CLAIRE MOLINARD shares her time between coaching individual clients and training coaches. She co-founded and co-created the Unique Self Coaching process for individuals and the Unique Self Coach Training certification program for coaches with Barbara Alexander. Both the coaching process and the training program carry a profound spiritual dimension. Having lived in four continents in the last 20 years, Claire who currently resides in Paris brings to her coaching and training her rich international background. The focus of our conversation is self-knowledge and how expressing self-compassion, connecting to our life purpose and creating lasting change in our lives relate to self-knowledge.
As a coach, why did you decide to focus on self-knowledge?
As a coach, I work with people’s awareness. It has to do with self-knowledge of course, “know thyself”. Why is that important? Because as long as our behaviors are not known by us, as long as they are unconscious, change cannot happen. So “knowing thyself” and knowing how to transform thyself comes to self-knowledge, self-understanding, self-awareness and as coaches, we are facilitators for change and transformation.
How do you define the self?
It depends which self you are talking about. There are many selves. It’s a question of level of consciousness. There is True Self and that True Self is the oneness of creation. True Self is God. You don’t have to call it God. You can call it nature, universe, love or whatever you want to call it. We all are speaking about the same thing. That is the Self that we all share. It’s that divine presence. This is what we truly are. That is the place from which we emerge. You can experience that Self as Love. That Love that is present in every flower, in every human being, in every baby, in every manifestation of the divine. There is no difference between you and me. We are all a manifestation of that Love, divine presence, God.
However, we live through life as if we are separate, as if we are separate from that divine presence, as Separate Self. That creates a lot of suffering and a lot of confusion. The false self is the construct that we construct from a Separate Self consciousness to protect ourselves because we think that we’re alone, that we’re separate. There is an illusion that we need to create some protection, some contraction. When suddenly we discover that we are not only that Separate Self but that we are actually a part of True Self, then can we experience liberation.
So there needs to be an awakening that we are love and that we have the ability to live as the expression of divine presence. Through that awakening, there is a new self that is born, Unique Self, because the unique expression of that love through me is going to be different from the unique expression of that same love through you or through any other person. But, we cannot awaken as that expression if we are still stuck in our small self believing that we are separate from the whole, from True Self, from God.
What I work on with my clients is the emergence of their Unique Self. Most people live in their Separate Self all of their life and they live relatively happily, or not happily. There is no problem with that. It’s just that it is not the full potential of the human being. The journey, the full journey is coming back to realizing that you are one with God and through that realization, to express yourself as that unique expression so that you live your unique life, you fulfill your unique obligations and full potential on this planet. So when people come to me and ask me, “What is my purpose? I want to know what’s my life purpose. I want to know what’s my contribution.” This is the journey that I help them go through so that they can tap into their unique obligation, their unique purpose. When you come into your Unique Self, it unfolds naturally. It is not something that you are looking for outside of yourself. It’s right there. It’s always been there. You just learn how to recognize it and align with it.
Actually that is my next question. We often struggle to find and define our life purpose. As a result, we feel we are eternal wanderers on this earth. How can working on the issue of self support us in that process?
It is a question that every human wants to have the answer to. It is the million dollar question. “If you can tell me what my purpose is and if I can fulfill my purpose, I’m going to be happy.” Everybody has that intuition. That intuition is very right. That intuition comes from the intuition that “I am special, I am unique, I have a unique purpose.” So what is it and how do I find out? In truth, when Unique Self starts to emerge in us, when we are able–and this is a process–to see that we are actually being lived by divine presence, divine love, and we learn how to let that love impregnate us, we then become more atuned to our unique expression of that love.
That does not mean that you are loving, gentle and good with everybody all the time. No. What it means is that you are tuned to your life, that you are pregnant with who you truly are. You have developed a capacity of presence within yourself that allows you to be in touch with your deepest longings, your deepest strengths and your call in this life. Your purpose actually arises from that place and you are no longer looking for it somewhere else. You know deeply that your purpose is to live your unique life and you just do this every day. You don’t necessarily have a vision of everything that is going to happen in your life but you feel connected, you are no longer living as a separate self, alienated from all.
We keep looking outside of ourselves. How can we find it outside of ourselves? It’s impossible. We can go and pay the best coach in the world. They’re not going to tell us. They can help us find out for ourselves. That’s what a good coach will do.
How did you find your life purpose?
