I’ve had this bad habit of beating myself up when I do something wrong, give up for a while, or in any way am not perfect on the first try and for always thereafter. It’s stupid and harmful, but it’s the way a lot of people get. We’re judged so harshly and so often that we beat ourselves up for everything. We waste massive amounts of energy hating ourselves for what in retrospect are minor failures, or not really failures at all.
Take my yoga routine as an example. I’m two days into my third try at steadily doing yoga. I got injured the first time, and then spent an inordinate amount of time bludgeoning myself about the mind and heart for not being healthier, stronger or better. I chastised myself for not working through the injury, even though that would have just harmed me more. I quit the second time because the routine was too hard and I wasn’t flexible enough to keep up. Again with the self-flagellation, because I wasn’t perfect before, during and after.
All of that got me nowhere. This past weekend I decided to start again. My mind filled with my past failures and shortcomings. I feared a repeat of past events, and I feared that my body would not be better or get better. I feared posting online about it, because I might be judged as a failure for not having gotten it right before, or as a quitter or not serious. I did what I could to push those thoughts aside and I started anyway. FaceBook and Twitter were updated.
You know what? All that fear, all that self-loathing, it was worthless. It was misplaced and useless. Who cares if I failed before? I keep trying, don’t I? I want to be healthier and stronger and I keep giving it effort. Sure, I’m not perfect, but I haven’t totally quit, I just took some breaks. You know what else? I am actually getting better each time. Today I had some choice thoughts for the instructor that I’m following because I can’t do Downward Facing Dog, but moments later I cheered myself on because I can finally hold a Warrior Pose without falling over.
I am getting better. I keep trying. That’s to be applauded. The fact that I struggle or take breaks or can’t do the poses perfectly doesn’t really matter. It’s the effort and improvement that matters. So much of life is like that. We need to focus on what we get right, where we improve and how much we try rather than focusing on the negatives. We also need to be supportive and encouraging to others rather than dragging them down or making them feel bad.
I can tell you one thing, Arthur Boorman has become my new inspiration. He was 47 years old, obese and couldn’t walk unassisted. He took up yoga in a last-ditch effort to reclaim his life. He fell so many times. He struggled. But he never gave up. In a year he lost over 100 pounds and not only could he do yoga, he could run. He’s amazing. I look at him and then at myself, and I feel like I have no excuses. I can keep going, keep trying. I will improve.
I think it’s important to love ourselves and our journey. Beating ourselves up mentally and emotionally doesn’t make us better, it just makes us weaker. Be proud to try, and even to fail, so long as you try again. Celebrate even the small victories. Know that everything is possible.