The Wisdom of Self-Doubt with Olivia D’silva (Lab Report #43)

Yannick’s Coaching Lab features guest coaches from a broad variety of approaches, who showcase how they work as part of a live 45min coaching session, followed by reflections and Q&A with the audience.
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Yannick’s Coaching Lab #43 — Olivia D’silva
Lab Report by Natalie Fraser


Olivia’s coaching approach is focused on self-doubt. “How to welcome self-doubt, and be more of your true self in the world”. Her philosophy is that our doubt ‘knows’ and will take us where we need to go. Olivia qualified as a Transformational Life Coach in 2017, and since then has focused on self-doubt in her practice. She is now an experienced coach, influenced also by modalities including Family Constellations, IOPT, and iRest® Yoga Nidra Principles. Olivia trained as an iRest® Yoga Nidra Level One Meditation Teacher in 2021 and integrates mediation and coaching in her sessions.

Olivia and her client have known each other for some time through a coaching organization. They have not worked as coach and client before now. Her client is also a coach. A brief co-meditation introduction was provided before the session, primarily to find out whether the client had a connection with their body – which she did. Olivia gave her client an invitation to explore where self-doubt is showing up for her before the session. The client’s self-doubt focus in this session is related to their business: “can I do it; am I capable; is it too ambitious?”. This business vision is fairly new, and exploring it is still very early-days.

Key Insights


“This is your space” is how Olivia starts each session, encouraging her client’s agency to direct the session.

“There’s nothing to fix or change” is the perspective and principle guiding Olivia’s work. You are creative, resourceful, and whole. Using this as a mantra throughout the session was a helpful reminder for her client, preventing judgement and opening space for feeling.

Not all sessions will end resolved, but we will understand however it ends being complete for now.

Clarifying the doubt was a first approach Olivia took, after her client had briefly explained the situation. Olivia invited her client to explore the nature of the doubt with more clarity, revealing that it related to both the situation and her perception of her capabilities.

What would you like to leave with today? This question invited her client to reflect on her intention, revealing that finding clarity was important.

Is there anything that needs to be acknowledged before we begin? Was a question Olivia frequently repeated throughout the session when there was a change in focus/technique.

Co-meditation the intention of the client finding connection between herself and her business vision was set, trusting that the body will guide them during this meditation exercise. Olivia led her client through a basic, non-directive guided meditation with a focus on the breath and the body. Specific questions from her iRest training were used. She asked her client to notice the body, and share what was occurring within her body “what’s happening for you now?” “what’s that like for you?” “I invite you to take some time here; welcoming it” “nothing to fix or change” “just allowing the breath and the body to guide you”

During the meditation Olivia invited her client to take a step back and observe what’s going on as if it were a scene or a play. Her client was able to observe certain aspects more clearly: the worry, the support, the resourcefulness.

Reflecting on the co-meditation to close the session, Olivia asked “after the time we’ve just spent together, what do you notice or newly understand?”. Themes of being able to hold herself and thinking calmly from an open way that “it’s okay” was a new and different valued take-away from the experience for the client.

Returning to the intention set at the beginning of the session, Olivia asked her client how the insights gained during the mediation related to the focus of connecting herself with the big ambition. This revealed that providing herself support and holding herself was more important than the job specifics.

Q. How do you work with clients who are not very connected with their body?

A. Everything is welcome. There’s rarely anything new in the story, the new wisdom comes from the body. Inviting the space as one of trust.

Experience working in this way accumulates wisdom and ideas of what could be going on. Bracketing this is a valuable resource for client agency, but sometimes Olivia does intuitively bring something that comes up for her. Exploring opposites is a technique that she will more routinely apply.

Key Take-Aways

Olivia’s client found this coaching style interesting and a new experience. She found it enjoyable to be connected to her body, feelings, and observing herself in this way as she’s typically a big talker.

The welcoming and non-fixing approach was incredibly valuable for her client, becoming the prime filter, preventing connection to past experiences & judgement. This allowed the resourceful side of the client to be accessed, which surprised her.

Olivia works from the approach that she really trusts the nervous system to bring what is right to bring, influenced by Polyvagal theory.

Olivia is an avid note-taker during her sessions. She specifically likes to capture her client’s words, and tunes in with beliefs. In this case “it’s okay”. Olivia noted that often a belief and it’s opposite will come in, or be invited in as a line of exploration to gain perspective.

Olivia shared that inviting clients to let go of the story behind what they’re noticing in their body is important, and often challenging for people. E.g. “I feel it in my neck… maybe because of sitting in the car all day”

No rushing for sense making, letting the wisdom emerge pre-language, then briefly language-ing and making sense of what came up at the end was reflected by an attendee as very powerful, interesting and generous.

Olivia has developed a self-doubt coaching model including a visual representation. She now integrates the model into her content and continues to develop it as she gains new skills (e.g. meditation).

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This Lab Report was authored by Natalie Fraser 

Natalie is an existential Counselling Psychologist, specialising in trauma and transformation, and curious about coaching. Interested in exploring life’s Big Questions? Find out more at: