“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” -Brene' Brown
I was recently re-reading a blog post of one of my favorite yoga instructors and ultimate coach, Angela Meyer, on 'What Makes a Great Yoga Instructor.' On her Top 10 list, she lists #7 as, "A teacher that is always working on their own practice." What struck me about what she wrote; wasn't that great yoga teachers are always working on their own Asana (physical practice), but that it’s about working on ‘being a loving human being.’ I couldn't agree more. I find that the best yoga teachers are dedicated to being the best person he or she can be for “themselves, others, and the world.” That means, living openly and wholeheartedly, even when you don’t want, or when you rather hide from the world because it just doesn't make any sense--an all too familiar feeling for me.
When I first re-read this post, I was completely crushed. Not because it wasn't true, but because it made me become even more self-critical. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the toughest self-critic. So naturally, I kept beating myself up over this idea of ‘being great,’ and how I likely would never be great because I didn't meet the requirements of #7. All I could think about was how bad of a yoga teacher I must be. How can I be a loving human being to the world, my friends, family and students, if I'm really not practicing self-love?
It's true, the energy you to give out to the world, comes back to you, but it's also about the energy that you're giving back to yourself that is incredibly important. By practicing self-love and loving-kindness towards yourself, you're able to refill your "emotional cup" and become an even be a better version of yourself. You really can't give to others when you're completely depleted.
How do we get depleted? It’s likely because we’re always giving to others--your kids, work, family, etc--and not giving enough back to yourself. Giving too much love, and not practicing enough self-love creates an imbalance in our minds, hearts and spirits. This is a very hard lesson that I learned when I was a teaching in the classroom. As much as I wanted to give and give to my 4th and 5th graders that were counting on me, I had to STOP, do less and think about myself, before I could stand up in front of those bright-eyed students and teach. It was there that I learned (the hard way), that it does not serve you to be superwoman, or superman all the time, and adopt this, "I can do anything and everything without any help; and look amazing doing it--or INSERT whatever activity in that sentence that applies to you--mentality.”
I say this speaking from someone who has battled with this idea of self-love for many years and is still battling with it. This is hard stuff, people! Really hard. This what prompted me to write this post in the first place. I wanted to:
- Put it out there and ask myself the tough questions that I always shy away from.
- Be truly honest with myself.
The tough questions:
So “why am I constantly hard on myself?" I clearly know the importance of self-love, and have learned a lot in the last year about myself and what I need. So, why can’t I just see myself the way that I see my students and those that I love--as beautiful, amazing people that are already great and don't need anything else to make them great. I look at each of my students in my yoga classes and know that they "are enough." I teach and empower them to see that in themselves. But in the end, it is easier said than done. Sometimes it's easier to tell people how to be and act, versus doing it for yourself. That being said, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.
Perhaps it’s that I fear being honest with myself and don't think I deserve it. I am sure my counselor could offer many theories about why I am so hard on myself. Whatever the reason is, I somehow have created a world where celebrating myself and taking time for me is not allowed. It’s as if I have created these crazy rules for myself that aren't serving me, and yet, I still follow them! And the craziest part about these rules, is that no one is imposing them on me, other than myself.
Last weekend, I could barely get up out of bed. I felt paralyzed and didn't want to move. Thank God for the iPhone that allowed me to surf the internet while in bed, which is how I came across that old blog post. After beating myself for 'not being great,' I felt weighted and even more paralyzed--paralyzed by my lack of loving-kindness and my own rules. Finally, I thought, “why not re-create these crazy rules, Alia?” Well, because it’s hard... and I probably don't want to, or I fear what it might look like if I do. Undoing a pattern that has been with me for years, is hard work. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't try.
Being Honest with Myself (and Being Ok With It):
It's true, great instructors are always thinking, reflecting and being intentional with their energy, in order to really show up for our students. But there's also another part about being yoga instructors that people tend to forget, or that you don't hear often. No, it's not that we ‘really do levitate,’ or have magical powers, but rather, it's that we're just like everybody else. That we are all in the same boat, just like everyone else in that room that we are teaching and giving instruction to. Meaning, that we struggle, we kick and scream, and also get down on ourselves when we don't know the answers. We too, are trying to figure it out for ourselves right there with you.
So maybe my rules don’t make any sense, and I haven't figured out how to fully practice loving kindness towards myself, every hour of every day--I only “kinda” do it, but that’s the whole point--that I am working on it. Self-love and self-kindness, just like with anything else, is a process. I need to be honest with myself and understand that I am working on it, and that “makes me great.” I need to remind myself that IT IS ok if I haven’t figured everything out yet. Remind myself that it’s ok, even if it’s hard for me to re-create these rules. And remind myself that it really is ok, that I haven't learned ‘how to do this self-love thing correctly.’
It’s sounds so silly now, but I really did think that last week! I thought, ‘Man, I am not doing this self-love thing right... I need to get up and fix it, NOW!” But that’s just it--there is no perfect, or correct way to practice self-love. It’s about honoring what you need when you need it; being however you need to be and having the courage to say, especially in those toughest moments, “I am still enough.” My favorite author, Brene Brown would say, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” She believes that owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.
So that day that I couldn't get up out of bed, I told myself, “I deserve an off day, and it’s ok if I want to be in my thoughts, lounge, or just veg out today. I am still enough.” That is what I needed to refill my emotional cup. Being the best person for myself that day meant, letting go of any expectations that I had that day, putting aside my crazy rules, and giving myself the freedom to JUST BE.
I may not have everything perfectly figured out, but at least I've got the hardest part out of the way--I am trying. That hardest part of our own journey and our Path to Be happy and healthy is just trying and starting something. The last two years, I have have made a serious commitment to myself to really do "the work." Do the work to journal and reflect, count what I'm grateful for, and remind myself that I am good at things, even if it doesn't always look perfect. There are some days and weeks, where I am great at being kind to myself. I count my wins, and even feel good doing it. But then, there are other times, where I fall incredibly short. And when I do, I know I can I choose to STOP, BREATHE, and I tell myself that, “it’s ok.” I remind myself that "there is only one me," as my mother would tell me quite often, and if I don’t learn to love myself, those around me will likely never learn the same.
My Challenge To You All Is:
- Ask yourself, “Where have I been holding back because of fear of failure or imperfection?” Challenge yourself to make that commitment to yourself to honor what you really need, when you need it.
- Stop, put down what you are doing right now --yes, really do this-- and ask yourself, “Where can I be kinder to myself? Where can I ‘re-create the rules,’ just a little, and insert a kinder script to replace that familiar, negative tape that is playing in my head?”
- Get out there and start something! Just try, and start somewhere--even if it won't look perfect. You don't need to know every single answer to every question, or have every step planned out. Stop running from it, and try. If you sitting there thinking, “well that’s easier said than done,” then STOP, and ask yourself, "what will I lose or miss out on by not trying?"