I want to offer you a simple mantra for the week:
“I will love myself more completely.”
Last week was a bit rough, but it brought me to this mantra and I wanted to share my humbling experience with you… maybe you can relate.
This weekend, I felt the urge to disconnect myself from social media. I hated every photo and video I took, and I didn't really want to post anything because every caption I attempted felt vapid and inauthentic, and it seemed more responsible to suffer in silence until I was able to articulate my struggle with more clarity and less emotion.
I really wanted to cancel all of my classes and avoid all of my obligations - I didn't know how I was going to offer a proper yoga class to my students while I felt like I was falling apart myself. At one point, I felt so defeated that I even contemplated whether it would be better for my mental health to drop Sarasponda Yoga altogether and find a more “normal”/private alternative for work.
Let me backtrack for a second... I love my job and I value the personal growth I’ve experienced through the process of developing Sarasponda Yoga more than I can express. I feel immensely blessed to be able to do the work that I do, and I can generally handle the roadblocks and bumps along the way with patience and steady focus… but not always: certainly not always.
After a couple of really difficult days, (a combination of situational stressors, health concerns, and vague-in-cause-but-overwhelming-in-effect sort of moodiness that turned out to mainly hormonal) I found myself falling back into old, unhealthy habits of obsessive negative self-talk and debilitating doubt. I became fixated upon and consumed by my stress, and I began spiralling deeper into fear and insecurity until I ultimately questioned a bunch of my actions and decisions, part of that being my relationship with social media. I asked myself whether my Instagram account had become an unhealthy tool for me in forming, classifying, and sharing a significant part of my identity and determining my self worth. I could see that I was harshly judging, criticizing, and comparing myself to others, and simply recognizing that made me feel even more anxious and depressed - it made me feel like a failure.
We generally give ourselves so much grace when we suffer physical injury, but any decline or blow to our mental health - even momentary or passing - often carries with it an element of shame and feelings of failure or inadequacy. I think this is true for all of us, but I suspect it is an even greater issue for those who work in the wellness industry. Many of us expect ourselves to be invincible, or immune to bad moods, because, most simply put: we know better so we should do better. We expect ourselves to deflect bad vibes because we can (and do) teach others how to shift their focus toward gratitude and compassion when negativity takes hold. Perhaps I shouldn’t speak so broadly or make these assumptions, but I know that I am personally guilty of feeling ashamed about being in a terrible mood or spending the day in bed, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I know it’s unreasonable to expect myself to always be some highly attuned, inspirationally harmonious, aspirational version of myself, and yet, there I was.
It took a couple of days of mental and emotional redirection - a meditative practice, in essence - along with a sweet pep talk from my love, lots of yoga practice, and a couple of good nights of sleep before I was able to fully crawl out of my slump. It’s a process, and it requires constant compassion and forgiveness toward yourself.
Cam kindly reminded me of a couple really important points while I was in the depth of my sadness and self-pity. The first was a message from the Tao te Ching, that “people usually fail when they are on the verge of success”, or essentially that the climb up a mountain gets steeper near the top, so it’s important to stay focused on the peak. A Pema Chodron quote comes to mind:
“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.”
The other thing he told me was that everybody has a bad day once in awhile, and it’s normal and totally fine to want to spend an afternoon crying in bed. He reminded me that it’s okay to not feel okay, and we all have permission to acknowledge our own pain. In that, I recognized my own gentle advice to my yoga students to allow themselves to acknowledge the full breadth of their experience without judgement. And then he said, “give yourself the same kind of love that you give to others.”
And there it was: the simple lesson from this shit-storm of stress and anxiety that I had, up until that point, let myself feel wholly overwhelmed by: “I will love myself more completely.”
Self awareness and self love are practices that are dynamic and changing and unpredictable, and never without struggle or apparent setback (it’s not: it only feels that way). The point is not to halt your suffering; the point is to find a way back to your own gentle love and grace through the suffering.