When I attended my first session of yoga teacher training a couple of years ago, I was annoyed with how much self exploration was involved. I wanted to teach yoga, not write an autobiography about all the things that went wrong in my past that have lead to my inevitably imperfect present self. Does it really matter that when I was nine I would tell my parents I had practiced a full 30 minutes of piano when I had really only rushed through a few scales 5 minutes before they walked in the door? Or that my (amazing) little sister and I didn’t have a relationship until I was almost 16? We have a great relationship now. This isn’t helping me learn sanskrit.
What’s the point again? I consider myself a relatively reflective and self-aware person. When all of this self-excavation began I wasn’t jolted by what came up for me. I’m aware of my weaknesses and my strengths. I know how I approach (or run from) issues. So for me the most uncomfortable part about the whole experience was not my discoveries, but the fact that I had to share these lovely anecdotes with people I had just met. And likewise, they had to share with me. Two years later I am back in teacher training. And to my complete non-surprise, there are all sorts of exercises that involve getting to know your real, authentic self. But this time around I’m noticing just what kind of benefits can be enjoyed through thorough self-awareness. And that painstaking share time? It is proving to be hugely beneficial too because it drives home the fact that we are all the same living in completely unique realities.
We are all the same. We are human. We have fears. We have insecurities. We have needs. We live in a world we create consisting of people, places, and activities that fit into our personal version of normal and comfortable. We cry when we feel pain (whether it’s silently inward or violently outward) and we smile and laugh when we experience joy.
But our realities are different. We make assumptions about the outside world based on our own personal experiences. We apply these assumptions to every situation in life. For instance, I judge myself believing that I’m stupid when I commit an error in writing or spelling, therefore I assume that everyone who reads this blog will think I lack intelligence if I do not punctuate properly After listening to fellow yogis who I believe to be perfectly delightful people tear themselves apart on how they aren’t good enough, it’s become clear that the assumptions we are so prone to make are usually completely false. Thanks, share time. The truth is, these assumptions are just reflections of our own tendencies and insecurities. Expectations of others’ reactions and actions are often the same expectations we have for ourselves.
Remember the last time you were upset and your partner made it worse because they said “the wrong thing”? Most likely they said exactly what they would want to hear if they were you. Your unsatisfied reaction to what they said is probably confusing for them. And now you’re both upset and both confused. Or there’s the classic text message example. Your friend answers a text with “sure” and your mind goes wild with the implications! You were expecting a “yes!” What does this “sure” mean? Ohh, assumptions.
I’ll say it again: The assumptions we make are reflections of our own tendencies and insecurities. This is especially true when forming conclusions on how others perceive us. After meeting someone for the first time, have you ever thought back about something silly you did and decide that your new acquaintance formed a specific opinion on you based on that one silly action? Spoiler alert: they have no such opinion. You have that opinion about yourself. When in life do we form these opinions? The real answer is we are constantly forming them. But the ones that come up for us over and over again are the ones that started forming at a young age. Those beliefs that fluttered through your mind as a child have become deeply engrained in your entire being and most of them are doing nothing but holding you down. I emphasize you because they are your beliefs and yours alone.
So here’s the challenge. Get out of your own way; drop your assumptions. It’s incredibly hard to do, and it’s impossible if you don’t have an in-depth, raw awareness of yourself. Allow yourself to fully, truly, honestly get to know the shiny parts and the not-so-glamorous aspects that make you, you. It’s astoundingly liberating when you can start to separate your own reality from others'. No one can judge you in your reality, only you can. No one can stop you from believing in yourself, or from chasing a dream, only you have that ability.
But more importantly, only you have the ability to drop the misconceptions in your mind that made you believe in failure, fears, and insecurities. In comes journaling and circle groups. Just kidding. You’ll find what works for you. And then who knows what will happen next? Only you do.