I would prefer to say “How did I come to connect to my life purpose?” or “How did I come to feel attuned with my purpose?” I didn’t find it. It’s not as if one day I was walking the street and “Oh my God, this is my life purpose!” I connected with my life purpose by dropping deeper into myself and learning to love myself. Learning to really feel friendly with myself, really feel like I’m my friend. I’m my best friend. It’s a very intimate relationship with self.
So what would you say is your life purpose?
I am a change agent. I help people walk through their life with an awakened heart. I ignite love into people’s heart and I help them bridge the gap between their longings for a life of fulfillment and their capacity to actually embody that life. That gap is made of confusion and wrong expectations. What I try to do is make things more simple and clear for them.
How can we know that we are on the right path?
If you can feel the joy in your heart, it is always a good indicator. What brings you joy? What brings you connection? When do you feel closest to God? Follow that. That is where the truth is. All of these are good indicators that you are on the right path. The more you develop that perception, the more it becomes alive in you, the more sensitive you are to it. We don’t have to know everything. To be in that place of listening to what wants to happen next is totally the right place to be. Listening to the whispers of the future, of your future self that is calling for you. That’s the presence that I was talking about earlier.
For me, presence is a depth from which I experience the world. It can be different things at different moments but it’s a connection that’s always there. It is a connection with the present moment. Again presence cannot be before or after this moment. It is always in the now. It’s a way of listening to what wants to happen. To what is emerging in that moment. Right now. It is ‘nowing’. I like to call it ‘nowing’ like ‘now’ becoming a verb.
How can we create lasting change in our lives?
In the beginning of our conversation, I spoke to the fact that we cannot change something that we are not aware of. The first thing that I do is to help people become aware of certain contradictions in their desire for change and the commitments that they have. We all have contradictions, paradoxical commitments that act as a brake on the pedal when we speak about changing things. I often use this metaphor of having a foot on the brake and a foot on the accelerator at the same time. The first step towards change is to become conscious of those contradictions and it is only when we can see them that we can change them.
Most often, these brakes are made of beliefs that we hold since we were very small. They’re very simple sentences that we hold. We are not even aware of them because they are conclusions that we drew when we were very small. For example “I’m not enough. I’m too much, I’m too little. I’m not loveable.” These are conclusions that we drew when as a child, we were affected by something. We drew them to protect ourselves at the time and we still carry them around like truths that we don’t question. We look at life through those filters, those lenses.
So to create lasting change, the first thing that we need to do is to get rid of the contradictions within us?
I would not say to get rid of them but to bring them to light. The idea is not to get rid of anything. It is not a sustainable way of changing anything because we suppress when we want to get rid of something. We don’t totally embrace it and the next thing you know, it shows up as shadow material.
Is there anything else we can do to create lasting change in our lives?
Of course. There are so many things we need to do to create lasting change and it always comes through building new capacity. In my coaching approach, this is how we work. In body building for example, if I want to build my chest and my upper back, I’m going to do exercises that work these muscles. Well in Integral Coaching, if I want to be able to delegate more in my team, then I need to learn how to do this. It won’t be the same thing for me than it will be for you. For me, this is just an example, in delegating I might need to become aware of my need to control, which has to do with my fear of not being enough. I will need to learn how to tap into my sense of inadequacy which I am trying to cover through pretending that “I can do it all” and I will need to learn how to ask for help. For you, it might be that you need to uncover your core belief that “in order to not be disappointed, do not count on other people” and you will need to learn how to appreciate people for what their unique talents are. So you will need to see the good in others and to learn to know your colleagues better. You see, it’s all different. First, you must get clear about your underlying core beliefs (the foot on the brake) and then you need to train, like you would at the gym, and learn new capacities that you don’t have yet.
We often hear the words self-esteem and self-confidence in personal development. How do they speak to you?
I like to speak more about self-compassion. I’m all about self-compassion which takes it much deeper. If you have compassion for yourself, self-esteem, self-confidence, all of that will grow. I talk a lot about Love and I talk a lot about the capacity to go back to that true nature which is Love and to appreciate that Love, to let Love live through you. The first element of that truth is learn to love yourself, learn to appreciate yourself. That comes with being kind to yourself. So what does that mean? That means that, for example, when I start to contract, I realize that I contract. I realize that there is pain somewhere and I self-inquire into that contraction. In order to do that, I need to stop and be present to myself.
