by James Vella Clark
After years of therapy and research, ABIGAIL BARBARA’s path to self-growth and awareness led her to understand that the more she knew herself, the freer she felt to accept herself authentically. “I realised that being authentic, at work, in relationships, and with myself, helped me experience peace and clarity. Now I help others become better versions of themselves.”
Tell us a bit about your journey so far. What led you to become a life coach?
As a child, I dreamt of becoming a journalist. I pursued my studies in Communications and Psychology but over time, I got to know myself more and realised that I am more inclined towards observing and studying human behaviour. After I graduated, I took a job in sales which gave me some financial independence whilst I continued aspiring for a role in journalism. My job, however, was helping me overcome my introverted nature which eventually helped me thrive and moved up in my sales career. I still felt a need to explore who I was and adjust the way I managed situations to continue growing in my career. I learned about building strong boundaries, being assertive and recognising excessive people-pleasing. I started to do therapy and coaching both personally and for work. I read a lot of self-help books, and articles to research human behaviour deeper. When I moved to management positions, I would spend hours studying and researching the best ways to manage my teams, the best sales training I could give them and learning effective leadership.
A year and a half ago, I followed a life coaching course. At the same time, I chose a sales career move and moved to Dubai. However, the fast-paced life I was living there turned out to be a wake-up call because there, I lost the balance I had worked so hard to find. I stopped to assess my life only to find out that my life was not aligned with who I wanted to be. I needed purpose. So, I moved back to Malta, finished my life coach certification, and started my practice. What I had been doing with my sales teams, with close friends and family became my full-time job.
How do you like describing yourself?
I like to describe myself as an extroverted introvert! Whilst I seek peace, quiet and alone time, I am also sociable especially if I am around the right people and in the right setting. I love travelling both with company and alone, but I have to admit that some of my best trips were solo travels. I love long walks with my dogs, listening to podcasts and reading. I always seek to learn more, and I constantly challenge myself to spend more time with my thoughts. I love routine especially in the morning as I always start my day with meditation, followed by a coffee and a walk with my dogs. I go to the gym daily because I believe that the connection between mind and body needs to be nurtured. Keeping fit and healthy helps me to learn to better listen to my body.
You describe yourself as “a life coach with a passion for empowering people to navigate through the journey of life.” What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first started?
My biggest challenge was letting go of the ‘salesperson’ in me and creating my life coach identity. My biggest challenge was fear of failure. The years I spent working in sales gave me security and confidence in my success. Identifying as a life coach meant that I had to restart from scratch and face again all the initial fear and insecurity. I had to relearn to accept myself authentically again. Today, growth continues to be my primary driving force and I face my fears by talking to myself to let these fears go. This helps me accept to stay in the present.
Who are the people who typically seek your guidance and support and what is mostly making people seek support lately?
I mostly collaborate with women aged between 25 – 50; women who feel the need for a push in their lives to make better decisions or who need to understand why they repeat a specific behaviour. I help them get ‘unstuck’ so that they can feel more empowered to achieve the success they are after. I focus on career success, relationships, self-love, and health & fitness mainly because these fields are close to home for me. I worked so much on myself that now, I am in for helping other women who are struggling with similar battles.
Can you recall some of the most challenging situations that you have had to support your clients with? How did you assist them?
It is particularly challenging whenever I assist someone going through suffering when positivity seems close to impossible, when every answer is negative, and a solution seems unreachable. For someone like me who by nature is a problem solver, this can be quite challenging. More often than not, it is a matter of taking a few steps back, breathing and staying present with the problem at hand. Sometimes it is not about finding the solution, but about embracing the problem and looking at it from a perspective of surrender. I help clients accept the pain, embrace it, find ways to move forward and slowly let go of what would be causing that pain.
Many people tend to seek guidance from the closest people in their life. How can a life coach do it better in your opinion?
Whereas it is important to surround ourselves with people who genuinely want the best for us and who can support us, their advice, most times, will be biased. As individuals, we need objective advice. By nature, people tend to project their fears onto others so even if they mean well, and even if their advice may come from a place of love and care, sometimes it will not be the best advice.
As a life coach, you spend time becoming deeply aware of yourself and your fears and you learn to disassociate yourself from the client’s situation. Not being close to the client, enables me to pass an objective judgement based on the information fed by the client. All this requires clarity of mind and spirit. This is why I opt for breaks between sessions so that I can clear my mind from anything that might be going on in my life and from other sessions done during the day. I do my best to listen without judgement and bias helping with kindness and compassion.
What do you think gives people ‘purpose’? What leads people to lose their purpose and how can they find it again?
I believe that our purpose is to make sure we grow spiritually. I view personal purpose as the growth of the soul. We find purpose when we discover who we are at our core, and this can only be achieved when we shift our focus to the inside and build enough self-love and awareness so that everything we do aligns with who we truly are. That is our purpose.
Sometimes and inevitably, external factors such as a tragedy, a toxic relationship, sickness, and other negative circumstances, come into our lives and we start identifying through them. They influence and slow us in our personal growth, and we lose purpose because we create a false identity around them. The way forward is to embrace these circumstances, to hold that pain and recognize it, but ultimately to remember and hang on to who our soul is and what really defines it. This requires a lot of courage, vulnerability, and self-awareness.
And what about the support needs of the life coach? From where do you get guidance and support when you need it most?
I interact with a lot of coaching communities and there is an amazing online presence of coaches around the world with whom one can run sessions and talk to. But my biggest support is my personal therapy sessions. I advocate for the importance of constant therapy because anybody can benefit from it, without the need to be going through specific traumas. Therapy helps us become vulnerable in a safe space, to share moments and situations with someone who can guide us without bias. It helps to understand who you are at the very core and build self-awareness and self-love. Therapy keeps us grounded and in touch with ourselves. This is important because as life coaches, we tend to take in too much and certain life circumstances pull us down together with the weight and energy that we are taking in, or that we give to others. So, I make it a point to never skip my own therapy sessions!
How does it make you feel knowing that you could be inspiring others to lead a better and more fulfilling life?
I am proud to have found my purpose in life. As I got to know myself better, I realised that growth and contribution are two of my core needs. I experience fulfilment and inner peace every time I share with others the discoveries I would have made. So many people are afraid to show their real selves. So, seeing realisation tears or a massive smile on my clients’ faces and knowing that I am helping them discover their inner beauty is a source of great fulfilment. It drives me to keep doing what I do and helps me continue becoming the best version of myself.
SOME QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS
Date and place of birth: 26th November 1988, Pieta Malta
Where do you live? I currently live in Nadur Gozo
Three passions in life are… Growth and continuous self-development, amazing food and travelling the world
What inspires you the most? How the universe works, when you put in the work and when you watch the magic happen
Which is the place that gives you the best sense of peace? When I am sat down at some random small coffee shop with my book and a nice coffee. If the sun is shining, even better!
If you could erase three global human traits, what would they be? Hate, Envy, Cruelty
Favourite destination? Spain
Favourite Food? Authentic carbonara
Favourite Music? Commercial music I sing along to on the radio; I also appreciate jazz and instrumental music
Favourite Colour? Emerald Green
Your next bucket list item to tick off is going to be… Explore South America
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