Tag Archive: psychology



This month, I have been doing a series on taking initiative and developing assertiveness, and I was thinking it might be a great start to today’s article, if I simply start out with some definitions of initiative and assertiveness, so we have a proper working knowledge of what I will be referring to in today’s blog!

First of all, initiative involves taking an introductory act or step, a leading action; for example: he took the initiative in making friends. Initiative also involves a readiness and ability in initiating action. It is one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on own’s own initiative.

Perhaps you feel you have little or no initiative or you have been told this by people in your life. Does reading the above simple definition change your thinking on that definition, even if only slightly? Perhaps you are told you are not assertive enough and wonder if either taking initiative or developing assertiveness skills are ever possible for you. Let me first shine the light of truth on that negative distorted belief. EVERYONE can develop the skill of assertiveness and learn to take more initiative in their life. It involves work, and one small baby step forward after another, if that is all you feel you can muster the strength for, but it can be done. Before I get WAY ahead of myself, let me give you a definition of assertiveness:

Assertiveness is a style of communication. It is about being confident and self assured, positive. Assertiveness is NOT a strategy to get your own way, instead it recognizes that you are only in control of your own behavior and actions and realizes that other people are responsible for their behavior. It respects the wishes of others as equally as you respect your own.

Assertiveness is one of many styles in which we communicate with each other. Some others include reacting and responding to other people in an aggressive manner, or a passive style that tends to give in to the unreasonable demands of others. We all have heard of the passive-aggressive style, which is a combination of both passive and aggressive behavior which can include manipulation, or cannot clearly express their anger, but take it out on others in more subtle ways, like being late for work always because you are angry at your co-worker or boss, or addressing your displeasure with a result by speaking to the person you are angry with in the third person format, for example: “some people NEVER take out the trash and clean up after themselves” with a slightly aggressive tone, when they are obviously referring to you as you see the dishes you left in the sink, and know you hadn’t gotten around to taking the garbage out. This is a form of veiled communication. Often, if we are raised with one passive parent and one aggressive parent, we may use a combination of both skill sets we were taught by our families. Another style of communicating, apart from assertiveness, is the alternator…. Someone who sometimes is passive, holding things in, until one day all the bitterness and resentments burst to the surface like a volcanic eruption with a burst of aggression. Once the person has spewed out their building tension inside, they may return to a passive state of taking resentments in until the next eruption occurs.

The reality is we all have probably used one or more, if not all of these methods of communication at varying times in our lives! I know I have!

When it comes to communication, and developing effective skills to communicate well, as with all things it takes time and effort to make the changes in ourselves to do so! And the issues lying beneath the surface are the best place to start. What we believe often dictates how we respond in a situation. If we believe no one likes us, we will begin to act like no one likes us. If we believe we have to take responsibility for other people’s actions, behavior, moods or emotions, guess what? We will take responsibility for those things, despite the fact that we are only responsible for our own choices, actions, behavior, moods and emotions.

If you believe you are a loser, a failure, ugly, stupid, fat etc. you will act in such a way as to diminish your human dignity and incredible value as you continue to tell yourself what a horrible person you must be. I do not have enough time to dig into the root issues that lead to a diminished sense of a lack of confidence in oneself in this blog, or why your initiative may be low as well as your assertiveness skills perhaps under-developed, but I do offer a personal development program on my coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com if you are looking for additional help in this area of your life. You may even want to look back through last months blog series where I discussed self worth and self esteem.

But my focus for today is to define initiative and assertiveness and our communication styles to open our eyes to see where we currently find ourselves in this area of our lives. And I want to give you some hope along with some practical help to develop some assertiveness skills today!

Let’s start here. This is what it means to be assertive:

“Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive – and when necessary persistent – action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings honestly and comfortably (eg. affection, love, friendship, disappointment, annoyance, anger, regret, sorrow)” – Your Perfect Right by Robert Albert, Ph.D and Michael Emmons, Ph.D.

Joseph Wolfe would define assertiveness in our interpersonal relationships as

“The individual places himself first, but takes others into account.”

While I don’t entirely agree with his perspective, as I take the viewpoint of considering others above myself in a respectful manner, in the form of honoring and preferring others, I do believe that to love others we must first be able to love ourselves. The bible suggests that we:

“Love others as you would love yourself”

I believe we must treat others as we would want to be treated, thereby having a balanced perspective on equality. We do not see others as less or more important than ourselves, but rather cherish our own humanity and others. To see ourselves in a positive light with grace for our weaknesses and compassion and love for ourselves as we see others in that same positive light, showing compassion and love for their mistakes, treating each other fairly, respectfully, and with loving kindness. When we can see other people like this, as well as ourselves, we are on the verge of discovering unconditional love.

