When your body squirms, wiggles, and maybe even feels like it wants to puke….that could be your soul saying, “body, get out of the way. Let’s DO THIS!!!”
I spent the last week and a half with my family. For me, time with family is always an interesting combination of a sweet treat with lots of love, and a battle to show up as myself, not who I was at age 15. In working through that this week, I saw very clearly that my biggest weakness growing up, is now my biggest strength. The thing I spent years being ashamed of and afraid of, is the very thing that is my super power. It is the very thing that gives me purpose in this life. And I’d bet, it’s the same for you.
Since I was a baby, I was sensitive Jessie, emotional Jessie, moody Jessie. My friends and family used to make fun of me for it, and I witnessed my share of eye-rolls whenever I teared up. I got bullied for being afraid in gymnastics, and was told “get over it” when I was struggling emotionally. I’ve been called dramatic, ridiculous, a bitch, you name it. But the thing is, none of that is all that bad.
Let’s be real - my life has been pretty spectacular. I am incredibly fortunate. I was raised by a family who loves me unconditionally. A family who was well-off, and not only able to put food on the table, but provide me with rich experiences that have helped me become who I am today. To this day, my parents (and other family members) support me in the crazy career I’ve chosen, and despite some judgement, are pretty accepting of my life choices. I’ve never been physically or sexually abused, I’m healthy, and well..I’m white. My life’s been…quite easy, in comparison to many.
So why all the tears? Why is Jessie so sensitive?
You know the gene that like, covers up your emotions and puts on a fake smile and goes to work as if everything is great? Yea…I didn’t get that gene. My heart is on my sleeve. And besides a couple of mean names, and eye-rolls, I was never stopped. So I think, part of my sensitivity is simply that, I never had to toughen up. I had the luxury to feel all the feelings, and still have dinner on the table. And while I sometimes feel guilty about my fortune, I feel extremely grateful that I’ve been able to use this fortune for good.
See, sensitivity isn’t just about crying because someone stole your cookie. Sensitivity is about picking up what’s really going on, and having a connection to yourself and others, that many people don’t even see. And while that makes you vulnerable to hurt, and instability, it makes you receptive to so much possibility. And when I describe how I was feeling during a situation that upset me to someone new (a family member, friend, etc), they often say something like, “well yea, we all feel that way.” And that right there, is why this is so special.
We all feel that way.
We ALL feel that way.
This sensitivity is not about my own upset, or hurt feelings. It’s about what having the ability to feel those feelings opens up. No, not everyone cries when their siblings get in a fight, but also, not everyone sees that their siblings are deeply hurting, and the argument was based on unresolved pain within each of them.
So this sensitivity, the thing I’ve been made fun of for and ashamed of for over 2 decades, is actually the source of my power. This is now my light, my purpose, my mission in life. I am put on this earth to be there for others, in their experience of “we all feel that way.” Not to trivialize it (nor to dramatize it), but simply to normalize it. You are not alone. It’s ok to feel that way, because you do, so let yourself feel it. AND, use that awareness and acceptance and discovery to begin to work through it. Rather than waiting for the next big fight to unleash your pain, simply walk through it. Let the tears out or have the uncomfortable conversation - now. And watch it dissolve, little by little. THIS is what I’m here for.
What’s your story? I’d love to hear from you. Do you go home and get made fun of? Are you insecure about something about yourself? Are you ashamed of something you do, or have done, or wish you could do? Do you feel like you have a deep weakness about you?
These are important questions. Not to sit in dwell in the problem of being made fun of, or whatever the case may be, but to look that insecurity straight in the face. Really look at it. And maybe, just maybe, that ugly weakness, can be your glimmering gold. It can be the thing that moves you to be you each day. The thing that impacts the people you love and touch. The thing that inspires you to be better for your partner, or your child, or yourself.
Happy New Year. Let your goals and dreams be based on connection to yourself. Rather than goal-setting to get around your “weaknesses”, why not love them? Goal-set through the insecurity, and into a freedom of sorts. A freedom where not only do you get to love yourself more fully (and therefore BE yourself more fully), but you also know that - we ALL feel that way. Embrace it or not, that’s up to you.
