Confessions of a (Former) Perfectionist: How Doing This for Ten Weeks Changed My Mind
About 2 months ago I took a deep breath, grabbed a pencil, and began filling out an application to take part in a 200 hour yoga teacher training.
Hands shaking and heart racing, I wrote answers to the standard questions. Name. Age. Number of years practicing yoga.
Turned the page.
Stopped and stared at the medical history questions.
Do you have physical injuries or illness?
Umm, how much time do you have?
Autoimmune disease. Lower back pain. Separated abdominals. Bad ankle. Ovarian cysts. Endometriosis.
Should I stop now?
Are you trying to get pregnant?
Are you pregnant?
No (but thanks for bringing it up).
I put my pencil down.
Looked again at my answers--my body on paper.
Is this a yoga body?
Tears fell onto the words, smearing the answers.
So I folded it up, tucked it away. Went outside. Took some deep breaths.
Is this a yoga body?
Yes. This is me.
My right now body.
I can be sick and healing, grateful and shattered.
I can show up.
Broken in places, yet still whole.
Time to answer the the questions. Slip the application into a pristine manila folder. Walk to the front desk.
Hand it over.
Just me. As is. Ready to start.
I got the email.
You’re in. Welcome to yoga teacher training. Get ready. We start soon.
Super. Perfect. Wonderful. Wait. WHAT AM I DOING???
More specifically, have I lost my mind?
Ah, there you are fear. I see you.
Suddenly the image of every person I imagine awaiting me at teacher training clouds my brain.
Probably twenty-something. Fantastically strong. Impossibly bendy.
And just this vision of a studio full of Instaperfect yogis stops me cold.
I can’t do a handstand to save my life and haven’t mastered chaturanga pushup.
What if I don’t fit in? What if I’m not enough?
Gottcha. The familiar soul-crushing, dream-killing combo. Fear + not enough.
But this time the desire to become a student and teacher outweighs the fear.
The thoughts don’t define me. They aren’t me.
So I walk in. Simile. Say hello. Deep breath. Heart open.
Enough in body. Enough in mind.
Ready for now. Ready for what’s next.
Looking ahead it all seems impossible. There is no way. I can’t. Definitely not.
Week one of yoga teacher training and I’m shoulder deep in overwhelm + self-doubt.
The only possible way forward: dig deep and hold onto the present moment.
Don’t spend so much time looking ahead. Focus on now. Today. One thing at a time.
Okay, then. Five poses. Cue the shapes. Deepen. Breath. Great. Got it. I can do this.
But then, week two.
Time to stand up and teach.
In front of everyone.
Nope. No thank you. Hard pass.
I am freaking out.of.here.
It takes all my willpower to stay put. To not to stand up and run.
I don’t know how to do this yet. I’ll mess up. Make mistakes. In front of everyone.
So, no. I’ll pass.
Stay in this safe zone where not trying means not failing.
But then they call on me and I stand up and something comes out. Not sure what. It was sort of a blackout experience.
I sit back down.
The feedback: you did just fine.
But we couldn’t hear you.
Where is your voice? Oh. My voice?
It’s stuck under the fear. I know it’s there, though. Directly beneath the surface.
I can feel it. Almost hear it.
So I keep standing up and making mistakes and letting it go and discovering what it right there waiting.
And what’s right here?
It is so much better than perfect.
Beginning feels like jumping into icy cold water.
Breath catches. Gasping. Floundering. Flapping.
Trying to figure out which way it up.
But then, maybe, release.
Find the air. Breath in. Breath out. Let go. Find the float.
Halfway through yoga teacher and realizing I just need to float.
Give up perfect. Open up.
Make a choice: a ) try to teach my 30 minute midterm perfectly--nail every cue, by the book, nothing missed; or b) simply go for it--bring my true self, make mistakes, leave things out, and oh that’s right, be vulnerable.
B it is. So I show up. Really go for it.
And midway through I realize--omg--I actually love.this.so.much.
Every single word comes out with a giant smile because it occurs to me (late to the party, I know) that I’ve been missing the point.
The perfect-seeking, thinking I need to look a certain way or bend a particular direction, fear of failure, all if it.
That’s what was making the water cold.
But now I realize it’s really just helping people connect with themselves and feel their breath and--of course--it’s not really about me.
It’s about us.
And the water is actually warm after all
Part 5: The End/The Beginning
I went into yoga teacher training holding onto all that I’m not, clinging to the ways I don’t fit neatly into the box.
You know this "yoga-box," right?
Bendy, young, calm, thin, perfect, totally + completely zen.
Which isn’t exactly me.
So I decided I was only there to learn.
Independent observer, taking in the information, risking nothing.
But, I also committed to the practice and to the work.
Ten weeks. Practice. Do the work.
And guess what?
I still can’t do a chaturanga pushup. Or a handstand.
I’m still six feet tall, prefer yoga pants over jeans, and make awkward jokes when I'm nervous.
But also I’m a yoga teacher.
Or rather, I’m exactly who I’ve always been--teacher, storyteller, awkward joke-teller.
After all of this I fully understand that there isn’t a box, or if there is, I don’t need to squeeze my way into it.
So maybe you need to hear this today, if you’re feeling less-than, not-enough, or staying safe because you've bought into this idea, too, yoga or otherwise: there is no box.
As you are.
And you are right where you need to be.
You know exactly where you’re going.
Trust that you are enough.