It’s that time in our Life Coaching Intensive when participants get to write, speak, and start to deal with everything on their “fess-up lists.”

The theory behind this method?

What we hide owns us. What we keep secret stays real and present for us and impacts our experience of life and our future, killing our confidence and our dreams.

Shining light and owning up sets us free, helps us self-correct, and builds the real intimacy that we so deeply crave.

But it’s hard to even write the list. Here is how we prompt people, if you want to do your own. List times when you engaged in the following:

  • Outright lying: saying something that isn’t true.
  • Hiding things: withholding information that you should have said.
  • Exaggerations.
  • Partial truths: you shared only partially what happened.
  • Misrepresentations.
  • Thinking, but not saying, things that would hurt someone else.
  • Faking something: like injuries or being someone’s friend. These are where you think one way but act another.
  • Avoiding confrontations.
  • Keeping secrets that are “no one’s business.”
  • Activities you are now embarrassed by or ashamed of:
    • Hurting people.
    • Manipulating people.
    • Cheating (on people, tests, at cards, etc.).
    • Stealing.
    • Festering for a while over something.

Of course, I have a list too, which I share, complete with terrible things I did to my brother, a class I was allowed to drop by giving a fake excuse, cheating on boyfriends, etc. I am always relieved that reading my list out loud to the group does not cause people to hate me or look down on me. Actually, that’s the point of that part of the program, for them to see that it doesn’t make them want to punish me. If anything, it connects us more deeply and love grows. Obviously, that’s a hint, that what makes them human is not truly shameful, unforgivable, or unlovable, but it is the right list to own and deal with.

Inevitably, clients resist the idea that these things might get revealed to those whom they impacted. I share my experiences, having done this work (we require our coaches to confess and clean up each item on their lists with the persons who were impacted). This helps, but here is what convinces them: I juxtapose the suffering inherent in hiding with the alternative consequences of telling the truth. I ask them if they are willing to take the true consequences of their choices and to grow from them.

Often, instead of taking the true consequence of our choices, enduring the reactions of the people we’ve impacted, we punish ourselves a little bit for a very long time.

Most of us punish ourselves WAY MORE than anyone else ever would for that which we regret.

We enact in our imaginations being rejected over and over and over as a result of the truth coming to light. We cut ourselves off from the person involved (yes, even if we are married to them). Suddenly, we cannot really say what we think, ask for what we want, come through totally for that person. As hiders/liars/protectors of the truth, we cannot be ourselves, love truly, or be truly loved anymore. That is a big punishment! No crime is actually due that big a punishment.

The suggestion in coaching is to take the actual consequence. At the VERY worst, it might be a one-time rejection (versus the repetitive rejections you live with in your mind). But more likely, you’ll just have to be with someone while they have an emotional reaction and work through their feelings about what happened. And that’s if it’s actually a surprise, which it often isn’t. Quite frequently, you may also find the person remembers the situation in a much different way than you do, or he or she has plenty to own up to as well. The gifts of the fess-ups keep on giving and giving, I assure you. When done right, these conversations bring a new respect and closeness to a relationship. Having these kinds of conversations is the only path to forgiveness from others and from yourself. The idea here is to end the extended self-punishment and see how life changes when you’re not bogged down with the past.

Designing these types of conversations is an art form, and we don’t recommend you do it without supervision and practice. Sometimes, real fights ensue, which is likely for the best. While these might be scary, remember that even in the wake of a fight, ultimate success and resolution is possible, perhaps even more likely.

I hope that you will take note of how you have been punishing yourself for your wrongdoings and commit today to ending that kind of behavior (you wouldn’t like it if someone else did it to you). Acknowledge that you can set yourself free if you are willing to brave up and take on some intimate conversations. Then start to envision a life of freedom, where you have nothing to hide and delight in expecting the best from yourself and having others do the same. The freedom that comes from fessing up is yours to have at any moment. Will you take it?

As President of Handel Group® Life Coaching and a Senior Coach, Laurie Gerber’s personal and professional mission is to better the world by teaching people to tell the truth and pursue their dreams. Her ability to strip away psychological and emotional burdens has been showcased on radio, TV, the blogosphere, and in a wide variety of live events. Laurie leads events at Kripalu, Esalen, Menla, Equinox, and more. Her growing TV career includes MTV’s True Life Special: I’m Getting A Second Chance and an upcoming pilot for A&E. Follow Laurie on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by Camdiluv ♥