Oby Bamidele is an Authenticity Coach and registered Counsellor who believes that a person can only be truly happy when he or she is being true to themselves. Oby started her career as an accountant, and in her book “Finding Purpose”, she shares candidly her challenges and triumphs in breaking out of a conformist life and uninspiring career.
Her interest had always been in people and psychology, but at 18 years old, she lacked the knowledge and conviction to convince her parents that studying Psychology would be a wise career choice.
After years of struggling to live the fulfilling life she craved, Oby finally took the leap and she certainly is not looking back. Her goal is to empower women around the world to be authentic, self-aware and live purposeful, nonconformist, liberated lives.
Tell us a little about yourself and your job as an Authenticity Coach?
Although my clients are diverse, I predominantly help women dig deep to discover their true self and the clarity and courage to make the changes that will enable them to live a deeply satisfying life. We live in a world where we strive to fit in and conform to gain approval. We do what is expected of us by our families, friends, society and the world, usually to the detriment of our own needs, dreams, and passion.
In our bid to fit in, we lose the essence of who we are, or we hide away the parts of us that we feel do not fit into the ideal standard. However, doing so hinders our ability to embrace our uniqueness and individuality.
When my clients come to me, they are frustrated, confused, scared and unsure. My job is to help them, understand who they are, identify the root of their problems and coach them to develop the right mindset, resilience, and resources to achieve their desired change.
Before becoming an Authenticity Coach and Counsellor, you were an Accountant. What inspired the transformation?
I started my career in Accounting, having studied Accounting and Finance at University. But I was unfulfilled in a career that didn’t play to my strengths, passions or interests, which for me was soul-defying. I wanted to be excited about my work and not dread Monday mornings.
I was unhappy and constantly trying to be the person that I thought I should be rather the person I truly wanted and needed to be. As a result of my unhappiness, I made poor choices in my spending, relationships and my eating habits. Things were spiralling out of control, I was engaging in excessive behaviours to numb my emotional pain.
I reached a low point where I had to re-think my life; my self-discovery journey began. I started having counselling and mentoring. Through counselling, I began to know me and I liked the new person that was emerging. I learned that not knowing what I wanted was the route to a wasted and frustrated life.
I have always been passionate about empowering people and the more self-aware I became, this stood out strongly as the career path for me. It took me 5 years to complete my training in counselling but I thoroughly enjoyed it. After working part time as a counsellor, I finally took a leap of faith and launched my private practice.
I love my work and I am extremely passionate about it. I understand the pain of my clients because I have been there. Also, I run self-awareness masterclasses for women and teenage girls, called BARE. Doing the work I love gives me the opportunity to work with schools, organisations, to speak about Authenticity and Mental Health.
I have written two books; “Finding Purpose” and my latest book is titled “Me, My hair and the Rest” -an autobiographical account of my journey to self-acceptance and authenticity, recounted through my relationship with my hair.
What are some obstacles you encountered during this transformation?
My main obstacles were fear in its various forms, particularly fear of losing my identity. I discovered how much my identity was attached to a job title, despite the fact it was a job title that didn’t excite me. I was still desperately trying to hold on to a status that made me feel validated by others.
Why do you think many women are conforming to societal standards lately? What happens to people who conform to societal standards?
I think that as human beings; we crave approval and acceptance. Often when we try to follow our own way, we fear we will be rejected, ridiculed, or looked down on. Many are desperate for approval and believe that conforming is the way to earn that validation.
Culture and society model the perfect life as having financial wealth, status and possessions, looking flawless and perfect. It is all about the external things. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with having material wealth, many rarely stop to question whether the cultural and societal norms are aligned with their own values.
As African women, many of us have had our lives mapped out from a very young age. Before the age of 10, I knew that my life would look like this; go to university; get a good job; get married and have children. For a long time that was as far as I understood my purpose to be.
But I lacked self-knowledge to question if I wanted those things and if so, why. Was it out of my own desires or because I had to tick a box? When I ask clients these questions, many don’t know the answer. Some are scared to find the answer in case it clashes with what they feel they should want. However, this way of thinking is very liberating. The truth will always set you free.
What happens when we conform?
I think it really depends on a person’s personality. Some people conform and are seemingly happy because they know no other way. But I do believe that conformism makes life mundane and mediocre. It prevents us from being fully passionate and living purposefully. It makes us bored and apathetic towards life.
Then we begin to look for excitement in other things. Hence why people develop excessive and overindulgent habits: over-drinking, over-eating; spending; gambling; and even excessive TV watching as a form of escapism.
I believe every human being is born with gifts, talents and unique qualities; when we discover, embrace and walk in them it makes life deeply satisfying. It ensures that our lives are part of the bigger picture, that we matter and are making a difference. In my counselling work, I have discovered that conformism and inauthenticity can be a big cause of depression. Conformism does more harm than good.
How does one know when he or she is not being true to him or herself?
If you are somebody who is very much dependent on the opinions and judgements of others in determining your own path, then you are not being true to yourself. I wrote this in my book “Me, My hair and the Rest” that if your confidence is in the approval of others, then that isn’t confidence.
Confidence is when you are anchored in who you are and able to walk boldly in your own lane, even if people are walking in the opposite direction.
Why should it be our ultimate goal to be our real selves? What steps should one take to discover their true selves?
When you are authentic and true to yourself, it allows you to discover and embrace your unique brilliance; the gem that has been placed inside of you; the things you are meant to do to make a difference in this world.
It deepens your self-awareness and you learn to understand how to leverage your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When you are not being true to yourself, you will only be scratching the surface of who you are really meant to be. There is so much greatness; so much power; so much within us and the truer you are to yourself, the more you will be able to utilise them creatively.
What will you tell your young self about conforming less?
It’s interesting because this is a question I often ask my clients. I ask them to connect with their younger selves. If I met little Oby, I would encourage her to find her own way and stay on that path. I would validate and let her know she is enough as she is. Also, I would encourage her to continue in the things that she loved doing.
I gave up a lot of my interests and hobbies as a teenager, because they weren’t cool and I wanted to be cool. When I had counselling, I spent a lot of time rediscovering that little girl, and I found lots of clues and answers in doing so. I would say to her, “be unapologetically you”.
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