My dear friend posted a sticker on instagram, asking if her followers had questions. One, mouthly, follower wrote back, “Put on some make up *puke face*”.
She responded eloquently and maturely, simply stating that she intends to share her honest self with her followers, and that putting on make up to cover up her beautiful essence does not resonate with her values as an influencer.
But what the heck? Really? What makes a person feel the need to respond to someone who is trying to engage an audience in a meaningful way (via yoga and self-reflection), and tell them they need to wear make up (a mix of chemicals designed to hide the reality of a women’s (usually) face in order to make it look more doll like? Or fake? Or more “perfect” but in a not-real sort of way)?
Now, nothing against make up itself. I think it can be a beautiful form of artistic and self-expression. However, if a woman NEEDS make up in order to speak authentically…we are in real trouble.
So what’s the truth of it? Why would someone feel the need to write that?
Well, I can’t say for sure because I have never been actually motivated to reach out to someone to do that. But I believe it is due to their own self-hatred. Their own inability to be with themselves, truly, whether they are male or female. What I do know is the need to write that couldn’t have come from true honesty. It had to come from some selfish personal desire, otherwise, why say it? Why would you go out of your way, to share hate and negativity with someone else, if it didn’t somehow make you feel better or look better in your own head?
So I ask you - what do we do when someone comes to us like that? Do we bark back? Do we ignore? Is it like my dog, when he’s barking to get attention, I have to ignore it and not give him the satisfaction of a reprimand?
Well, if we consider the reality, it’s likely that this person, the one that wrote “put on some make up”, is going through something. Perhaps their boyfriend is stalking my friend on instagram, and she was so upset she took it out on her. Or, perhaps it’s a man that keeps getting turned down or broken up with, and felt the need to put down a woman to assert his power. Who knows! But regardless, this comment came from a place of desperation. This comment, is a cry for help. Not that they would know that, or would actually be open to receiving help, but that, it is absolutely a clear sign that they are not ok, in some form.
It’s important to take these moments as an opportunity to introspect. Notice the moments in yourself when you feel the desire to put someone else down (even if it’s just a subtle judgement in your head). And start to inquire to yourself, what is that really about? Is it really about the other person's lack of makeup? Or is it likely about your own need to be perfect, insecurity of being that vulnerable, and perhaps even envy of being able to be so free?
When we do that with ourselves, not only do we get the opportunity to inspire some personal growth, and release some negative, even toxic, feelings and actions. But we also get the opportunity to understand another person better. So next time someone does something like that towards you (even if it’s your mother over Christmas !!), you can perhaps empathize with where it’s actually coming from, and know that even if whatever they are saying is “true”, that you ultimately have a choice in how you take it, and how you respond.
As much as I wanted to punch that person in the face (the one that told my friend to put on make up), I also felt their pain. I hope that one day they find the courage to ask for help, or go to yoga :D, and take responsibility for their own fears and insecurities, to be kinder to themselves and others.
Here’s your monthly reminder: when someone does something that is rude/disrespectful/inconsiderate/wrong to someone else, it is ALWAYS about their own sh*t. That doesn’t make it ok, but it does free up the burden of the hurt, and allows us to be there for each other, even when it’s uncomfortable.
About 3 years ago I went to a seminar called “Landmark”. It’s a 3 day, incredibly transformative experience. I believe it was day 2 where I started experiencing some resistance. The program lead was teaching us about the fact that essentially our whole lives are about “looking good”, but he kept using references like “the fanciest car”, and the “blonde with big boobs”. Those examples, among others, just did not click with me, so I felt safe in the rationale, that’s not me. I don’t do everything to look good. I even came up with stories like I hardly even wear make up, or fancy clothes. I clearly don’t care about looks. Little did I know, this fact would begin to shift my entire life:
Our lives are about looking good for other people (and therefore ourselves).
Now if you’re a self-development enthusiast, you already know this, and you are probably shifting it already. If you aren’t, you are likely denying that you yourself, are included in this.
Let me explain.
