“[She] who refreshes others will [herself] be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25
In the November eNews, we get an inside look at the life of a women’s coach. Life coach and author Shannon Ethridge (pictured right) shares about her experiences coaching women through family, boundaries, and personal dreams.
Elizabeth: “Shannon, why would you recommend the niche of woman’s coaching to a fellow life coach? How has it enriched your life as a coach?”
Shannon: “Because women are such deep emotional wells, the potential for growth is enormous! Plus, there are so many ripple effects since women have such a deep impact on their husbands, children, community, etc. And although helping your client is always the primary goal, a coach can’t help but be strengthened herself when she sees her client getting stronger! My favorite scripture is Proverbs 11:25, “[She] who refreshes others will [herself] be refreshed!”
Elizabeth: “What’s your journey? Can you give a little background about yourself and how you got involved in the niche of coaching woman?”
Shannon: “My journey into becoming a “people helper” probably began when my 8-year old sister died when I was only four years old. Not only did I lose her, but my entire family shut down as a result. Hungering for attention and affection, I made an easy target for several uncles in my family to make inappropriate advances. I lost my virginity at 14, and became quite promiscuous from 15-20 years old. But working as an embalmer in my early twenties awakened me to the reality of the dangers of my lifestyle. I gave my life back to God and asked Him to help me show young people how to live a sexually healthy life such that they didn’t wind up on that embalming table prematurely.
I began speaking to teenagers and college students about abstinence, but I also grew with my audience as they got older, eventually got married, and started families. I was blessed with the opportunity to publish the “Every Woman’s Battle” series in 2003, alongside Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s “Every Man’s Battle” series. Those books sold over 1 million copies, and were published in over 30 languages, so I was fortunate to be invited to speak in a wide variety of venues, and appear on a plethora of radio and television outlets. Coaching was the obvious next step, as many heard my testimony and reached out looking for a lifeline to hold onto as they processed their own sexual and emotional baggage.
After several years of individual and couples coaching, I launched two different programs that I absolutely love leading. B.L.A.S.T. (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers, & Teachers) is a 12-month online mentorship program for aspiring writers and speakers, because I want to help others who are passionate about a particular topic to break into the speaking and publishing world themselves. And then I also host Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops for 8-10 women at a time who are either acting out sexually, or shutting down sexually. Through this workshop I help both married and single participants find a healthy balance once again – where she is an interested and motivated sex partner, but only with her husband and no one else!
Between my writing, speaking, mentoring, and coaching, I’ve created a life and ministry beyond my wildest dreams! I pinch myself that I actually get to invest my time in others in such fulfilling ways!”
Elizabeth: “How do boundaries impact women for reaching their goals?”
Shannon: “Women are “people pleasers” by nature, and we hate saying “no” to anyone. So we too often let the needs of others crowd our agenda such that we don’t really have any personal priorities other than to keep others happy with us. But a woman can lose herself in that lifestyle. She needs her own visions and dreams, and she needs to be assertive about guarding the time and energy required to invest in bringing those dreams to life!”
Elizabeth: “What are signs of burnout, and what are effective coaching techniques to coach a woman who is burnt out?”
Shannon: “Loss of joy and passion is the most common indicator that someone is burning out, and that usually happens when we spread ourselves too thin and fail to take care of ourselves the way we need to. To regain passion, a coach can point a woman to disengage from others long enough to rest and refresh ourselves. It is never selfish to do whatever fills our own cup, such that we can offer others our “overflow” and not become depleted over and over again.”
Elizabeth: “Can you share about the goose that lays the golden egg?”
Shannon: “A woman needs to remember that when it comes to life, marriage, family, and friendships, SHE is the goose that lays the golden eggs! We absolutely must make our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health a priority if we are going to take care of others. This means putting our own needs at the top of the list on occasion. What does this look like? Maybe hiring a part-time gal to help the kids with homework and get dinner started while you go to a yoga class to de-stress after work. Or asking your husband to take the kids out to dinner while you bask in a bubble bath and paint your toenails. We can’t underestimate what a BIG impact a little self-care can have!”
