I have a huge bag of Halloween candy on my kitchen counter. It was purchased with the intention of immediately putting into a plastic cauldron (lovingly referred to by my Teacher Training graduates as “the cauldron of refined sugar”…since I rewarded them with candy often!)…and hiding it away so it wouldn’t be gone before Halloween.
FAIL!!!!!! I have gone a little nutso (clinically speaking, of course), particularly because I don’t even eat refined sugar regularly (not because I don’t WANT to, but I have reactions to it, so it’s not usually worth it to me). Frankly, I’ve been a little stressed lately (OK, more than a little…but I’m human, & just because I help others manage stress doesn’t mean it never affects me!), so I’m tempted by chocolate in tiny little wrappers (that seem so innocent…I mean, they have to be less than 10 calories each since they’re so small, right?!). And I swear the people that make those little Snickers have found a way to put crack cocaine in them, they’re so addicting. It’s a conspiracy, I’m telling you!!!
Now, hold onto your chairs, ‘cuz I’m gonna get real vulnerable with you. I also drink wine. Sometimes from a box. Well, wait…maybe I should elaborate…I don’t actually pick up the box & drink it directly from the spigot, but I pour it into a glass first. That at least holds a BIT more class, doesn’t it?!
I spent many, many years of my career in health and wellness hiding who I really was. I felt as if I had to portray an image of what I thought my clients, graduates, and students wanted me to be.
Here’s what I “put out there” in my mind anyway:
- that I was never too inconvenienced or too busy or too tired to work out
- that I was into completely “clean” eating (“Oh, no, no, no…waiter, please remove that basket of bread from the table! And don’t forget that I’d like my shot of wheatgrass to come BEFORE my vegan, locally-grown, organic meal.”)
- that I never relied on anything other than natural supplements, essential oils, or homeopathic remedies to maintain and/or improve my health, or to reduce my chronic daily pain.
LIES!!! That’s what I was putting out there. Oh sure, I’m certain that some people overheard me talking about the fact that I hadn’t been to the health club in a week (even though I am religiously on my yoga mat DAILY…THAT is the honest truth!), or saw me at a festival chomping on a bratwurst and swigging a beer (I did live in Wisconsin after all…so that probably wasn’t as bad as it would appear in just about any other state).
My “mental shift” happened in Los Angeles, at SYTAR (Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research) about 6 years ago. Each year, owners and program directors of charter schools (totaling about 16) with IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists) gathered for a pre-conference 2-3 day meeting. We got to know each other well, sharing opinions (sometimes in a heated manner!), sharing meals, and sharing laughter.
One of my personal heroes in the Yoga Therapy community is Gary Kraftsow, one of the most brilliant men I have ever met, and arguably the most gifted Viniyoga instructor/Teacher Trainer in America. Over my years of study, I had the honor of studying with Gary, and he became a friend, as I would see him at least once a year at SYTAR and other conferences at which one or both of us were presenting.
One night, well after our meeting had wrapped up and dinner was finished, I got together with a peer and friend who was about my age (we’re the “young ones” in a community full of veterans, some teaching for nearly 50 years), & we went to the hotel bar for a drink. She didn’t seem too concerned, but I wondered: what would one of the other school owners think if they saw us drinking alcohol? Wasn’t that a no-no in the eyes of the yoga community? Turns out, no one from the group was in the bar (further supporting my belief!), and we retreated to our separate rooms, tired from the long day.
I hadn’t yet finished my beer, so I took it with me, and decided I needed a snack to take up to my room. So I popped into the gift shop & quickly made my choice: an ice cream cookie sandwich (hey, it pairs nicely with beer, right?!). As I was paying, who walked in but Gary…my mentor, the person I had placed on the highest pedestal of my mind in terms of “living the life of a yogi”.
There I was, beer in one hand, and novelty ice cream in the other, face to face with Gary. He smiled and said hello, and I mumbled something about being embarrassed to have him see me with my purchases (silently cursing myself for refusing the bag I was offered, that would have covered any evidence). Surprisingly unfazed, he said “Oh man, if I wasn’t lactose intolerant, I would eat that too…looks good! Not sure if a beer’s a good choice to go with it, but I do like Heineken myself”.
WHAT??? What had just happened? Over two decades of assumptions and misconceptions about my heroes, my mentors…washed away in one moment. I felt relief, freedom, and a sense of PRIDE, of all things. Suddenly I could let go of what I thought I SHOULD be, which was incongruent with what I actually WAS…and I was proud of who I was. Because apparently, I was like Gary Kraftsow, the rockstar of Yoga Therapy!To this day, I make no apologies for who I am, the person I used to be, or the person I am becoming. I embrace the quirkiness, I don’t feel bad about having an occasional glass of wine, and I allow myself to eat whatever by body feels like it needs…in moderation, of course.
So whether you’re unhappy with your current situation, masking your true self, or unable to forgive part(s) of your past…how can YOU become more accepting of who you are, rather than beating yourself up about it?
- Start with looking at your core values and beliefs. This typically isn’t an easy thing to do without help, as we often identify our core values as things we THINK should be important to us. Getting the help of a good therapist is a good first step (ahem…I know one of them…just sayin’). And should you want to dive into this topic in all areas of your life (because, trust me on this, it affects EVERYTHING), there are some simple yet effective exercises we can do together to get to the root of who you really are. In doing so, you’re able to let go of what you can’t control and change what you can. And that opens doors to great freedom and clarity.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive and who build up your strengths, rather than tear you down for your past or your current self. Find people who emulate the qualities you want to see in yourself (and the things you know are within you, if you’re feeling like “you” have been trapped under a shell of something else). Often the people that you feel an instant connection to are people who are either very similar to you, and/or they have a presence about them that “pulls you in”. Their qualities are those that you want to have yourself. Let these people support you and teach you, let them share their struggles and stories with you. Just like my experience with Gary, you might find that those who appear “flawless” on the outside (seriously, who is?!) deal with the same things you do, and may even have flaws and issues they have overcome. LEARN FROM THEM!
- Finally, set an intention. I learned very early on in my personal yoga practice that quietly setting a positive intention for my practice, or for the day, was very powerful. It shifted my perspective, and reminded me that life is not perfection…that we will have troubles that will arise in our days, but as long as we keep coming back to that intention, we feel more positive. This applies to whatever season of life you are in too…set an intention for it. Write it down in a prominent place, so that it becomes natural for you to silently repeat it to yourself regularly. Feel free to dream about what you want within yourself…set your goals (not so lofty that they’re not realistically attainable, but set them high!).
When I teach a group yoga class, before encouraging students to silently set their personal intentions, I almost always begin with the same group intention: “Allow yourself to be fully present today…not dwelling in the past…not worrying about the future. Let go of the need to DO, and allow yourself permission to simply BE.”
That, my friends, is self-acceptance…and I believe it is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Well, unless you count a fun-size Snickers…or 10. And wine. What wine do you suppose pairs best with Snickers anyway?!
This post is part of the FYB “31 Days to Quiet the Voices in Your Head” series.
Read more about it HERE.