On becoming more assertive, there are certainly things that we can do to get there. Setting reasonable goals for ourselves is a good place to start about the things we want to improve, work on, confront or address. It can involve learning effective communication skills. In fact I think I did a blog series on that a while back! It involves learning how to “say what you need to say” as I unintentionally quote lyrics from John Meyer’s song, while learning how to say it effectively in an assertive, yet respectful manner. It involves learning to change what we are choosing to think, to become more aware of our thoughts, and challenging the negative ones, and speaking positive confessions about ourselves, learning to love and care for, rather than sabotaging ourselves! Just simply choosing to believe it is a skill you can learn can make a world of difference. It is a big step in the turn-around! If we believe it is attainable, we have already begun taking initiative to develop assertiveness skills!

Last but not least, take it one step at a time! Find what you feel you are able to start with, even if it feels like a small step to others or yourself, and see what comes of it! Don’t despair! Don’t give up! You can make changes! You are not helpless! I believe you can! One small step at a time!

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Codependency – What is it?


Are you codependent? Take this short quiz and see if you identify with codependency.

1. I am in a relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, or someone who is depressed.
2. I feel responsible for almost everybody and everything, but I feel guilty much of the time.
3. I can’t say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
4. I can accurately ‘read’ other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice.
5. I try very hard to please people, but I seldom measure up.
6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted or depressed person in my life.
7. I live in such a way that no one can say I’m selfish.
8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at them.
9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done or spoken better.
10. I am overly frightened of angry people.
11. I am terribly offended by personal criticism.
12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me.
13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad”.
14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone.
15. I trust people too much or not at all.
16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.
17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he/she has broken countless promises before.
18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed and ambivalent.
19. I often give advice, even when it is not requested.
20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems.
21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy.
22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships.
23. I am defensive when someone points out my faults.
24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life.
25. I feel wonderful when I can fix other’s problems, but I feel terrible when I can’t.

If you answered yes to 5 or fewer statements, you have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence or wisdom in relationships.

If you answered yes to 6-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones.

If you answered yes to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed person’s in your life. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not.

Codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling and behaving towards others and ourselves. It is a learned behavior, and again, is one of those side effects of a lack of healthy boundaries in life. Codependent characteristics are demeaning and can cause pain, and the habits become self-destructive.

Some of the common characteristics of codependency are:

1. Care taking – This is where one feels as though they are responsible for other people’s thoughts, opinions, actions, choices, beliefs, well being, etc. If you feel like making a choice that would make someone unhappy with you, not only do you wrestle with codependency, but also enmeshment with another person, which I briefly discussed last Friday I believe.
If you feel compelled to solve another person’s problem, or feel anxiety, pity and guilt over other’s problem’s to the extent that you feel you need to be the one who has to rescue or ‘make it better for them’ at great expense to your own well being, you have adopted a care taking role in someone else’s life. Codependency and enmeshment often go hand in hand.
Do you try to please others instead of yourself? Try to anticipate their needs, feel safer when giving? Do you feel sad when you spend all your energy, resources, and life… giving to other people and feel like nobody ever gives to you? Do you feel bored or empty or worthless when you are NOT helping someone overcome a crisis, or a problem in life, or someone to help?

2. Low self-worth – codependents tend to come from troubled, dysfunctional families. They may deny that their family was/is dysfunctional – after all, if it’s all you knew, it WOULD feel ‘normal’. Do you blame yourself for everything – including taking responsibility for someone else’s displeasure with you or your choices? Are you afraid to make mistakes? Do you reject compliments or praise? Do you feel like you are not good enough? Do you fear rejection? Do you feel ashamed of who you are? Do you often tell yourself you can’t do anything right, or other self critical, self destructive, self hatred type of language? Do you think life is not worth living, or believe that good things will never happen? Do you try and prove that you are good enough for other people? Do you settle for being needed, and diminish your own needs?

3. Repression – Do you push aside your thoughts or feelings because of fear or guilt or to gain someone’s conditional approval that if you perform the way they want that maybe you will finally feel the acceptance you desperately need? I am here to say, if you are pushing yourself aside because someone does not approve of your choices, not only are you harming yourself, you are also accepting conditional acceptance, based on your performance, rather than on genuine, authentic acceptance, that loves you and accepts you regardless if your choices, values, or opinions are different than theirs. This is real love. Anything less than that is settling for enmeshment rather than intimacy, and it is not REAL love. You have great worth and value. Are you afraid to be yourself? Have you lost your sense of self because you have become enmeshed with someone else?

