The Identity of a Life Coach
Executive Life Coach Steve Chua shares his personal revelations of discovering true identity and worth.
What makes you so burdened about people learning their identity? What’s your backstory?
I was the youngest of three kids, and my two brothers were brilliant, one was an Oxford University scholar and the other graduated and received his PhD from Cambridge University. Meanwhile, I had a reading disability. My brothers were always getting straight A’s while I was getting straight C’s! I would often hear people say to my father, “Pastor Chua, you have two amazing sons.” I felt this rejection, so I was always driven to try to prove myself.
I grew up in a very strong Christian home. My dad was the first Asian leader of an international missions ministry, and he travelled the world building student ministries. But yet for the first 32 years of my life, I didn’t know he loved me, even though he was actually a great dad.
I was so driven to prove myself that despite my learning disability, I got myself into Oxford; but a year later I failed my exams and got kicked out of the school. A month later, I almost committed suicide because of the rejection I felt.
Fortunately, God had other plans, and He rescued me from that.
Wow – that’s a dramatic story. Was there still a process in finding your identity, or did you feel that these issues were settled quickly after that season?
Even after God saved me from this and I went into ministry, I was still always wrestling with these questions, “Am I good enough?” “Do I have worth?” “Do I have significance?”
“I think God took me on that personal journey to find joy in God so that I can help others know Him and live out their destinies.”
I was caught in a performance trap, trying to prove to God that I had value to him. It led to a lot of stress, fear of rejection and failure, and always afraid of disapproval from authority figures. Unconsciously, it would bleed into my relationships, and even in my ministry.
God had given me incredible ministry gifts, but I misused them to gain love through the affection and praises of people. This fed the black hole of my own love deficit. As a result I became addicted to ministry, because it temporarily filled my craving for affirmation or love . My identity was not grounded in who God created me to be, but in trying to create something worthy of glory for myself.
This continued until the year 2003. It was then that I had an encounter with the Father’s heart that lasted for about 18 months. The issue stemmed with my own negative perception of my earthly father. I never felt I was worthy or good enough to be in his presence. Then one day My dad said something I had waited over 30 years to hear,
“Steve, I’m proud of you.”
I initially didn’t feel anything because I’d conditioned my heart not to receive love. But this moment began the melting of my hardened heart.
During this period, God would just relentlessly love me in the midst of my shame. I needed to learn where my value really was – I had to discover that I didn’t have to prove anything, but that as His child, I was perfect the way I was.
It was a journey of God revealing in different ways His heart to me, over and over. Once I knew my identity, I came into joy. The anxiety and the stress I carried dissipated.
When you don’t know your identity, you’re always living in fear, insecurity, and you never have peace. It’s like the carrot that’s dangling in front of a horse – you constantly reach for it but it’s always just an inch ahead. This relentless cycle of not knowing who you are is one of the things that I see in probably 99% of the people I meet.
I think God took me on that personal journey to find joy in God so that I can help others know Him and live out their destinies.
Today my Dad and I are best friends – God healed that relationship. He’s my number one fan, intercessor, and I realize I was actually made in his image and likeness. I’m more like my father than I ever knew!
So how did you get involved in coaching others in their professional and spiritual lives?
From 1991 to 2012, I spent most of my time seeking to help people find breakthroughs in their lives. I was predominantly involved in the inner healing and deliverance movement. I would spend many hours with individuals, understanding what caused the problems in their lives.
During this period, my ministry experienced a significant shift. I moved away from ministering to people’s problems and started ministering to their identity. You can always deal with people’s problems – you can just keep recycling through problems. But if you deal with identity issues, you start seeing breakthroughs in people’s lives.
In 2013, I was launched out into the marketplace and executive coaching. It was through a time where God used me to speak into the life of a certain billionaire. This man told me, “Your gifts are wasted if they stay in the church, you need to come into the marketplace. The wisdom you carry is needed in the marketplace.”
He gave me the opportunity to coach his executive team. One by one, we experienced one breakthrough after another, on an individual and corporate level. This opened the door to my career as an executive life and leadership coach. I’m currently coaching executives from multi-billion-dollar corporations and NGOs. I’m helping them find their identity in the marketplace and discover what they were created to be or do, whether they know God or not.
How do you use your experiences to help others?
Everybody deep down inside wants to find somebody they can trust. Trust builds security. In order to have love, you have to have relationships, and trust is the glue to all relationships.
“If you want people to honor you, you honor them first. If you want people to trust you, you create an environment of trust. Authenticity and consistency are huge.”
When I talk about this, I often will say that your life speaks a message. Part of that is integrity. I don’t mean that you have to be perfect, but you do have to take responsibility for your mistakes, and be honest that you are not perfect. People value integrity because it means that they are safe with you – you’re authentic and real.
At the same time people are looking for consistency and fruitfulness. Consistency creates security and trust, while fruitfulness lets people see how they will be blessed by the relationship. Your life needs to speak a message, and it needs to be fruitful.
What would you say is the reason you’ve found so much success in coaching others? What attracts people to share their stories with you and ask for your advice?
The reason why I’m getting so many referrals from my clients is that they feel I understand them. I see them, I hear them, I listen to their heart, and with discernment from the Holy Spirit I also help them to see the best part of themselves.
When people feel this, they respond back with trust and honor, because you’ve honored them. If you want people to honor you, you honor them first. If you want people to trust you, you create an environment of trust. Authenticity and consistency are huge.
If you create a team that does that for one another, you have an amazing culture. When you know your value, you add value, and you keep adding value to the people around you. If you don’t know your value, you’re sucking life from everybody, it destroys teams and it destroys culture.
When I’m coaching, my heart is that culture and honor and trust needs to be established. From that you live a message. When you live a message, you start to have authority.
Steve Chua is an executive life coach who has provided guidance to more than 500,000 people in over 20 countries. He stresses the need for heart transformation that comes from discovering our identity.
Check out Part 2 of our interview where Steve Chua shares how he has seen principles of heart transformation work across diverse cultures.