We are the sum of all of our life experiences.

Two good friends and mentors recently pointed out to me that they know very little about my “past life”.

When I write that, I smile wryly because I do actually refer to my life pre-Camino as my “past life”

In a sense, I have tried very hard to forget about that life pre-Camino, and when a post popped up in my social media feed asking me this question:

“What about your earlier self, do you miss?” (it was something along those lines)

I can categorically state, with my hand on my heart and say “nothing”

I miss nothing of who I was then.

“i feel like a fraud”

As I progressed through this discussion, which was really highlighting some challenges that I am facing now – a big one is how I show up as a mindset coach – it felt liberating to confess that I feel like a fraud.

In a sense, liberating – but I also felt a little scared.

The fact is we all have a past.

We have people that have walked a journey with us, and when we ourselves go down a path of self-development, it is often difficult to explain how we come out on the other end.

How we have changed.

Because in that journey of change, I have found that I see things very differently now, and in that, I have started to feel things very differently and who I was is slipping away from me.

But others still know who I was – and it’s in this fact where the word “fraud” comes up in my mind.

I feel like a fraud.

And it is an emotion, that I know is untrue, but it does creep in and take hold on occassion.

baby photos

I love looking at my baby photos.

And there is a special series of them that always makes me happy.

I am about two or three, in a vest and swimming bottoms, with a pair of orange and blue water wings on, and I am frolicking in the swimming pool. I have been a water baby all my life!

What really stands out for me, is not the fun-spirited little girl who looks like she might cause some trouble in class, (haha) but how independent I am.

I am oblivious to my brothers and my father who are in the pictures and it looks like I am simply going about enjoying my environment. Those water wings gave me my independence in those moments.

I am aware now that my top two core values are freedom and adventure, and I can now see very clearly how I was driven then by those two things.

My little face is filled with a spirit of courage and as a grown woman, I often get overwhelmed with tears looking at that little girl, who I love so much now.

The beautiful thing is that I love the grown woman that I am now too.

But there is the past.

grumpy bitch!

Yep, I have been called that.

Behind my back, I have probably been called far worse, but this was what I heard from a former colleague of mine.

I remember responding, under my breath, “yes I am a grumpy bitch, because you are a stupid arsehole”

When I look back at that moment, both of those statements were absolutely true. I was grumpy and being a bitch about it.

This was just one instance of what some people in my “past life” thought about me.

Because when I delved into some exploratory questions that I asked of people very close to me, I found out that they saw me as being “fearful, not open to having hard discussions, unaware, stand-offish, anti-social, quiet”

I might just say right now, that I am an introvert. So “quiet” and “anti-social” is something that I still resonate with today.

Although it’s not being anti-social – it’s simply being mindful of who I spend my time with.

Also, I understand (now) that introverts are generally depleted of energy in social interactions which perhaps many of my former colleagues didn’t understand.

The truth is, I didn’t understand it either!

But I digress – and heading back into that scenario at my being a grumpy bitch, I am now well aware that at that time I carried with me a lot of unresolved grief. This is in no way meant to lessen my bad behaviour, it is simply mentioned to explain how grief can manifest in our lives.

But still, when I think of that person who called me a grumpy bitch – I often wonder what he might say and do if he found out that I am now a mindset coach.

Would he laugh at me?

Would he shake his head and roll his eyes?

Would he ask what qualifies me to be this?

Would he shake his head, and say “what a fraud”?

He doesn’t have to – because I chastise myself enough for the both of us!

being authentic about your past experiences

The quote by Aristotle pops up in my mind:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

Take a motor car engine, for example.

The whole part is what drives the vehicle forward. It makes the vehicle useful and gives it its purpose. But without all the working parts, the engine itself is useless.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

And when I think of how I was in the past, all of those experiences have directed me to the exact place that I am now.

Without all the grumpiness, the tantrum-throwing, the punching down walls, the broken fists, the throwing stuff around, I would never have been called and pushed towards the most incredible adventure of my life – the Camino de Santiago.

By now, if you know me or have read at least a few of my blogs you will know without a shadow of a doubt that my greatest story is my pilgrimage – but it’s only significant because it was the catalyst for change.