4. Obsession – Do you worry about the smallest things? Are you super careful with what you say and how you present yourself to others? Do you feel anxious and/or responsible for other people’s problems? Are you more concerned with other people’s problems while repressing your own needs and feelings? Do you focus all your energy on other people and their problems? Do you lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior? Do you worry a lot? What are you worried about? Finding the answer to that might just be the root, or at least the door to understanding the root issue.

5. Dependency – Do you feel unhappy with yourself, or lack peace and contentment? Do you look for happiness outside of yourself, in other people or addictions? Do you find yourself latching on to whoever or whatever you think will provide happiness? Did you feel loved and approved of by your parents? Careful now, before you say yes. Was their love and approval based on how well you performed according to their standards? Ie. if you successfully made it through university or picked the career of their choice for you? Or did they still love and approve of you even if you made decisions different than what they would have chosen for you? Do you feel like you need people more than you want them, like you can’t make it without them? Do you find yourself worrying or wondering or constantly making assumptions about whether people love you or like you or not? Do you believe that people are never there for you?

6. Poor communication – Codependents frequently blame, coerce, beg, advise, don’t say what they mean, don’t mean what they say, don’t know what they mean, or how to communicate it. They tend to not ask for what they need, or ask indirectly, leaving it a guessing game for others to try and interpret their needs. They find it difficult to get to the point they are trying to make, gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect, try to say what they think people want to hear. This is where people pleasing comes into play here.

7. Lack of trust – codependents don’t trust themselves, don’t trust their feelings, decisions, or other people.

Many codependents feel very hurt, scared and angry, have weak boundaries, struggle with having allowed themselves to be controlled, and often try to control the outcome of events in their current life. They may struggle with denial, sex issues, be extremely over responsible, or become irresponsible. They may struggle with feeling close to people, or wrestle with depression, among many other symptoms of the same root we have been discussing for the past few weeks -poor boundary development. Many of these symptoms first emerge out of necessity to protect ourselves from harm, and because legitimate needs we had were not met. and
These methods tend to feel like safe coping mechanisms to try and meet our needs indirectly. We think… If I meet someone else’s needs, they will reciprocate and meet mine. But instead, what usually happens, is that they just continue to take what we offer, and do not give back what we are looking for and desperately in need of. We are taking responsibility for them, neglecting our own needs, something we each our responsible for. We need to become safe enough to ask for what we need. We need to take responsibility for our needs and getting them met, rather then expecting others to automatically know, or mind read to try and figure out what it is we need.

This is just to get you thinking. I may need to circle back to this subject at a later time more extensively, but for now, this is an introduction to codependency. The roots of which, stem from, as I mentioned before… Lack of healthy boundary development.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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How have you felt impacted by codependency?  What have you done that has helped break this cycle?  What resources can you share with the community that has helped you?  If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to identify and break codependency in your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

Our Need For Adulthood


You might think, at first glance, “what a strange title” to this blog, since we all become adults eventually, and function in an adult world. We might even scoff, brushing it off as insignificant. But have you thought of what it is exactly that adulthood involves? Are you aware that it is actually a difficult process to come from a position of a one down relationship with our parental authority over us as we are growing up, and trying to learn how to mature into adulthoood, emerging successfully with the ability to have peer to peer relationships and feel fully sustained? Do you know what makes an adult an adult? Do you know what symptoms exist if your maturing process was incomplete when you first entered the adult world?

This is the fourth segment in my series on boundary development, that I blog about on Friday’s.
Over the last few weeks, we have looked at four major components to growth and development that we all require to grow up into healthy and whole, functioning adults with the proper sense of authority that comes with the position of being an adult. To quickly recap, in case this is the first blog of mine that you are reading, three weeks ago, I wrote about the first essential ingredient in boundary development: the need to attach, connect and bond with others. Week 2 was about the need to separate and individuate and begin the boundary development process, involving discovering what we are each responsible for and what we are not. A critical stage in development, no doubt, that unless we truly feel bonded, we cannot successfully develop a real sense of self. The third stage of growth was our need to know that we are loved completely, including our perceived ‘good’ parts and ‘bad parts’. To know that you are loved unconditionally. Reaching our climax in today’s blog, we find that we need to properly maneuver into adulthood, gradually taking on more and more responsibility, influence, power, authority and the like. To quote author Dr. Henry Cloud, from his book “Changes that heal” which has been my influence for this series, he suggests that:

“Authority has a number of different facets: power, expertise, office, influence and submission. Adults have the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions.”

