Dear Friend, Student, Fellow Human:
There’s Nothing Wrong With You.
I mean it.
At the end of class, when I sit in the darkened room, looking out across the rows of paper-doll bodies, outwardly still and peaceful in their Savasana, I feel so much love for my fellow humans. I think: I wish this person loved themselves as much as they deserve. I wish they didn’t feel a lack in their lives. I wish they knew how wonderful they really are.
I believe it so much that I don’t even care how hokey it sounds, or how cheesy or corny or new-age hippie you think I am. It’s true.
Why is it so hard for you to believe it? Why is it so hard for me to believe it about myself?
It’s not much of a mystery: we’re conditioned to believe that there is something wrong with us. That we need to change something in order to be good, or happy. It starts at childhood (“Don’t pick your nose”) and continues through adolescence (“You weigh 115 pounds? OMG that’s a lot”) and by the time we’re in our twenties we’re well established in the patterns of self-beratement that will follow us through our lives. Entire media empires are built on selling us products and services that will complete us, “fix” us, make us better: Tooth-whitening, breast implants, liposuction, seaweed wraps, self-help books.
Our parents, our loved ones, who started us down this path, didn’t mean to do us any harm- after all, in many cases, they love us more unconditionally than we love ourselves!- but they simply followed the formula that’s pre-programmed in the human brain:
“If I could change my circumstances, then I would be happy.”
Maybe this programming started as a survival instinct- certain things make us feel good so we want to do them. Caveman: Sex feels good, have sex, propagate species! (look, it’s my first R-rated post!). What this means to our chemical brains is that we’re always out shopping around for a better experience. Our species has internalized this so much that we’re not even happy with the body, mind, or life that we have- we think that there’s something better available, and if we could just get that something better, then we’d be happy.
Maybe you’re okay with this. You might enjoy shopping, dieting, working hard to change yourself so that you can become “better.” After all, Laura, you may be thinking, why do people do yoga? So they can become more flexible. Or more peaceful. Or happier. Isn’t this a contradiction?
Here’s the thing: yoga, and other meditative practices, can cut through the “bettering” and get down to this fact: essentially, you’re already okay. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re whole and perfect, just as you are. After a while, you can even begin to make friends with your silly mind and the little tricks it plays on you. ‘Really, mind? I’d be happier if I bought a new pair of yoga pants?’
And while there is a fun aspect to shopping, comparing, and even “self-improvement,” there’s also a whole lot of misery and drama, isn’t there? If we could break free of this cycle, how much more energy and time would we have to devote to things that really matter? Imagine that Martin Luther King Jr. thought he was too fat, or not articulate enough, to share his message with others. If he let these thoughts limit him- if he stayed home because he was having a bad hair day on August 28, 1963– what would the world have missed?
You can begin to move past your self-imposed “I’m not good enough” boundary by beginning first to gently notice:
- Tune in to your internal dialogue. Listen for the words “should,” “if you…” and “I need to”. Don’t try to change it! Just notice.
- When you do hear the voice of self-judgment, ask yourself two questions:
- What is the truth behind this statement?
- If I let go of this belief, what would that free up for me?
Be cautious, and compassionate with yourself. It’s important that as you begin to notice your “something is wrong with me” self-talk, that you not judge yourself for having these thoughts. If you do find this happening, see if you can bring a sense of humor to the situation-smile at your silly mind and its habitual tricks.
After a while of practicing “just noticing” in this way, without any conscious effort to change it, the dialogue will start to shift. You will see these thoughts as they arise, and know them as just a habit of your mind. You will find yourself more confident, happy, and radiant. You will have more to give to the people in your life- who never understood why you were limiting yourself anyway.
Because, really: there is nothing wrong with you. I know you don’t believe me today. Someday, maybe we can make it true for ourselves.
Until then, we practice together.