alone. I think I’ve done all these things and others at one point or another to avoid feeling pain. (#stillhaventbeenarrestedtho) It doesn't help that we live in a society where pleasure is on sale 24/7.

The stories that we create, the drama and trying to soothe ourselves by running away, feeling something else…. all of this feeds into our suffering. I guess that's the advantage that the ducks have; they don't have the capacity for mental narrative, or credit cards.

Sweethearts, going away from the pain, doesn't make it go away.

See what my friends and I are discovering, according to all of the tremendous resources that we are finding, we must turn to address the pain. When we feel the urge to run away, to drink, to eat a whole thing of Oreos, that is the exact moment that we must pause, do a 180, and sit our asses down, close our eyes, say a freaking OM and feel the sting. Because the only way out is through.

Pema Chödrön explains in her book, When Things Fall Apart, “This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch on that throbbing quality.”

But WHY would you want to do that?? I know, I'm trying to figure out the answer to that myself.

Truth be told, shit’s real and I'm new at this approach myself, so I can tell you this.

I was feeling a little sad last week. Rather than positive think myself out of it, or eat my kid's hidden candy stash, I thought, what would it feel like to just feel sad?

And I did it. And I cried a little.

And I listened a little more.

And then I started to write.

And a while later, I was facing such a freaking truth bomb. I couldn't unsee it if I tried.

Lean into your pain. It is part of our human experience, and there may be some gold there.

And this is where the witness comes in. We need to acknowledge our pain. This is quite different than telling the whole world that you're hurt so the world owes you something, dang nab it. (That's the buffering again.) Especially now in the fake news, insta universe when we get a constant stream of photoshop happiness, promulgating the idea that if we are not smiling all the time, something is wrong with us. If one isn't careful, social media becomes a judgement factory. That's a whole other blog post though.

My sister just had a baby. The woman was in labor for 3 days. 3 DAYS. She did not sleep for 3 DAYS. Her still pregnant body was exhausted and weak by the time that she got to the hospital on Friday morning. She chose to have an epidural so she could finally rest and be ready for the big push to motherhood. Shortly after making this choice, she said, “I'm sad that my birth experience isn't what I expected it to be.”

In older sister fashion, I attempted to pacify my sister and said something to the effect of, “No judgement, it is what it is.”

Then her lovely doula added, “You feel sad, let’s validate that. It's perfectly natural to feel sad or disappointed, given the circumstances.”

And then I was like “Bitch, what?”

But not to the doula, she was great. I said it to myself, because I'm supposed to be the coach here, right? What the doula did was pause to acknowledge the very real and normal emotions my sister was feeling. What I did was try to protect her from her disappointment, like a protective big sister would.

Having a witness to our emotions, to really be seen, validates our feels and helps us to process them. We need real intimate connection with real human people that we trust. It's the difference between sympathy and empathy. A witness makes the feeling real and tangible, rather than a swirling mess of gooey discomfort. And then when the emotions have been felt, we release them and can move forward.

But guess what, trying to fix or pacify, make it all better or lessen the blow, kind of does the opposite of that. It’s the same pain avoidance, buffering, that we do with ourselves. (I may as well have handed my sister a sleeve of girl scout cookies.) In any relationship, we need to be seen, that includes the hurting and painful stuff too. This, dear ones, is done by emotional validation. Ready to try it?

It’s pretty easy actually. When the moment strikes, ask yourself or your dear friend, “What feelings are coming up for you right now?”

And let your friend tell you. Then simply let them know that it makes sense that they would feel that way, given the situation. It's perfectly normal, actually. Feelings are normal. Most importantly, DON'T TRY TO FIX ANYTHING!

Wow, we’ve been on a journey. Let's end with this:

Having feelings isn’t bad, it’s what makes us human. And also I think what may just save us from the iPhone apocalypse, but that too is another blog post.

When you have pain, feel it. When you need a witness, ask for emotional validation. When your friend has pain, acknowledge it, and let him/them/her know it’s normal for humans to feel that way. Because every human emotion is normal for the human experiencing it.

And let us try to be more like ducks and less like Instagram.

Anna Scelfo

New Growth Coaching LLC

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