Do you feel like you are not on the right path, despite the fact that you ticked all the boxes? Are you living your life in line with who you really are? Do you even know who you are? My name is Lorraine Wilkes. I have been there. I tried to tick off the conventional criteria for success, to “win” without understanding what winning was about or who it was for. But I could feel that this path traced for me by others was not leading to my fulfilment.
I am a trained co-active coach offering 1:1 online sessions to clients across the globe, in English and French. I empower them to reconnect with their purpose, find their space and let themselves be seen.
I build non-judgmental, championing spaces with my clients, enabling them to look at themselves with new eyes and cut through the surrounding noise to rediscover their own voice.
I grew up in the North East of France, surrounded by forests and mountains. I am the first of four children, born in a family of hard workers with a strong sense of responsibility.
My parents, from a working-class background, climbed up the social ladder and expected me to go one step further. I did not want to let them down. The chase for excellence grew with me. I moved to Paris, got accepted and studied in a prestigious university, joined a multinational company… I did everything I was supposed to do by the letter.
Nevertheless, I was unhappy and very anxious. I kept blaming myself for it: on the surface, I had it all, what was I complaining about? This self-judgement expressed itself in the way I perceived my physical appearance. I was scrutinising my body, my hair, my face, my posture, I avoided mirrors and did everything I could to be as transparent as possible.
I was feeling like I had been carrying a very heavy bag on my shoulders for years, full of unexpressed pressure from childhood and growing expectations from all around. I had done everything I was told, I had done it well, but I had not found happiness.
When I wanted to escape, I imagined myself somewhere else, as far away as possible from what I knew. I started learning Arabic. I took a break from work and I decided to go to Lebanon for a summer.
As soon as I landed there I felt the weight of expectations lifting. For once, I was not following the straight path that I had been on for years. I was on my own there far from anyone I knew, and free to make my decisions without being scared of judgement.
My life belonged to me and no one else. I was ready to start exploring it with my own eyes, draw my own path, find my own space.
I left Lebanon with a lot of questions. After feeling so free during my summer there, I was convinced that changing environment permanently would help me find the answers. I decided to move back there, and stayed for 2 years. But eventually, my old anxieties found me where I was hiding. I experienced the limits of running away. I started to understand that the cloud I was trying to escape was following me. It was not above my head but inside me: where I went it went.
In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words, “Wherever you go, there you are”.
I tried to run away one more time: I moved to Sudan. I thought the desert might be what I needed. And even though this new destination did not erase the doubts, it compelled me to sit with myself for a year. The lack of distractions left me no choice but to finally look into that mirror that I had been avoiding for so long.
This was a major step in a long process of self-discovery that took many forms: I saw a psychotherapist for 5 years, read all the self development books I could find, listened to podcasts, studied psychology for a year, drew, wrote, walked, thought, had endless conversations with friends and strangers, got frustrated, got impatient, got hopeless, wrote more, walked more, talked with more people.
Without really noticing, I was starting to get closer and closer to myself. I was making small adjustments in my life that had a big impact. I learnt to choose the people I was letting into my inner circle, who I decided to listen to, where I wanted to go, where I felt like investing my time. I learnt to say no without feeling guilty. Paradoxically, I suddenly had much more energy to say yes to more things without spreading myself too thin.
I gradually understood that the answers, my answers, had been with me from the beginning. No one else had them, they were not in the blue waters of the Mediterranean sea or the dunes of the Sudanese desert. I just had to cut through the surrounding noise and listen to my voice.
What has allowed me to get access to this voice once and for all has been coaching. By looking at myself with less judgemental, more loving eyes, I was able to find my life purpose. I stopped avoiding mirrors: I was ready to let myself be seen.
I started training as a coach, quit my job and launched my practice. I feel fulfilled when I help others find their way back to themselves and re-establish the connection with their voice, their values, their freedom.
My role is to push my clients to have honest conversations with themselves and challenge them to address what they have been running away from, while equipping them with the confidence to know that they will find their feet.
Establishing this alliance with my clients is really important to me because not only can it lead people to rediscover themselves and live closer to their values, therefore be more fulfilled; but they can also recreate these alliances more easily outside our sessions and connect with others with more empathy, honesty and self-love.
I have chosen a bracelet as an object that means something to me. I have worn it everyday since my friends and family gave it to me for my 30th birthday. It is a “chaine d’ancre”, an anchor chain: it grounds me like an anchor does a ship, but without preventing me from moving as I carry it on my wrist and it moves with me.
It represents a lot for me. Links first. Unbreakable links, the strong relationships in my life that will always be there to support me. A reminder that I am a link in a strong circle, not bigger and not smaller than the others.
It is also my roots. The bracelet is from a famous French designer: even though I have no idea if I will ever go back and live there, my home country is with me every day.
Finally, this particular design has existed since the beginning of the 20th century and has never been altered: it is also a reminder of the fact that some things stay the same in a constantly changing world. My values will always be there to anchor me no matter where the wind takes me.
Do not try to run away from difficult questions because they will keep coming back. Trust your capacity to face them, navigate them, find your feet and take up your space. You’ve got this.