Maybe we all don’t buy our fancy car in order to look good, but MOST of us make MOST of our moves in life based, at least in part, on how we will look to others. “Looking good” doesn’t necessarily mean physical appearance. It’s about how we are seen through others’ eyes. So maybe you don’t put on the makeup in the morning to look good for anyone in specific, but you probably put it on in order to be seen as some who “is put together”, or like you tried, or like you care, or maybe even “just in case” you meet someone. And maybe you don’t date the sexy girl just because your friends will think you’re cool, but you probably have some part of you that wants it to work out, or to look a certain way so that people will think you’re lovable, or good in bed, or good enough to have a partner like that, or whatever.
If you know me, you know I used to be fairly social, going out every weekend and attending events frequently; and now I spend most every night at my house working, or enjoying the evening with a close friend (and my pup). Part of that is simply maturing, but another huge part of it, is exactly what I’m writing about today. It is that out there, in the world, so much is dependent on how you look to other people, without them actually having any idea who you are or how you live your life, that I got overwhelmed when I began my self-development journey. It became too difficult, and to be honest - just plain annoying, to be surrounded by people that were so worried about how they looked, without getting sucked back in myself.
Well, this weekend, I went out to a dance event. And of all dance events, it was a pretty lovely one. It was in order to raise money for a charity, so it was not only for a good cause, but it attracted good people, part of a loving community (which is certainly not always the case).
I was able to approach this experience quite differently, as it’s been about a year since I’ve attended something like this. I spent much of the evening not only watching the performances, but specifically observing people’s body language, and what story they were really telling, rather than how good their dance technique was, or how much they killed the performance. (I very much included myself in this observation: noticing when I wanted to get on my phone so as not to appear like a loner, or when I was unsure if I should say hi to someone I’ve only met on instagram for fear they would think I was weird, ha!)
And what I saw was, lots of beauty.
And, lots of insecurity.
Many of the performances were riddled with a, ‘I need you to like me’ feeling behind it. And what’s funny is, I know exactly the feeling. I remember when I’ve stepped off stage in the past and thought, damn, I was so in my head worried about what people were thinking - hoping that everyone saw me do that cool solo, or that no one saw my mess up.
I noticed girls in the bathroom, worried post-performance if their makeup was still on and cute, and boys worried about messing up their steps. And the thing is, this is all fine and normal. There’s nothing wrong with it. But the bummer is that sometimes we don’t realize that we are doing ALL of that work and worry and fear and upset, for the approval of other people. And when it comes to sharing your art, or creating an event that raises money for a great charity, it’s really a bummer when that need to look good actually STOPS you from sharing the full truth, or creating the event from the true intention of serving others.
(During this event, I also witnessed some of the truest expressions I’ve ever seen, in a way that brought me to tears multiple times (I mean, I’m a sap, but still!).)
So let’s really try to take a look at this in our lives. In full admission that we DO do things for the purpose of looking good, where does it come up? Probably everywhere, all day long, in every action. (Seriously though). Yesterday, I noticed it specifically at the gym. I was training a lot of the muscles I need for handstands. The gym is not usually the place that I actually do handstands, it’s simply the place I strengthen the muscles for them, and other things. So after a set of core and shoulders, I was considering doing some handstands, or some press handstands in the middle of the floor. And I stopped myself. Not because I was tired, or lazy, but because I realized the true reason I was doing that, was to look good for other people. I realized if I had been working out alone, I would not have done some extra handstands on top of my already intense workout. Not that using the eyes of others to motivate you can’t be helpful, but my honest self knew that that wasn’t actually the case for me - it was simply to show off. (I’ve also had times where I DO want to do the handstands to serve my workout, and I’m worried people will judge me, and in that case, I choose to do them anyway! It’s about listening to yourself, not judging what’s good or bad, or right or wrong.)
Where does this come up in your life? How might being more authentic to yourself serve you, and your dreams?
A reminder that this doesn’t mean wear your pajamas to work, stop taking showers, and be a bitch because all of that could be about looking good. It simply means, notice when you are selling yourself short, in order to attain the potential approval of others, or in order to make sure someone likes you, or in order to not show people your truth. Because in reality, you showing your truth, and owning whatever that is, is not always going to get everyone’s approval, but it WILL get yours.
This weekend I learned something pretty profound…from my dog.