I have so many other stories to share – even the really embarrassing ones (for me at least) that make up my past.

Funny, a fellow pilgrim told me just this. She was making a point about not really knowing me completely and suggested that for me to be authentic, I should be sharing things about my life.

My “past life”, that is.

And so that is what I will be doing.

I am now an NLP Master Practitioner.

As I am an accredited Coach too.

I have chosen these career paths because the tools and techniques are what I have really needed. I use everything I know on me because I need to.

This is what gives me authority in my field – my previous self, my lessons, my learnings, and how I apply those towards change every day.

However, this journey of self-development is a continuing one. I am not these things now because I am perfect in any way. In fact, I am imperfect and flawed.

But what has changed, is that I have awareness of that imperfection and even though I might still lose my temper and be overwhelmed with grief, that now doesn’t lead me on a path of self-destructive thought and behaviours.

As a practitioner, we learn a valuable exercise of timeline therapy, and it is aimed at our past experiences. One of its fundamental purposes is to change our thought processes and break down barriers that we have brought with us from these experiences.

I do this exercise often, and over time it has certainly lightened the feelings of remorse and regret that I have had when I think of some of my past behaviours.

Now I can look back, and among the feelings of being like a fraud, I can check those thoughts, understand where they come from, and move into behaviours that better serve me.

i am not special

I don’t say this as a slight on myself.

If you have stuck with me through this blog, then I say this so that you too can start to understand why you might have behaved in the manner you have, and why you have made the decisions you have made.

Also, I must say at this point that I am grateful to you for sticking through because often we try very hard to make sense of our jumbled thoughts and if you are a writer, like me, you will understand the healing process that you go through when you do write your thoughts.

But although I am an authority in my specific field of mindset, which is around understanding grief and overcoming those barriers we place on ourselves as a result of grief, I am not special in any way because I have, and do continue to overcome grief.

Anyone can do it.

It simply requires enough reflection on how your behaviour is manifesting in your life, and how that behaviour affects your relationships.

So, you can do it.

You can do anything you set your mind to, really!

my five-step grief process

But above all, everything that made up my life pre-Camino was based on grief of some sort.

Grief for the loss of loved ones.

Grief for the young girl that had such potential, and while I was living a life unaligned with my true desires, I felt such loss.

Loss of my grip on reality. Although I understand this now to simply being how I am designed.

Loss of time when I was at school, and not being supported in the best way possible.

Loss, at living in a country that because of its abhorrent laws closed the world to me.

Grief around the loss of my true value when I was a child.

All very real and very uniquely my own loss. Truth or not.

When I look back though at that past life, before I was able to completely untether myself while I was on Camino, I did a pretty ok job outwardly managing my career, my friendships (some of them anyway) and myself.

I look back and am surprised that I wasn’t called “grumpy bitch” more often…hahaha.

But nevertheless, the past is in the past and now I am far more in tune with my emotions and how they lead me.

Grief still visits, but it isn’t unpleasant anymore. This is the process I have learned, and this is the process I use now still as my grief unfolds in my journey of life.

Remember, we never lose our grief, we simply move forward with it.

That’s my experience anyway.

  1. Gratitude
  2. Realistic Expectations
  3. Involve trusted friends
  4. Engage in a tradition
  5. Faith

You will see a neat acronym for Grief in there, and this step process always is then easy to follow and implement when I need it most.

So, the big question for you today is:

How has your grief manifested in your life?

How do you go about acknowledging it, and seeing it for what it is?

Have you considered that you might be grieving a loss, even though you might be unaware of it?

What I can say unequivocally is that my grief led me to the Camino.

The Camino was the single most impactful event of my life, and without it, I would have continued on a path toward unhappiness.

So, if you need to shed some light on your grief, and how it can actually be purposeful, get hold of me to have a “no strings attached” chat.

Grief is a journey – a process and we are not so unique in experiencing it, just in how we use it.

I use mine in a purposeful led and meaningful life, and so can you.


Weekly Blog by Robyn-Lee Nichols aka The Perpetual Pilgrim

*We respect your privacy.