Elizabeth: “A lot of times a woman absorb the emotional impact of the struggles that are facing her family members. How does she not let it consume her?”
Shannon: “Being the sensitive, nurturing creatures we are, empathy runs deep. This is a good thing, but when we are so empathetic that other people’s problems become our own problem, that’s a problem! It’s okay to communicate healthy boundaries in advance, such as “I only have about 10 minutes to chat, but what’s up?” or “I can take care of mom on certain days of the week, but she is going to need more help. How can we work together to make sure all her bases are covered?” Don’t give people the impression that you’re willing to be a martyr for anyone else’s cause. Expect full participation from others, and you’re far more likely to get it than if you operate under the assumption that they’re going to take advantage of you, and you have no choice in the matter.”
Elizabeth: “Can you speak to the transitions a woman faces – marriage, divorce, motherhood, empty nesting, menopause. What are ways a coach unlocks a woman to move forward in the face of these life transitions?”
Shannon: “A woman’s life is filled with one transitional season after another, and major adjustments are always required in each season. Equipping women with the tools to grieve properly is absolutely vital in the coaching journey. Whether it’s getting married, having children, kissing our kindergartners (or college students) goodbye, watching parents age, going through divorce or the death of a loved one, etc., we have to let go of what’s behind us before we can fully embrace what’s in front of us. Through proper grieving, we can courageously face our fears, appropriately vent our anger, fully embrace our sadness, and in doing so we make room for gladness to come bursting forth with each new season!”
Elizabeth: “How do you see underlying sexual issues a woman is facing impact the other areas of her life?”
Shannon: “Women, throughout various seasons of life, will often wrestle with frigidity or sexual disinterest. In the busyness of everyday life, we can lose sight of just how vitally important a vibrant sex life can be – not just for our husband’s benefit, but for our own! Not only does it greatly improve satisfaction in a marriage relationship, great sex has tons of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, releasing oxytocin (nature’s Valium), reducing stress, and improving sleep quality. In fact, the best prevention for Alzheimer’s disease is frequent orgasm, because it lights up every part of the brain like no other activity!
On the other side of that pendulum swing, women also can find themselves entrenched in emotional affairs for similar reasons. She loses sight of the sexual and emotional bond she can experience with her husband, and the loneliness creates a vortex that other (equally dissatisfied and unhealthy) men can get sucked into. Then that relationship is like two ticks and no dog – they latch on and such the life out of each other!
In either scenario – a woman shutting down sexually, or a woman acting out sexually, she jeopardizes what she treasures most – her marriage and family, not to mention her own self-esteem.”
Elizabeth: “What is the dive deep principle and how does a coach use it?”
Shannon: “While in Hawaii, we signed up for the ultimate adventure — a nighttime scuba dive with manta rays. As my entire family was descending to the bottom of the ocean, I was stuck at the surface. The dive master saw that I was nervously kicking my feet, which with fins on kept me at the surface of the water. So he swam up, grabbed me by the ankle, and pulled me deep with a swift tug. It was bewildering at first, but I soon realized he was doing me a favor. I didn’t fly to Hawaii to snorkel. I flew there to go DEEP, and I needed his unexpected grab-and-tug to get there. That’s what it may feel like with clients when I lob an unexpected question in their direction. But I remind them that I’m only trying to help them get to the bottom of their issues, not play around at the surface where they’ve been stuck their whole lives.”
Elizabeth: “How do you help a woman find her voice?”
Shannon: “I love doing life mapping with women such that they recognize the most pivotal moments of their childhood, and how those experiences set them on a trajectory that landed them in whatever predicament they may find themselves. So often the woman who is sexually shut down will realize the sex-negative messages she was given throughout her childhood by well-intentioned mothers (like “Good girls don’t!”). Or the woman who is acting out will often realize that it’s not another lover she longs for, but rather, the love that she never felt from a distant or busy father.