The problem is that a lot of us are not ready for adulthood by the time we get there, which is why we see people abusing power in abusive relationships, because they have not yet resolved the issue of one up one down relationships, and are defensively taking on a persona of being one up from everyone else, while inside, and well hidden, even from themselves, they still battle feeling like they are incomplete inside. This of course is only one example out of so many.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the symptoms of an inability to properly move into that position and authority of the adult life:

If you relate to any of the following, you may still need to do some inner work and learn more about boundary development in order to successfully take your proper place in the world as an adult. Here they are:

-Inordinate needs for approval from others
-Fear of disapproval
-Guilt
-sexual struggles
-fear of failure
-need for permission
-feelings of inferiority
-feelings of superiority
-competitiveness
-loss of power
-judgmentalism
-looking at the world in black and white terms
-anxiety
-hate towards or issues with authority figures
-parenting others
-impulsiveness
-dependency
-depression

If you find you relate to any of the above, you may need to develop a few skills to exert your God-given authority you were meant to function in as He intended.

Here are a couple of skills needed to complete the maturing process and enter into adulthood, as a whole and complete person:

-Reevaluate your beliefs. As children, you were taught what to believe about a variety of issues, everything to do with family values, to religious opinions, to cultural convictions, and traditions. As an adult, you have the ability to decide what family beliefs and values you choose to hold onto, and what to let go of. To decide for yourself what you believe. This is a very difficult task in itself as it is often met with resistance from family members if we deviate from the expected family beliefs and traditions. But experimentation is a necessary part of determining for yourself who you will become and what you will believe. It is a difficult process for parent and maturing child.

-This is a toughy… The ability to disagree with authority figures. A lot of times, whether in the family unit, or at work, or in religious settings, this is met with extreme resistance. Believe it or not, but a lot of people in authority positions feel threatened when they are questioned by someone who is an adult in their ownership of themselves. Likely because they hold a position of authority but have not yet themselves graduated into adulthood themselves. As a properly functioning adult, being questioned or challenged on your opinion is most welcomed, as this person knows who they are, what they are responsible for and what they are not responsible for, and openly welcomes criticism as an opportunity for growth. How many people do you know who actually function in this ‘unthreatened’ way of true adulthood?

-See Parents and Authority figures realistically. Stop putting them on a pedestal or thinking and believing they will not fail you or are ‘super human’ in some way. Eventually, you will become disappointed and disillusioned when you realize they are not perfect either.

-Learn how to make your own decisions. Start taking initiative for your own behavior, choices, responsibility and the consequences that result from your choices and decisions.

-Practice Disagreeing when you disagree with someone else’s opinion on a subject.

-Give yourself permission to be equal with your parents.

-Recognize and pursue your talents and abilities.

-Learn to discipline yourself.

-Submit to others out of your sense of freedom, and out of a position of love.

-Deal with your sexuality. A lot of sexual issues in adulthood have a lot to do with how your parental system viewed sexuality. For instance from a religious background, one may feel shy and even like sex is a bad thing, causing you to shrink back from your sexuality in adulthood. Or coming from a sexually permissive background, you may lack a sense of commitment sexually in a marriage relationship, or struggle with body image or have come from some abusive situations because someone in your past has violated you while you were expressing your sexual freedom, leaving you more vulnerable and less sexual in your adulthood. There are so many different possible scenarios that may affect your sense of ownership in this area of adulthood. Are you able to clearly communicate to your partner what it is that you like or dislike sexually? These are other indications that you may need to finish maturing if you are unable to clearly articulate your sexual needs.

There are other tips as well, but I will leave you with this last one:

-The ability to love and appreciate people who are different from you.
This is probably the biggest indicator that you are well on your way to maturing into a healthy adulthood. This suggests that you have learned from the previous three stages of growth and development and are able to love people truly, flaws and all, without expecting them to be perfect and ideal people. It also indicates that you have been properly nurtured yourself, and have learned to develop boundaries and a sense of self to know who you are and who you are not, in order to be “ok” with others who are different from you, and to still love and appreciate them.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will provide you with many of the tools you need to help identify and move past the barriers that have been holding you back in life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach


If you haven’t been following my Friday blogs, you may want to circle back and read “Grace & Truth -building blocks“, posted on February 3rd, as well as My blog posted on February 10th, entitled “Learning to attach and bond“, as they are the two preceding blogs to the series I am currently writing about on the subject of boundary development – the necessary steps to developing a ‘self’, a personality, with a healthy knowledge of how to interact with others, while keeping your own boundaries and self intact.

