photo by JJP/Jordan Junck Photography
I had a big awakening/realization/breakthrough last weekend. It coincided with a mini-breakdown, as these things often do. I’m understanding more and more lately that this is part of the process. Often before a big shift happens, everything falls apart.
In the yoga community, we talk a lot about authenticity.
“Be yourself,” we say.
“Find your own voice!”
“Stay true to who you are.”
“You do you.”
You know the deal. We love when other people are authentically themselves, but when it comes to being authentically yourself, well – that’s another story.
The breakdown/breakthrough was fueled by my trip to the lululemon Athletica Ambassador Summit in Whistler, B.C. last week. To be honest, it was a huge deal to me. Your store nominates you and then one ambassador from each region gets to go, so I was incredibly honored and excited. My business partner went a few years ago and said it was a game-changer. She was right.
120+ of us fly in to Vancouver from all over the world. “Leaders in the community” for yoga, running, CrossFit, cycling, dance; entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes – any way you can think of sweating, someone is there to represent. They rent out the entire Four Seasons Whistler Resort and we’re treated like Queens and Kings. They give us all kinds of new products to test and space to offer feedback (bonus: you get to keep it all).
On the first full day I opt for waking up at 5am to try TimberFit – think CrossFit in the woods by a lake lifting giant logs instead of weights. It’s 35 degrees and raining and I’m a giant baby so I mostly just pretend to pick the logs up and hide behind people hoping no one will notice. We run back, shower, join Janet Stone for yoga and chanting, followed by zip lining across a mountain 642 feet above the ground. We go deep with talk of dharma, what brings us joy, personal freedom, being yourself and what’s holding us back from being the best version of ourselves. We set goals for the future and somehow find time in between to eat and sleep.
It was a life-changing experience. But it was also incredibly terrifying at times. Not so much the zip lining or lifting giant logs over my head, although that was scary in its own way. It was terrifying because I felt like I was surrounded by people who appeared to have it all together. They shared these incredible achievements, like opening numerous studios and gyms in fabulous cities; organizing and creating charities, foundations and trainings; winning medals and in my eyes, clearly changing the world in a much more profound way than I was. And somewhere amid all this greatness, just like that - I convince myself I don’t belong there. Because I’m just a yoga teacher, I decide. Because I don’t own a studio. Because suddenly it occurs to me that I haven’t been teaching long enough and probably need a lot more training if I'm going to create real change. Because I’m not sure where to sit when I walk into the dining room because I’m not sure if people really like me. Because, that little voice inside my head tells me,
“You’re just not enough.”
So I hide my magic and retreat to the sidelines. I quietly sit back and listen because I don’t believe my story is worth sharing.
I know, it’s complete bullshit.
But the mind is powerful. Thoughts are energy, and if you keep feeding the mind with negative self-talk…well, I don’t need to explain what happens because no doubt you’ve been here many times before, too.
I spent the weekend leading up to Summit in Charleston with some of my oldest and dearest friends. We live all over the place now so every year we pick a city and spend a long weekend together. I enthusiastically share with them what I’m up to:
“I’m a yoga teacher! I’m leading workshops and teacher trainings and it is the most challenging and fun and rewarding thing I’ve ever done! I’m a lululemon Ambassador and I’m going to Summit! I created a yoga school called Queen City Living Yoga with my co-teacher who also happens to be my friend and we have so much fun and we are embodying and sharing what it means to live yoga and I’M GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD!!!!!!!”
Excuse the dramatic use of exclamation points, but that’s definitely how I talk after two glasses of champagne and a dozen oysters.
Now here I am in Whistler, 24 hours later, eating a gluten-free chocolate muffin (which is depressing enough) convincing myself that I don’t matter because I’m just a yoga teacher. To the outside world, nothing changed. I’m the same person who was shouting from southern rooftops the day before that I’m going to change the world. That I am changing the world.
But the way I perceived myself changed. Suddenly, being me wasn’t enough. I gave my personal power away. No one took it from me – trust me. Everyone I met was as kind and humble and lovely as can be. But I gave it away anyway.
It’s hard to be yourself when you don’t trust in who you are. Speaking your truth is challenging when you don’t know if people will like what they hear. Finding the strength to be you is a hell of a lot scarier than following in someone else’s footsteps and being authentic is tricky when you’re terrified to show your true colors.
My Best Friend is unapologetically herself. She is colorful. Not like the colors of the rainbow, she’s brighter: more like a neon highlighter infused with gold glitter and she doesn’t give a fuck whether you like glitter or not. She’s loud and funny and weird and it’s beautiful.
I thought of her on the bus ride down to Vancouver. She has the ability to effortlessly talk to anyone and make you feel like you’ve known her forever. I decide she would have done better at this event than me. “Now there is someone who knows how to be authentic,” I think to myself, obsessively. “If only I could be more like her.”
I call my Best Friend when I get home. She is stressing about an upcoming trip with her new boyfriend.
“Wait,” she says, “Before you tell me about your trip, can I ask you a favor? Can you come over this afternoon and help me dress like a hipster? All of his friends are these cool hipsters and I really want to fit in. I’m afraid I’ll look ridiculous in my fruity pebbles-colored dresses.”
Of course I go into a big speech about how she needs to be herself and stay true to who she is, neon colors and all. Let’s be real: it’s much easier to tell someone to be authentic than it is to actually be your authentic self.
Here’s the thing: we all have insecurities. We all have that voice inside our head telling us that we’re not enough. We try so hard to be ourselves but it’s tough when you constantly question whether or not “you” is good enough. Shedding your armor and allowing yourself to be really, truly seen is scary. But it’s necessary for real connection.
This is yoga, by one definition: to unify, to connect. Another definition is "the movement from one point to another, higher one,” and finally, “action with undivided uninterrupted attention.”
In The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar writes:
These definitions of yoga have one thing in common: the idea that something changes. This change must bring us to a point where we have never been before. That is to say, that which was impossible becomes possible; that which was unattainable becomes attainable; that which was invisible can be seen.
In order to get to a point where you have never been before, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to get comfortable being really, really uncomfortable. You have to practice self-study and get to know yourself well until you figure out who you are. In doing this, you will gain the ability to recognize when you’ve slipped into a place of judgement and are being unkind to yourself or others. You’ll be able to take a step back and identify the difference between fear-based thoughts and reality.
At Summit, they kept asking us this question: Who are you here to be?
I am… here to be a healer.
I am… here to be supportive.
I am… here to be fluid.
I am… here to be love.
I am… here to be me.
Eternal love and gratitude to my lululemon family for believing in me, for asking the tough questions and for giving me the tools to grow and expand beyond what I thought was possible.
I love you all.