For the last blog in my series on letting go, I wanted to write about the “letting go” that I think can potentially be the trickiest of all (or at least of the topics discussed in this series). It encompasses a bit of everything I’ve posted about this month, and it could honestly be a series of blogs on its own, in my opinion. As with each of these topics, it can be applied both on and off the mat. That topic is Letting Go Of The Negative Stories We Tell Ourselves.
In yoga, these stories may surround our abilities, our flexibility, our body, our fears or worries (i.e. that there’s no way we could even attempt a pose because what if we fall/can’t do it/etc). And certainly, we need to listen to our bodies, to our intuition. We don’t *have* to try any particular pose. There’s no reason we need to reach our toes in a seated fold, or balance perfectly in tree, or anything like that. But so often, it’s not simply that we’re accepting where we are in the moment and saying “Today, that pose isn’t going to serve me because ...I have an injury, I need something more restorative, it simply doesn’t feel right in my body at the moment,” etc. Instead, we tell ourselves things like “I’ll never be able to do that”. “I’m not flexible enough, strong enough, don’t have good enough balance.” We have so many stories about who we are and aren’t, what we can and can’t do, that we put ourselves at a disadvantage even if we do attempt it. Instead of going in with the idea of “let me give this a go and see how it works,'' we're going in with the idea that we’re going to be “bad” at it (in quotes intentionally, since there is no bad in a pose). Or maybe it’s that we don’t go to a class at all. Maybe you’d like to try yoga, or to try a type of yoga, but you tell yourself you can’t do it, that you’ll embarrass yourself, that it’s too hard, or whatever it is, and you stop yourself before you even get in the door. A few weeks back in a post about My Yoga Story, I wrote about how I told myself for months, or maybe years, that I wouldn’t be able to do yoga because I wouldn’t be able to be in class and not talk for a whole hour (seriously!). Whatever the story is, that’s all it is - a story. It’s not a fact. Even if you’ve tried that form of yoga or that class or that pose before, the only facts are that you had a particular experience on that particular day at that particular time. Everything interpreted and extrapolated from that is just a story. And if you’ve ever listened to a friend or family member or coworker tell a story that gets funnier/scarier/more phenomenal with each telling, you know that stories can change.
It’s much the same way in day to day life. We tell ourselves stories. About our career/job. About our relationships. About our skills and abilities. About what we are “good” and “bad” at, about our strengths and weaknesses. And most notably, about what all of these say about us as human beings. We interpret information, form stories about ourselves, and call those stories facts. Or maybe someone else has interpreted the information and told a story and called it a fact, and they’re convincing enough, or do this often enough, that we begin to believe them. And eventually, we are told or tell ourselves these stories enough that they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just as we may not try a pose in class because we’re convinced we’ll never be able to do it, and then without practice, we struggle to do the pose, the same happens in life. For example, despite being a yoga and barre and group fitness instructor, public speaking is not my favorite. I’ve always said I’m no good at it. So I generally haven’t volunteered for things that involve public speaking. Which means I’m never going to be more comfortable with public speaking (that’s not teaching a class), and I’m always going to feel like I’m bad at public speaking. And truth is, it may be that I’m never going to be a great public speaker - we all have different skills and preferences, and I truly am an introvert that feels better behind the screen than in front of a crowd unless I’m teaching some sort of a yoga/workout class. But if I keep telling myself the story that I’m never going to be a good public speaker, chances are, I'm never going to do anything to change that perception because I’m too worried I will be bad at it, and I’ll always feel uncomfortable speaking in public.
And of course, we are perfectly within our rights as human beings to not do something that we don’t prefer. If you just plain out don’t enjoy yoga or running or public speaking or whatever it is, unless for some reason you’re required to do it, you don’t need to force yourself to. Just like, if you really don’t want to apply for a job because it doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, then don’t do it. But if you aren’t doing something, be it a yoga pose or a life thing or a career thing, because you’re worried about somehow not being enough/bad at it/etc, I’d ask you to pause before committing to not doing it. Ask yourself if your reasons are actual facts or preferences, or if they’re based off of a negative story that you’re telling yourself. Because often it’s holding on to these negative stories, not actual fact or ability, that’s holding us back.