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Listen instead. Press play!
I spent most of my life - up until more recently than I’d like to admit - trying to be like other people. Maybe it’s human nature, maybe it stems from my years as a competitive dancer or maybe it boils down to growing up so close in age to my two beautiful, fun and smart older sisters (that I constantly wanted to be like). I was so caught up in striving to be more like what I loved and admired about other people that for a really long time I couldn’t see that there might be things I could like and admire about myself.
This (obviously) followed me onto my yoga mat. I did the exact opposite of what teachers encourage you to do. I stared at everyone (kind of creepy when I put it like that). The first - okay fine maybe two…three… - year(s) of my practice were very much a game of looking around the room at someone else, wishing I was more like them or even worse, yanking and pulling myself into poses that I thought made my practice look more like theirs (not a recipe for a healthy body or mind, I don’t recommend it).
I wish I could tell you that by the time I found myself in teacher training I’d mastered my inner critic and constant need to compare but that would be a lie and I’m not very good at that. When I started teaching, I’d go to classes I loved and I’d be taking notes on what I should take from them to make myself better. Oh she’s really funny, I like that. The people around me seem to like that. I should try to be funny too. Oh he is so energetic and intense. I should be more like him. I’m so boring. Oh she just weaved that story into the flow so easily and taught me something about life through my practice, I need to do that.
Is it any wonder that I was completely miserable for a lot of my life and for no apparent reason? Your mind is a powerful force - for either good or bad. It took me a long time to realize that the only way I’d ever be truly happy was when I made the choice to stop trying to be more like them and finally focus my energy on being more like me.
If I asked you to write down all your weaknesses, the things you’d love to change about yourself, the ways you don’t measure up to the rest of the world and then I asked you to flip the page and write down all your strengths, all the things you absolutely love about yourself and what you know others admire about you, which page would be full?
For most of you, I think I know the answer. Isn’t that sad? When we’re asked what we’d like to change about ourselves, most of us have an endless list but when we’re asked what we love about ourselves, a lot of us hear crickets. So many of us are stuck in our minds thinking that we’re somehow lesser than and that if we just change x, y and z about ourselves we’ll finally feel the way we’ve always wanted to feel.
When I hear that nasty little voice in my head start to pipe up with criticism and comparison (which it will, we’re human after all) I often ask myself a simple little question that reminds me to appreciate them and then move on with being me.
How will you ever be happy if you’re trying to be someone you’re not?
When you compare and decide you’d like a little of her, a little of him, a sprinkle of her personality and a lot of her body, you’re setting a completely unattainable goal for yourself. And what a waste of energy it is to work so hard to live up to an expectation that you can’t ever actually reach.
What would your life feel like if you finally started allowing yourself to be more like you?
Probably pretty good. Maybe even full of freedom. Maybe you’ll finally start to shine a light on those parts of you that are beautiful, amazing and worth celebrating that have been stuck in your blind spot for years. Stop making it your mission to be more like them. Maybe it’s time you finally see the parts of you that are special (they’re there I promise). Maybe it’s time you step more fully and confidently into who you were put on this earth to be.