I took him to the dog park, because, lately he’s been getting really antsy around other dogs, so I wanted to let him run around and enjoy (we used to do this a lot and he loved it). I committed to doing some training with him right outside the dog park, to make sure he could listen to me, even though I knew he’d be distracted. So we got there, and before we were even near the park, he was whining, crying, and yelping. I told him his usual command “quiet”. Didn’t work. We parked, I pulled out some treats and repeated, “quiet”. It worked for about 4 seconds, before he was yelping again.
We did some commands a little ways away from the park. He did OK, but definitely was so uncontrollably excited that not much was working. At one point he let out a huge scream. I didn’t even know dogs could do that! We went into the park, and within 10 minutes, I was dragging him out by his harness. He started snarling, barking, and trying to bite a dog that intimidated him, and he quickly got out of control snarling at a bunch of dogs. I pulled him out, but it became immediately clear to me that his uncontrollable excitement, is the same as his uncontrollable aggression.
If they can’t control their excitement, they definitely can’t control their aggression.
So besides the training tactics that I need to make sure I apply to my pup, why am I sharing this with you?
Let’s repeat that discovery, for humans:
If you can’t control your excitement, you definitely can’t control your aggression/upset/anxiety/fear/etc.
So although excitement, and passion, lust, and drive might all be positive emotions and experiences to have, if we can’t control them (control meaning to not let it take over), then what hope to we have of controlling the negative emotions?
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I would hear a phrase like “control your emotions”, and think, no! I want to feel everything! I thought that controlling emotions meant not feeling them, or not getting to enjoy the goodness in life. And I certainly thought it meant having to try not to let the negative ones seep into everything, and damn near thought that was impossible. But the truth is, controlling your emotions is not about having no feelings, or not experiencing things, it’s about emotional intelligence. It’s about being able to experience feelings, without them taking over you, and ruling the rest of the day, or week, or month.
(I remember about 2 years ago a boyfriend broke up with me, and I kept expecting to be really sad. I was all prepared to wallow in my feelings, eat ice cream, and veg out….but that rush of sadness never came. Not because I didn’t love him, or didn’t feel sad about it, but because, I had been hard at work to increase my self-awarenes and gain emotional intelligence for a few years at that point. That moment was just a little victory for me; acknowledgement that I was getting stronger!)
So, how do you control your emotions? Or what does that process even look like?
Well, let’s go back to Dojo, my dog. In order for him to be able to socialize safely and appropriately, he has to be able to remain calm when he’s excited, and when he’s scared. So training, for him, looks like me taking him to distracting, exciting places, and keeping him calm, focused, and disciplined.
Now, we are, of course, more complex than dogs, but - that’s not a bad idea. And truly, this is yoga. (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or “to control the senses”, in one of its definitions). Yoga asks that you observe yourself, mind and body. You observe your thoughts and feelings, and physical sensations. Observing them comes with two parts: 1) increasing self-awareness and understanding, and 2) not attaching to the observation. Just like Dojo will need to be able to see a dog run by him, and not attach to the possibility of running with him, we need to see a fear drift by, and not attach to the possibility of it becoming real. These two parts together make up an aware person, who is non-judgmental or non-reactive to their feelings, or really any disturbance whatsoever.
Does this mean don’t ever get excited? No. Does it mean you will stop having fears? No. Just like Dojo will always be affected by the dogs that cross his path, you will always have feelings. However, by controlling them, you get the opportunity to choose how to play with them. Just as if Dojo stays calm while we walk up to a dog, he gets the treat of playing with them, so if you stay non-reactive while observing the thought or emotion, you get the treat of playing with that feeling however you’d like.
Start to notice when you get hooked on a thought, or emotion. Often, that’s the emotion trying to take over. Trying to get you to indulge in your excitement, or embarrassment, or worry, and take a leap out of your life, into that feeling. And see if you can back up and look at it instead. And if not, at least see if you can state to yourself that you’re hooked on an emotion, so as not to make any big life choices or anything, hah! It will get easier and easier to step out of it, and not have that one thing dictate your whole day.
Wherever you’re at in this process, keep going. I know I am!
