THE BLOG
10/21/2013 12:15 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Your Good Intentions May Be Causing Harm

Everyone gives opinions and guidance to their friends and family, but you probably know someone who goes a bit overboard. This person gives unwanted advice in a very professional manner, even though they lack the proper credentials to do so. This person may mean well, but their efforts to help are stymied by their clinical and emotionless approach. That's because they're letting their "counselor impostor" -- one of the eight "impostors" that derail people's lives -- run the show.

As a life coach, I know that counseling from trained professionals can be essential to healing and growth. But I've also seen well-meaning friends and family hinder someone's process with misguided attempts to help. Because this "impostor" takes on an instructional role in order to come to terms with its own pain indirectly. Unfortunately, this ends up causing the recipient of "help" more harm than good.

The "Counselor" in Action

Here's what a typical "counselor impostor" looks like:

  • The "counselor" results from an emotional pain someone has masked for a long time.
  • They pretend hurt doesn't exist in their own lives. Instead, they try to study their own troubles objectively in order to help others deal with it.
  • They're great at telling everyone else what to do, but they can't seem to get their own lives together.
  • "Counselors" often approach love and life as a clinical experience and not as a real and emotionally driven journey. They tend to be emotionally distant and view matters of love and life as puzzles to be solved rather than as experiences of the heart.

Some well-known "counselors" are Oprah and Dr. Phil McGraw. Oprah built an empire based on her television talk show and became a force synonymous with therapy. What's interesting, is that Oprah had painful experiences and struggles as a child, and is comfortable discussing them with her audience on her show and other people's shows. She realizes that holding secrets causes illness. Sharing about her own experiences is what makes her powerful and relatable.

Dr. Phil McGraw, a force in his own right, has similar intentions with his programs. He gives advice on a number of subjects, but rarely touches upon his own issues. He believes that his show was an important service and, in his own words, the best of its kind. Now for the past couple of years he has specialized in domestic abuse and is bringing that issue to the forefront and into our conversations.

How to Deal With the "Counselor Impostor"

At some point, you'll likely encounter someone who attempts to resolve your issues, even though they have not resolved their own yet. Or you may even find yourself giving advice when your own house is not in order. Either way, here are some suggestions for dealing with the "counselor impostor."

  • Is your friend trying to save you from making your own mistakes? Giving you logical advice you just don't want to hear yet? Simply tell them that you're not ready for their suggestions yet and that you'll call them later.
  • If you are actually going to a trained therapist or counselor, stay open and allow them to help you dig through your layers. Sometimes, I've had some clients who have come in with their guard up and trying to prove me wrong, wasting their time and mine. When they finally opened up, they allow themselves to start having shifts in their lives, rather than staying stuck with old thinking and patterns. A good therapist/counselor will listen attentively and reflect back to you observations about yourself that you may not have realized.
  • Self-reflection is healthy and can help guide certain self-realizations. I'm an advocate for traveling alone and spending time in nature, however, trying to be your own counselor in a hard situation is a different story. Science shows that even particles behave differently when observed, so accept the futility of self-psychoanalysis. Allow yourself to be human and ask for help in times of radical shift in your life.

Leave the Counseling to the Professionals

The "counselor" is no doubt an intelligent "impostor." However, its refusal to properly confront and embrace its pain perpetuates its issues. In a best-case scenario, those who seek out the help of the "counselor" will find some comfort in its analytical, problem-solving approaches. Unfortunately, those who try and get close to this Impostor find themselves becoming an object of scrutiny rather than a friend or romantic partner. Only by shedding this mask can you begin to live authentically.

Exercise: Dive Into Life

People with the "counselor" impostor tend to have an aversion to experiencing life as the messy, real and emotionally-charged experience that it is. Many of my clients with the "counselor" tend to spend more time listening to and supporting their friends than they do getting out and experiencing life themselves! Now, there's nothing wrong with supporting your loved ones, but any good therapist knows the value of self-care and healthy boundaries.

So, for the next month, block out two hours each week where you do something new, by yourself! Go by yourself to a restaurant or bar that you've never been to, go to a soccer field or basketball court and ask to join a game, or take a short trip to somewhere you've never been before. Step out of what I like to call your "comfort cocoon" and you'll start to reconnect authentically with those around you... and yourself!

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About the "Impostors"

The "impostors" are the cast of characters that star in Lisa Haisha's Soul Blazing. They could be a metaphor for the "masks" that you wear, especially when confronted with something that you fear. Sometimes they're the voice in your head telling you that you're not good enough, or reiterating negative conversations or experiences from your past that keep you stuck, like quicksand that keeps you from picking yourself up. These pesky devils are the saboteurs and squatters that live in the temple of your authentic soul, and keep you from shining bright!

There are eight impostors in this cast, and they are:

The Wounded Inner Child
The Over Thinker
The Counselor
The Sex God(dess)
The Narcissist
The Philosopher
The Clown
The Fixer

Find out which "impostor" is residing within you by taking this free quiz!