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Yoga Me Well Blog

You Want Me to Be Myself?

Ever noticed how whoyou are changes depending on who you’re with? Why can’t we just be ourselves all the time? Why does Fear take over when someone more beautiful/smart/wealthy/talented shows up?

I always laughed at my grandmother’s phone voice:  “Hell  Ew,” she would say, in the hoity-toity, royally voice.  She was a strong, single-mum farmer who lived a humble country life alongside her humble Aussie accent, until she picked up a telephone.  Now the `royally’ voice manifests in me, but only in the company of wealthy, erudite types, amongst whom I shrink to feel inferior.

For decades, my phone voice was the I’m-a- Busy-Person one.  Translation: “My life is purposeful because I’m so busy”.  Later I learned what really lurked beneath: “I’m crazy busy because if I stop to ask what I’m doing, I’ll realise I don’t know what do with my life to make it count”.

The years in between were full of self-discovery through self-inquiry.  Some meditation here, a lot of self-help reading there, yoga-yoga-yoga, useful psychotherapy and years of philosophical study and mulling over existential matters with others also curious for answers.

Piece by piece, the jigsaw comes together, you have an “A-ha!” moment, then the jigsaw upends all over the floor, challenging you to explore another aspect of hidden self.  It sounds arduous, but is immensely rewarding to look back on the reactive, unaware You as you begin to snuggle  ̶  finally  ̶   into your own skin.

With the annual cost of mental health illness in Australia estimated at $20 billion, if I were Education Minister, children would have positive psychology   ̶    the latest iteration of talk therapy  ̶  and existential philosophy electives from primary school.

Remember this one?  “Just be yourself.”   How many times did we hear that before heading off to a new school, activity or job interview? And the body’s physical response, if we cared to listen, was a quivering heart and churning gut. Why?

I love social research professor Brene Brown’s take on this. If you haven’t seen her inspired TED talk on “Vulnerability”, do yourself a 20-minute favour .  Behind our inability to connect with people exactly as we are, is a sense of “shame”, she says, a fear rejection if we show ourselves fully. To be whole, we need two things, she says: the ability to vulnerable,  and to say “I am enough”, until we truly know it.

As one bouncy, bright yoga student said the other week: “I can’t be me. I’m too full-on for most people!”

Of course, there is self-regulation.  We’re not going to be our sensually exotic Self at parent-teacher night, or inner child at a job interview.  We moderate our behaviour as socially responsible beings who aim not to harm others while we tumble through our busy days.

But when we continue to deny our talent, rage, or any quality that seems ‘unacceptable’ to self, family or friends (eg: intelligent people who dumb down; the sweet natured who yearn to be cool/sick/hip), we’re cutting ourselves off from our birth right.

To be authentic, means to not deny any of part of ourselves. It means we begin to accept, in yoga-speak, our light and our dark, our weaknesses as compassionately as we celebrate our strengths.

What’s wrong with who you were born to be? Lucille Wood, director at the Gita International School of Yoga regularly buoyed students with this:  “There will never be another You.  No one else can do what you have come to do, and what you leave undone in this life, stays undone.”

Which means, you’re important. You’ve got a mission: to be you, fully you.  Let the journey begin!

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior teacher of yoga, mindfulness and a freelance writer.

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