What are boundaries? Well, let’s begin with the characteristics of a complete person first, to give you a sense of what boundary development helps to accomplish. If all goes according to plan, a ‘complete’ person should exhibit the following characteristics:

1. The ability to connect emotionally.
2. To be vulnerable and express emotions.
3. Have an appropriate sense of power.
4. The ability to say no to something unwanted.
5. Have initiative and drive
6. Have at least a minimal amount of organization.
7. Be real, but not perfect.
8. Accept imperfections in yourself and others, and have grace and forgiveness.
9. The ability to grieve
10. Learn and grow
11. The ability to take risks.
12. Grasp and use one’s talents.
13. Be responsible and follow through.
14. Be free and not controlled by external or internal factors.
15. Be sexual.
16. Be spiritual.
17. Have a moral sense.
18. Have an intellectual life.

Wow, that’s quite a list! If you have trouble in any one of those areas, you most certainly could use a more thorough understanding on the subject of boundaries.

If I were to simplify boundaries, I would suggest that boundaries are that which we are responsible for, as well as a knowledge of what we are not responsible for, or what we cannot control.

I’m sure you are all aware somewhat of the term, ‘the terrible two’s, the stage in a child’s growth and development when the only word your child seems to know how to use is the word, “NO!”
Although not a ‘piece of cake’ navigating this stage of development for any parent, it is actually a very necessary part of the child’s development. This is the stage where he learns “Mommy and me are not the same, as opposed to the previous stage of development, where he learns to attach and bond, believing “mommy and me are the same”. Both elements are vital to a child’s development, and the need for attachment and bonding must precede the stage of developing his own personality apart from his parents. This stage of developing a self, own’s own separate identity continues on through life. But there can be very many messages that interrupt this growth process, making transitions into adulthood quite difficult. I will not spend much time on this in this blog, but to give a couple quick examples of such interruptions, a couple things come to mind. If one is taught that their accomplishments are what makes their parent proud, one might learn that performance causes feelings of being loved. Or perhaps if a child’s assertions to separate from mommy are met with a lot of resistance, the child will develop believing that she cannot have a ‘self’ and must ‘merge’ with those she is in relationship with, allowing that process of development to remain stunted. I do not have time to mention such things as manipulation and abuse in this blog, but will circle back to some of these concepts at another time.

For now, let us simply look at the responsibilities for our own soul that we are to learn, and develop in order to grow into a ‘complete’ person. Let me just mention that this is ALL we have responsibility for. We cannot control what another person does or how they will respond to us. We only have control and responsibility for our own selves.

What are we responsible for?
1. Our physical appearance, and physical boundaries.
2. Our attitudes
3. Our feelings
4. Our behavior
5. Our thoughts
6. Our abilities & talents
7. Our desires
8. Our choices
9. Our limits
10. Our values
11. Our negative assertions
12. Love

“A mature and complete adult not only takes responsibility for himself, but also requires the same from the people he loves. To be codependent and not require responsibility from others is to not be responsible for oneself.” – Melody Beattie, author of “The New Codependency“.

These are some pretty tall orders when it comes to personal responsibility.
A great exercise to try if you wrestle with your identity or are not quite sure who you are and who you are not is the following:

Exercise: Imagine a circle and everything in it is you. Think about what fills up your circle. What do you care about? What do you hate? What do you love? Who are you? What is attractive to you? What do you value? What do you believe? What repels you? What do you think about? Feel about? What are you really like?

There is a great deal more to be said about boundary development. This is merely a small introduction to get you thinking.

I will leave you today with common symptoms that occur in us when we fail to develop and set boundaries.

1. Depression
2. Panic
3. Resentment
4. Passive-aggressive behavior
5. Codependency
6. Identity confusion
7. Difficulty being alone
8. Masochism
9. Victim mentality
10. Blaming
11. Over responsibility and guilt
12. Under responsibility
13. Feelings of obligation
14. Feelings of being let down.
15. Isolation
16. Extreme dependency
17. Disorganization & lack of direction.
18. Substance abuse, addiction, and/or eating disorders
19. Procrastination
20. Impulsivity
21. Generalized anxiety
22. Obsessive compulsive disorder

Now, while many of these symptoms can have multiple origins, or be as the result of a difficult temporary situational trauma, if you find you identify with many of these symptoms, you may have some unfinished business in the boundary development process.

I also realize I have not mentioned anything about what to do with the boundary crossers in your life, nor touched on the subject of abuse, or further explained what codependency and some of thes other terms mean. That is because they all require in and of themselves a blog or several, to unpack further.

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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