Are You In a Coaching Cult?

Are you a part of a coaching cult? Have you ever seen a coach so magnetic that you just had to be in their group or program? Like they seem to know all your pain points and how they can help you solve them?

Do they have the social following you dream of, reels always popping, and livestreams always full? Their energy feels like what your life has been missing and if you could just get a bit of it, your life or business would grow?

That, my friends, is the coaching cult: you have a charismatic leader and the push for you to stay in the ecosystem and keep moving up the price chain of products and services. They sell you that their way is the only way and you can’t succeed without their next upsell. Oh, and if you don’t make the decision to purchase, you’re not as serious about your business as you say you are. And while you’re at it, don’t you dare go to another coach, because then you’re confusing yourself and their ecosystem is the only one you need to be in to win.

Does any of that sound familiar? Here’s my story:

How I Got Hooked

I was looking to increase my reach and profits in my business, and I wasn’t looking to go the slow way. Quick growth is what I wanted. I met her in a group for heart centered coaches–she was charismatic, exciting, and talked a helluva good game.

Once inside her program, I learned that was how she got new victims–I mean, clients. She would go into other groups, find someone who she felt she could help, and then befriend them. That way, when she offered her services, you felt comfortable enough to ignore your gut and say yes.

I started off taking one of her smaller challenges that helped improve your Facebook lives and convert. The group seemed positive and helpful. Everyone seemed excited and connected, so when we upsold to her group program, I figured it was a no-brainer. Heck, if I got these results from a 30 program, I could only imagine what I could do in a full group program.

The Shift

What I learned in looking back was that she spent a lot of time researching the pain points of the women she wanted to recruit. In fact, she put on multiple summits focusing on the trauma and brokenness of other women. In her groups she created trauma bonding. She always started things off with all of this loving and positive reinforcement; in fact, she had these weeks when she was uplifting and positive daily, giving us daily input and snippets to work from–which created dependency and trust.

Then came the criticism, the cuss out sessions, the rants. She would often go on a week-long binge of leaving rant videos in the group of how lazy and ungrateful we were and how we would never make it with that attitude or work ethic. Then whenever I or any other participant would bring how those rants made us feel to her attention, we were told we were soft or too sensitive, that this was business.

She would share what we’d shared with her in private session in the group. She bonded us by sharing all of our secrets and then setting us up to be afraid to leave because anyone who left the group got blasted as not committed and not able to take feedback to grow. Once I shared my doubts and fears as a business owner with the group that she issued a full-on rant to me in, that was when I decided to leave. She called me a pain in the ass client that was uncoachable and ungrateful. That I would have to pay her more to be a pain in the ass. I was hurt, embarrassed, and pissed off.

My Next Steps

I attempted to have a conversation with her to express how her comments made me feel and how I felt in her group, hoping we could salvage and make a pivot with our relationship because I thought we were friends. The conversation turned into why I wasn’t successful and how I was using her. Then she told me that I needed to humble myself and come to this healing retreat she was hosting.

At that point it hit me: “Damn girl, you’re in an abusive relationship with your coach.” So I took a look at my contract (which thank God was poorly written), talked to my lawyer, and bounced. 

What I Learned

From this, I learned a few things:

  • Business always needs foundation: This idea of building or going fast is never sustainable.
  • Set and apply boundaries with clients: You experience less stress, and your clients respect you more.
  • Only charge what’s in alignment with my values: You don’t have to charge industry rate, you get to charge what you want.
  • For as many people there are with horrible intentions, there are more with good ones: Good always wins.

Moving Forward

After this incident, I took six months off to restructure my business model and just heal myself. Moving forward, I am much more intentional about who I work with, and work on staying clear about what I want to create in my life. I realize the part my neurodiversity has to play in “picking” people. And, I am doing a lot of work around that. In order to protect my mental health and allow me the space to heal, she is blocked. There is no contact.

I am more thoughtful before joining any program no matter the cost, making sure it’s in alignment with my financial goals not just my business ones. While there is no perfect formula to choosing the right coach, here are some things to look out for when choosing:

They are pain point focused.

Be watchful of those that are always focused on “Are you feeling . . . (insert pain point)”, or “I can help you solve (insert pain point).” Those people will always keep you in your pain.

They are there to keep you in line.

That is NOT the coach you want to work with. They will keep you in line, but your self-esteem will suffer. You don’t need anyone to motivate you or hold your feet to the fire. You don’t have to be embarrassed or humiliated to be held accountable.

It sounds too good to be true.

And it is. Be mindful of coaches who guarantee you’ll hit certain milestones with them. For example, “Take action to drastically change your life in 90 days.” No one can guarantee what milestones you’ll hit and when. Life is too weird for that.

But above all, keep your trusted group close.

That is what saved me during this ordeal: having my BFF and a therapist on lock. Cults–I mean, coaches–like that want to keep you as far away from your people as they can. They don’t want you doing therapy, reading books, or talking to anyone with opposing ideas. If you hear, “That’s a crutch, just do the work,” RUN.

I just want you to know: it’s not normal for someone to be mean and disrespectful to you AND you pay them for it. No matter if it’s a business coach, fitness coach, or gardening coach, we have to move away from believing that yelling at and belittling someone is a way to make them better.

If you’ve been through a negative coaching experience or are going through one now, I see you. And I hold space for your healing.

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