I will often ask clients to write a letter to that parent, or have a conversation with an empty chair, pretending the parent is sitting there absorbing every word without retaliation. It’s remarkable what actually comes out of a woman’s mouth when she feels oh-so-safe speaking her mind and expressing her pent-up emotions! That is usually the first BIG step in healing old wounds, because you can’t heal it until you allow yourself to feel it! Helping women unpack their emotional baggage and recognize what their sexual acting out or shutting down is really all about is one of my greatest passions!”
Elizabeth: “What holds her back from finding her voice?”
Shannon: “We simply don’t know what we don’t know about how emotions need to be processed. As children, we’re told such things as, ‘Stop that crying or I’m going to give you something to cry about!’ or ‘If you’re going to be angry, just go to your room!’ or the proverbial, ‘You’d better change that face or else the wind is going to blow and freeze it like that!’ Translation: You’re feelings aren’t welcome here! Stuff ‘em! But stuffing emotions only guarantees that they will fester and swell and create much bigger problems down the road. And that’s usually when women seek me out – when their emotional bills come due, and they have no earthly idea how to write those emotional checks. But processing emotions in a healthy way is a skill that everyone can learn. For a woman to learn these skills means she’s going to be a much more emotionally stable wife and mother, and she will be able to teach her children to be far more in touch with their own emotions, too. That is a journey that’s definitely worth taking since it can positively impact our families for generations to come!
Elizabeth: “What is a best practice (i.e. an exercise you do with a client or an approach you take) that you could share with the ICCA eNews readers?
Shannon: “The thing I love most about coaching versus counseling is that there’s a lot more freedom to try unconventional methods such as orchestrating a “Trust Fall” for someone attempting to overcome trust issues, or a “Comfort Hold” for a client who has been sexually acting out when all she really wants is to be held by a safe person who won’t take advantage of her. But the most important concept that I help clients internalize is that “It’s okay to ASK for what you NEED!” Most individuals have no idea what they really need; they just know that they are angry with their spouse (or parents or children or friend) for not giving it to them. But this is so unfair, and so self-sabotaging! Once we get in touch with our own feelings, we can then invite others to meet a specific need in a sincere way such that they’re inspired to fulfill our request rather than feeling required to do so.”
Elizabeth: “Can you recommend resources that you use with your women clients?
Shannon: “For women who are acting out, my books Every Woman’s Battle and The Fantasy Fallacy are must-reads. For women who have been shut down sexually, I most often direct them toward my books The Sexually Confident Wife and The Passion Principles.
I also enjoy using the How We Love book by Milan and Kay Yerkovich to help a woman (and her mate) determine their attachment styles (Avoider, People Pleaser, Vascillator, Controller, or Victim). This information can be incredibly transformational as she seeks to develop a healthier marital dynamic.
Elizabeth: “Can you recommend resources that you use with your women clients?
Shannon: “Over the past 20 years of speaking to women, publishing over 20 books on healthy sexuality and spirituality, and leading over 20 Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops, I feel as if my understanding and insight into what women really struggle with sexually and emotionally has increased exponentially. I feel like I’ve become an incredibly safe, non-judgmental person, and I thoroughly enjoy fostering similar growth in others. This is our best contribution to society – to grow far beyond our own weaknesses, become the strong women God created us to be, and recognize how we can become “soft places” for other people to land. There they will hopefully encounter God’s unconditional love, grace, and mercy in real and powerful ways simply by being in relationship with us.”
Shannon Ethridge, M.A. is a million-copy best-selling author, international speaker, and life/relationship coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She is the co-host of the Sexy Marriage Radio podcast which reaches over 100,000 listeners each month. To learn more about Shannon’s books, speaking, coaching, B.L.A.S.T. Mentorship Program, or Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops, go to www.shannonethridge.com