“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” ~Maya Angelou
Every day on TV, the media tells us how we should be and how we should look.
In mainstream society we are taught to identify with our physical body and our possessions.
We are led to believe that if we look a certain way, we will be happier, loved more, and accepted by others. I used to believe this. I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.
I came across a photo of myself taken about twelve years ago, and I looked radiant. The sun lit up behind me, my skin looked porcelain, and I had this amazing red hair.
I looked at myself and thought how beautiful I was. At the same time I looked at that girl in the photo and she was a stranger. The girl felt anything but beautiful.
She hated herself, felt unworthy of love, and thought she didn’t belong because she wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough.
Growing up I was a victim of child abuse and bullying. It played a large role in my thinking in later years.
My father used to call me his ugly little girl, and he also used to be cruel to my mother, who was overweight at the time. So I knew that when I grew up, I would have to be thin and pretty to be loved.
I also had thick glasses as a child, and kids often screamed the nickname “fish eyes” across the school bus during middle school years. At that time in my life, my peers excluded me, my father ostracized me, and the physical abuse I endured weighed heavily on my chest.
Fast forward to college. I was a theatre major.
My voice teacher got me my first professional gig, and she believed in me. My talent got me leading roles many times, and I felt confident. Then the time came to sit down with an agent to be represented.
It wasn’t about talent anymore. I was told how my physical appearance didn’t stack up to the competition. I could easily give you the list of all the things that were “wrong” with me. What was right with me?
I wasn’t pretty enough, which subconsciously meant “not good enough.” I wasn’t asked to sing, or read a scene, or even do the one-minute monologue that I had prepared.
This was my past, not my present, and definitely not my future. I now know I am enough. And if someone else doesn’t see my worth, it’s okay. I am enough! It’s even written on my yoga mat.
As a yoga teacher it took me some time to get over the search for the perfect posture. Even yoga magazines post photos of the extremely limber, handstand steady, beautify poised, and lean types. So many think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Yoga magazines teach us to identify to our physical body because our eyes take it all in and we believe that’s what yoga is about. The words in the magazines say differently, but our eyes take in the images of yoga models and our brains perceive them as perfectly poised, inferring that this is what yoga is.
For some, this may be a reason not to practice. There is still this belief that yoga is meant for the thin, agile, and bendy. This isn’t what the practice is about.
I began my yoga practice to gain self-improvement, and I got self-acceptance. Self-improvement came along for the ride.
I began to see my worth as a human being. Instead of “thin,” I think “healthy.” Instead of looking for beauty in the mirror, I found it inside of me, and it was there all along.
Losing five pounds won’t make me any happier. If I do a perfect forearm stand, my life doesn’t change. It doesn’t mean I stop trying or working toward goals, but I stop identifying my body and physical practice with who I am.
I stop identifying my physical appearance with self-worth. I am not my tight muscles. I am not my weight, or my jean size, or even my yoga practice. I am enough. I am me.
Some of you may be thinking, “How does a yoga practice do all that?” Time and patience.
I began my journey unable to touch my toes. The day I did there was no fanfare, no choir of angels singing, no fireworks, and no party. There was room and if felt good.
The day I was finally able to stand on my head without a wall, something amazing happened. Nothing. If I fell on my face in an arm balance (and I have), the same thing happened. Nothing. No one would stop and stare, laugh, or point, because everyone was in their own practice.
Over time we begin to put our fears and ego aside. Over time we begin to listen to our body and become more aware, judging it less and loving it more.
We figure out the lessons we learn on our mat translate to the real world. The world doesn’t change, but our perception of it does.
Stress doesn’t go away, but the way we deal with it changes. When we are kinder to ourselves, we become kinder to others. When we love ourselves, become compassionate and patient with ourselves, we are able to give it away freely to others.
I have learned over the years I am not my past. I am not what happened to me, and I am not my physical body. My body is a vehicle that takes me through this world. Yoga is a tool to help me take care of that vehicle while I honor my entire being.
I am so much more, I have so much to give, and I am perfect just the way I am. As I go through life there will always be someone who will criticize and judge. Let them. It speaks more about them than it does about me.
I want you to know that you are amazing and perfect just the way you are. Criticize yourself less, love yourself more, and you will be happier.
True beauty is found within. Almost every class I teach, I will say, “Practice makes…” and wait for an answer. Someone usually shouts, “…perfect!” I reply with, “…progress, because you already are perfect.”
We have been brainwashed to think that perfection is outside of ourselves. The perfect house, car, family, and life. The perfect body. The perfect pose.
We have been brainwashed to strive for perfection. All this striving makes us miserable. We can have goals, work toward them, and become better at things, but when we identify them with who we are, it steals our joy.
A dear friend and teacher says, “Never give up. Always let go.” So keep moving forward, and never give up. You are precious and priceless.
When we find our true nature, this is where happiness lies. Joy cannot be found outside of ourselves.
If there is something you don’t like, change it, but don’t identify with it. Every day be the best you that you can be by loving yourself.
Look in the mirror every morning and pick something nice to say to yourself.
You may think that this is ridiculous and obvious, but we spend more time looking in the mirror criticizing than honoring ourselves. Make this a daily habit. You can even use a favorite quote or affirmation to set the tone for the day.
Journal—write down all the things that make you wonderful and read them. Even tougher, read them out loud.
Another tip toward self-love is meditation. This is scientifically proven to change the chemistry in the brain, reduce depression, and change negative thought pattern among other things.
The path to love and joy isn’t difficult; however, the tough part is letting go of all the brainwashing from our past and the media. Invest time in you, and the rewards will be great!