It’s the time of year when we resolve to do things differently: move more, eat/drink less, lose weight. . . to be better than we currently are. This is both a noble goal and potentially a self-defeating exercise depending upon our motivation. Are you driven by a desire to feel better in your body or to look better?
Sadly for many of us, our intentions are rooted in a belief that we’re not enough – strong enough, thin enough. . . This leads to working out as a form of self-punishment and comparison to others, focusing on their strengths and our flaws, and using that filtered view like a stick, beating down our self-esteem and creating stories like:
“I’m just not flexible."
“My balance is terrible.”
“I’ll never be able to do that.”
No wonder so many good intentions start to crumble after only a few weeks. Why do we care so much about what we look like and what we can’t do? Young or old, active or injured, our bodies are all unique – from each other and even from day to day. Why then is our opinion of our abilities tied to what the person on the next mat over is doing? Most importantly, how do we change this so that real transformation becomes possible?
Be willing to let go.
Let go of your self-limiting beliefs about your strength, flexibility, balance, grace and just try. Show up, do what feels good (even if it doesn’t look the way you think it should). Let go of needing to be good enough, because – here’s a secret – until you do, you will never feel that you are.
There’s a very appealing lie we tell ourselves that goes something like, “When I. . . . then I will be enough/proud of myself.”
Some variations of this are:
"When I can touch my toes, then I will consider myself flexible."
"When I can do that pose, then I will be good enough to be in class with these people."
"When I lose 5lbs, then I will look good enough to wear that shirt to the gym."
The dangerous things about this belief is that it implicitly states that we are not worthy of our own (or anyone else’s) love or pride the way we are. That we need to be better before we can be kind to ourselves.
Our minds are tricky and they will always find some reason why we should be more. Even if we’re able to drown out the voices that say everyone is watching and how badly we suck long enough to reach the initial goal, by then, the bar will have been reset, creating a perpetual circle of self-loathing and disappointment.
So this year I propose a change of approach.
Have your goals but wrap them up in a thick layer or patience and self-kindness. Instead of wishing you could touch your nose to your knees like the yogi next to you, breathe, focus on the stretch you feel in your own legs and tell yourself “This is where I’m at today and that’s okay.”
In other words, we all start somewhere. What’s hard for you is guaranteed to be easy for someone else and – believe it or not – the movements that you take for granted as easy, are someone else’s nemesis.
Strangely enough, when we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are, progress happens. Why? Because when we are simply striving to look or move a certain away, we tend to ignore the signals our bodies are giving, often thoughtlessly pushing them into a place they don’t really want to go. But when we slow down enough to listen and honor our bodies by moving in a way that feels good (which may differ wildly from day to day), our bodies respond. This simple change is a radical act. It changes the whole paradigm of working out from a task necessary for our own or others’ approval to a self-care ritual that will make coming back to your mat something that you want to do, rather than something you “should do.”
So let go of expectation. Show up. Know that you are perfect just the way you are and that the more you show up for yourself with kindness and patience, the better you will feel.