Words of Wisdom, One on One

A life coach shares a few lessons from her own life.

Writer: Jody Gifford
Photographer: Lauren Matysik

Vanessa McNeal (pictured) has a way of making people talk. As a life coach and healer, it’s what she does to help her clients understand what’s holding them back from their full potential.

“A big part of the suffering that we all go through is that we don’t think we’re supposed to be where we are right now,” McNeal said. “Part of the reason we think that is because we’re not talking about the honest, real, raw things that are happening, even though they’re happening to all of us.”

McNeal, who is also a public speaker, started coaching in 2020 just as the pandemic pulled the plug on in-person speaking engagements. The shift came after she realized there was something missing from her own life.

“I went through my own series of ‘unbecoming’ in order to be who I am,” she said. “I moved through some really big limitations for myself, and I wanted to duplicate that process for other people. Most of what I’ve done in my life is macro-level change work, and I wanted to start getting intimate with these one-on-one, transformational experiences.”

To date, McNeal has coached more than 100 people, giving them tools and resources to live authentic lives by instilling them with clarity, confidence and a positive mindset.

McNeal shared some of her coaching secrets and words of encouragement: It’s never too late to change your mindset.

What is a life coach?

I help people overcome their inner limitations and understand where exactly they come from. I’ve been given the gift of helping, of really just seeing who people are. And because I can do that, I can help them go back in time and pinpoint where the mucky stuff happened that made them forget who they were.

What is that process like?

It’s a series of one-on-one intensive sessions with me via Zoom where I talk people through their inner narratives, where they come from, how they grew up, who they are, connecting them with their inner child and helping them discover where exactly the thing that holds them back comes from. We’re really great in society at treating symptoms but not root causes. So in my coaching, specifically, I help people identify these pain points and these sources of suffering.

What’s your background?

In 2015, I started sharing my personal story of overcoming child abuse and trauma. For three years, I was a national speaker full -time, traveling the country, sharing my story. Then I got into filmmaking, really focusing on sharing stories of sexual violence. I moved away from that work after becoming a mom in 2020 and then going through my own inner journey. Now I’m focusing on life after trauma, life outside of the vacuum and getting more into healing transformation work.

How has motherhood influenced the way you coach?

It’s really helped me understand the delicate, innocent nature of who I was as a kid and why certain things that happened to me ended up influencing me into adulthood. It softened me in a way, so that I understand that when we’re kids, that’s who we really are. Over the years, life and people and society and pressure take us away from our core makeup, our core design. That informs my coaching practice and helps me hold that as a frame for how we can all go back to that place of innocence in ourselves.

What has surprised you the most about your work?

That it’s evolving because it’s just a reflection of me. The more I change, the more my work changes. What’s been really beautiful is that people have stuck with me the last several years as I’ve gone from talking about sexual violence to then talking about healing and transformation work and sometimes spirituality, too.

What are some tips for someone who’s feeling stuck?

Life doesn’t give us what we’re not ready for. It doesn’t ever set us up for failure. So if you’re not getting the job you want, or you’re not yet married, or you haven’t found whatever you’re looking for, it’s because you’re in preparation for something else. Life always wants the best for us, and if we could trust that and have a little bit more understanding of that, then we would suffer a lot less. Don’t change the parts of yourself that you don’t admire or don’t want to bring with you in the future. Honor those parts of yourself and give them the love they need.

Website: vanessamcneal.com
Instagram: @thevanessamcneal @crackedopenpodcast
Podcast: Cracked Open (on Spotify and Apple)

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