There’s this story that I often hear, from my friends, students, and even myself. The story is something like, “I can’t,” or “I have to,” or “I have no choice.” These phrases put us in a very compromised position. These phrases imply that some force outside of ourselves has forced us to do (or not do) something. Most of the time I would say this is likely not true, but even when this IS true, this is a pretty powerless stance to take.
Now, you probably think I’m going to say something like there is always another option, or find a way to make it happen. And sure, that’s a possibility. But let’s go in one more step. When you feel like you are stuck, or perhaps like something happened to you and you can’t do anything about it, or like you have to do something and have no choice, you have three options of how to respond.
Option 1: remain unhappy with the situation. Complain about how it’s happening to you, suffer, and remain powerless in the situation.
Option 2: decide that it’s not okay with you, and make something happen no matter what it takes (quit your job, leave a tough relationship, save up money, etc).
Option 3: switch your perspective, and choose the situation, exactly as it is. Decide (or it may even feel like pretend) that you chose this circumstance, and everything about it, and approach it as if that were true.
These options are mostly about perspective. None of them make your circumstance disappear, and none of them are necessarily “true”, it simply depends on how you choose to look at it.
I would say, most people choose option 1. It’s easiest to blame something outside of yourself, and continue to be unhappy, although it might suck. Option 2 is probably in second place. People hit the gym because they refuse to see themselves as they are, or cut out friends or family in order to move forward, or quit their job and live in rugged conditions. Option 2 can create some real change. But this third option, option 3, is something special. It’s this balance between 1 and 2. See, it’s not complacency. It’s not just throwing your hands up and being ok with a shitty situation. (Nor is it complaining about the situation). But it’s still not forcing it to change either. It sits in the middle. It’s the space of CHOICE (and truly, of freedom).
For these purposes, we will define choice as the ability to select freely between one or more options. Meaning, you might technically, not have another option, however, you still can choose freely. How can that be? This is simply a place to stand, a place that allows you to OWN your circumstance (even if it isn’t your “fault”) so that you can continue to choose what to do.
So let’s look at an example. Let’s say you want to start your own business, but you feel like you can’t because of your current, all consuming job (let’s say 90-100 hours a week). And let’s say this job has made it very clear that you will be fired if you lessen your hours, or make a small mistake, or something like that. And let’s say you cannot afford to lose this job because you have no savings, are in debt, and are helping to support a family member. So I would say, the odds of you starting your own business within this circumstance are pretty low. So you might feel like, I have no choice. I have to keep working at this job. I can’t create the career I want. So here are your options:
Option 1: remain unhappy with the situation. Complain about how you want to start your own business but can’t. You have to stay where you are.
Option 2: decide to quit your job and make it happen with your new business ASAP, or up your workload to 120 hours per week, and lose sleep to start this new business.
Option 3: choose to be at the job you’re at. Choose to spend 100 hours per week working, at a job that perhaps is not your dream.
Now let’s look at option 3. Option 3 doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t magically remove the barrier to your success. But what it does do, is give you back the power. Option 3 may even lead to something similar to option 2, just in a more powerful, less torturous way.
So lets say, you chose to work at this job, 100 hours a week, even though you truly want to do something else. And if you chose it - how might you be approaching it differently? Instead of dreading it, or blaming it for your current unhappiness, you might show up to work powerfully. You might take big steps in saving money, or signing up for a business course to do on weekends. You might network with people at your current job, and create possibilities for growth within and outside of the office. So, although nothing changed, your whole world might be different. And maybe in a few months, you will no longer “have no choice” but to stay at this job, but perhaps you will have a plethora of options looking forward. But by not choosing, or rather, by choosing not to take ownership for your circumstance, you run the risk of never getting out of it.
Choice doesn’t mean you always get what you want. Choice just means, you have the ability to decide how you live your life at any moment. It is not necessarily the truth, it is simply a place to stand. A perspective from which to look at your life. So rather than digging yourself further into the hole, you actually begin to gather the tools to climb out. But without first taking the stance of choice, having the power to get out of it is going to be tough if not impossible.
In the moment where you feel powerless, like you have no choice in the matter, ask yourself. What if I chose this? What if it was me that chose to get sick, or to get fired, or to be in this awful relationship? How would I look at it then? And then choose it. Own your situation, and watch yourself find the good, the ongoing possibility, and the growth within it.