I was in a yoga class last week when my manic mind started attacking me, Karate Kid, style in the middle of attempting a new arm balance.
It wasn’t pretty.
I recently joined a new yoga studio that’s more strenuous and challenging than where I used to practice. This shift has been great for my triceps but not so good for my ego when I try new moves and fail, which in yoga more often than not literally means falling on your face.
The class I attended last week was taught by the most talented yogi I’ve ever been in the same room with and/or jumped back to Chaturanga next to. I’m talking about someone who can do a handstand on one arm while doing the splits. It’s beautiful, mesmerizing and horrifying all at the same time.
It’s also incredibly intimidating considering the fact that when I sit with my legs out in front of me, I have to lift my knees nine inches off the floor in order to touch my toes.
I find it hard not to feel bad about myself and my novice yoga skills when practicing at this new studio. So why do I keep going? Why don’t I switch to a yoga studio that’s filled with mortals instead of superhuman spiritual stretch masters?
Because it’s called a yoga practice and in this new environment, I not only get the opportunity to practice crazy new moves like Pincha Mayurasana, but I also get to practice being nice to myself when my natural tendency is to do the opposite when I’m in an environment where I feel less than good enough.
During yoga class, it’s not uncommon to catch myself silently reeling out a zinger like, “Good Lord, Katherine everyone else can put their face on the floor during this move, and you look like The Hunchback of Notre Dame over here.” However, thankfully, it’s becoming more and more common for me to catch myself in the act. #success
I do this by acknowledging the sentiment behind the voice the second I notice that it’s happening. In this case, I might calmly and coolly say to myself, “Oh, look, there’s anxiety” or “Oh, look, there’s intimidation.” And poof, the voice goes away. Awareness of the negative voice in your head, truly is more than half the battle.
It’s like shining a spotlight on a shadow. It goes away.
I had the opportunity to put this Jedi Mind Trick into action last Tuesday. During class while I was trying to learn a new yoga move, my talented-beyond-belief yoga instructor was rattling off instructions for how to balance my entire body weight on my forearms while standing on my head and back-bending against a wall. I got so overwhelmed and flustered by intense instructions being delivered in a “don’t worry; it’s easy” tone that I found myself quietly yelling at the yoga instructor in my mind. “Good Lord! Didn’t you just watch me fall on my face during that last yoga move? Don’t you know what I’m not capable of? Why are you making me feel so bad about myself?”
But, then I caught myself, and Eleanor Roosevelt saved the day. I immediately recalled her mind-shifting quote:
My silent but snarky question to the yoga instructor was, “Why are you making me feel bad?” but the truth is nobody can make me feel anything at all. It’s impossible.
I do the thinking for me. I do the feeling for me.
Think about how that applies to your own life. It’s not technically, physically or mentally possible for somebody else to make you feel bad about you. You’re the only one with that superpower.
So, when you say, “My daughter made me feel guilty about not going to the thirty-minute Valentine’s Day festivity at her school.” That’s not technically possible. Your daughter stated a fact, “You didn’t come to my party today” (perhaps in a very dramatic daughter-like tone) and you sprayed that fact with your opinion of yourself, “and therefore I’m a horrible mother.”
My yoga instructor didn’t make me feel anything. Instructions were given and I turned those instructions into an indictment against my ability, and I took that personally.
Try and catch yourself the next time you’re drinking wine with a girlfriend or lying awake stewing in your bed late at night, and you hear yourself silently or aloud, saying anything that resembles the following thoughts:
My son made me feel bad for being late to pick him up at soccer practice.
My daughter made me feel terrible for not helping with her homework.
My husband made me feel guilty for traveling for work so much recently.
My boss made me feel bad for not being able to travel to LA next week.
Nobody can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission. You’re the gatekeeper for how you feel about yourself.
I still find myself doubting myself sometimes, especially during yoga class, but thanks to my self-help journey toward self-compassion, I’m able to catch myself in the act and course-correct without the thoughts taking over and consuming or wrecking my mind.
If I can do it, you can too.