I would say the first step towards self-confidence and self-esteem is to actually give yourself attention. So “presence yourself”, especially when you are in pain and contraction. Then, give yourself that attention that you need to understand what is going on and, through that presence, Love that is beyond you but is also you, arises and then grows. Through that self-love, there will be self-esteem, there will be self-confidence. It will not come from some book or some theory, but it will come from deep within yourself.
Thank you for sharing this concept. A lot of women find it challenging to have self-compassion for themselves.
It’s more than a concept, it’s an experience that I am sharing. I would challenge these women to practice. Self-compassion rarely comes naturally in human beings. We learn how to be outside of ourselves all the time. We have very little compassion for ourselves. At the same time, when we start understanding how this works and we start practicing it, it can be learnt. Our attention needs to be trained to be reversed from outside oriented all the time, to more balance towards the interior. When you decide that you are going to practice self-compassion, you are creating new neuropathways. So in our Unique Self Coaching approach, we also use a lot of neuroplasticity knowledge to create our practices to initiate new, healthier neuropathways, habits, behaviors.
As women, we often feel that when we take care of ourselves, when we have compassion for ourselves, we are being selfish and we sometimes feel guilty. Such feelings might even be unconscious. However, wouldn’t you say that in order to give love to others we have to start with ourselves otherwise we reach a point where we have nothing left to give?
That’s exactly what I am talking about. Yes, it’s part of it. It’s not all of it but it’s part of it. Absolutely. You cannot give from an empty bucket. You can only give from a full bucket. If you give from an empty bucket you will be empty as a person and the other person will be empty. It will be miserable. The beauty is that the bucket is always full but it’s not your bucket, it’s God’s bucket. That’s True Self. So when you give from the empty bucket, from Separate Self, you are going to be resentful, you are going to be exhausted and you are not going to do good in the world. So what we learn in the Unique Self Coaching approach is to receive from the always ever full bucket of the True Self, to receive from that endless source of bounty and goodness, to give from that place, and to give from your unique expression.
Is there a story that you wish to share on how your coaching around self-knowledge transformed a woman and her life in a profound and sustainable way?
I will give you a beautiful example of a woman I have been coaching for about a year now. We went through the whole Unique Self Coaching process. She lost her father when she was young and she developed that belief, that deeply engrained belief that “I’m alone.” She’s a very pretty woman, very smart and she’s been quite successful in her life. She’s a writer. She had a marriage, other partners, but she’s never been able to meet a man with whom she could stay because she had that strange habit of attracting the wrong men, I guess. She’s now in her early sixties and she’s really longing for a life partner after years of not wanting a partner anymore because she had suffered too much.
She realized that if she is going to meet someone, it’s probably going to be the last one. She is opening to the third part of her life and she doesn’t want to finish alone. That’s how we started our coaching relationship. So her coaching topic was “I want to open to the possibility of sharing my life with someone, of meeting someone.” As you can notice, we are not coaching on “I want to find my life partner.” With this woman, we worked on that belief “I’m alone” and on trusting because I felt that the trusting part was what we needed to work on–trusting life, trusting men in this particular case. Well this woman, a year later–she hasn’t met a man yet–but you should see how changed she is.
What has changed with her is that she no longer feels alone. She’s totally happy with herself, living alone in her home but her capacity to receive love and to give love to all kinds of people in her life has tremendously changed this year as a result of this process. She has realized many, many times, on different occasions, that she was creating situations in her life in such a way that her conclusion would be “I’m alone.” She saw how she does this. Now that she is no longer interpreting reality through this lens, her life has changed. Right now, she’s actually actively looking for a partner but she is not looking from a place of emptiness. She is looking from a place of fullness. I know that when she is going to meet a man, it is going to be the right man.
Is there a message that you would like to share with the women of the world or is there anything else you would like to add?
We have a big challenge as women today. Our challenge is to show up in our full power and to not do it from a place of revenge over men or from a place of imitation of men. We need to totally embody our capacity to embrace and to love and to receive, which we have been doing for centuries but in the shadow, not in the light, and so we’ve built up so much pain and resentment. So today, the world needs, continues to need, our capacity to receive, to love, to embrace but it needs us to show up as powerful co-creators with men, in the full power that comes from being able to be where the pain of the world is. We live in a world of outrageous pain and our part is to be able to show up in our full power and to respond to this pain with the love that we are able to access when our hearts are open. We need both powerful men and powerful women to heal the world; and the power is none other than the power that we access when our hearts are open. We need to communicate that. We need to offer that. So it is no longer a time to hide. It is a time to show up.
Interviewed by Aïda