Om, My! Imperfection as a Starting Point
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
People will speak for you. And they will speak at you as if you weren’t in the room or part of the conversation. It is a blatant sign of disrespect.
They do it for a number of reasons. The simplest reason is you let them. Perhaps you weren’t asserting yourself. You were brought up to be polite and to wait your turn; they were not. Unfortunately, in this case, you are being penalized for having good manners.
The other reason is they fear you. Something about you threatens them, and this is their way of controlling you, a way of “putting you in your place.” These are people ruled by their egos. They will not recognize this on their own; they are people lacking a healthy level of self-awareness.
That’s where you need to step in and step up. By setting healthy boundaries.
In the world of work, it can be tough because your perpetrator is often in a power position such as your boss or a senior member of your team. Yes, it can feel very much like walking on tightrope.
But it can happen anywhere. Not just at work. And often times, you are caught unaware. Like I did recently at a yoga class.
On a recent morning, I dropped in on a new yoga studio that was located among the squat, boxy “Orwellian” office buildings, so oddly out of sync with the upscale neighborhood but a prime location for its clientele. I had enrolled in one of those “mixed level” classes, which means a beginner like myself can safely do her thing while working on her “stretch goals.” (Hokey pun intended.)
I like them for that very reason. Depending on the pose, at times I am a beginner, other times I can hang with the more experienced yogis. Most of the time, I would be the girl laughing softly at herself while she wobbles to balance on one foot or sweating profusely, rather than resting serenely, in a tree pose.
But I love being a beginner. (This realization came later in life.) Seeing someone else’s beautiful practice motivates me and keeps me completely engaged. Yoga is the only place where I can sit comfortably with my limitations. I am also patient with myself here. It is one of the few places where I allow myself to observe, experiment and take small measures to improve. And if I don’t, I still leave satisfy, my curiosity fully intact.
I can’t say this for other areas of my life. I am hugely results-driven. I am what you might call a recovering perfectionist. I used to feel not at all comfortable making mistakes and not getting something right on the first try. I love winning more than I do failing.
Which is why I practice yoga. It is an equivalent of an “AA” class for perfectionists.
In yoga, while I may not embrace my discomfort, I am comfortable with being uncomfortable. I see the point of my discomfort as a starting point. I see my imperfections as raw material to work from. I tell myself, okay, this is where you are now but it is not where you will stay.
With a great degree of discomfort, I sat with both my knees folded and tucked underneath the full weight of my body. I can feel the bony top of my feet against the hard floors; they were screaming for merciful release, and I was only 30 seconds in.
In the midst of my agony, the lady to my right started to stage whisper instructions to me: something about putting a blanket under my bum and telling me not to splay my feet (I sacrificed form to take a little pressure off the pain).
Hearing my neighbor (as by now everyone has), the instructor quickly appeared at my side, and rather than asking if I wanted a blanket, she shouted for me to lift my derriere. So startled was I that, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I obediently comply while she quickly slipped the wooly petri dish under my unsuspecting bum. Being a bit of a germaphobe; the thought of using a public anything turns me into a real life Adrian Monk.
Needless to say I needed to calm myself the heck down. I was gulping air like a woman in labor.
First, I must pause here and state for the record that what I’m about to say next should not take away from these women’s good intentions. They were clearly concerned for my well being.
But they spoke for me.
Asking, “Would you like a blanket?” is different than shoving a blanket uninvited under someone’s ass.
There was another pose where one is to fall backwards at the waist like some Cirque du Soleil performer. I opted to stay in bridge pose. For those not familiar with the bridge pose, it is the unnatural lifting up of your entire body so that you look like a human tabletop while keeping your hands folded underneath the small of your waist as if praying. In my case, I was truly praying.
Again my neighbor to my right, coaxing me to try the Cirque du Soleil move.
“No ma’am. Thank you. I’m good here.” I said, content to remain in my prayer position.
“Really, it’s not that much harder from the bridge pose.”
I begged to differ. My spine is incapable of collapsing and folding at the waist to where my face and my butt become adjacent to one another.
Not getting the hint, she continued to dog me until all manners of civility left me and I must have let out an involuntarily growl. At that point, she finally backed off.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes to the room and searched hard for my peace.
Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om.
Ten breaths later I found it.
You must have that sacred place inside you where no one can trespass.
People will project their own fears, biases and expectations onto you. They will define you to suit their own comfort. When that happens, you must be able to say, “No, ma’am, no sir, you are not welcome here.” Then quickly and firmly, and I don’t know how to say this much more elegantly, you must shut the door on their ass.