A yoga friend recently confided that she feels like a yoga phony because she’s not thin, young, and walking around blissed-out all the time. It took all my enlightened composure not to sarcastically respond, “Welcome to the club”.
It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, the fear of being discovered as a phony is unmistakable. Maybe you’re familiar with its favorite mantras:
- I’m too young / old to be taken seriously
- No one will buy/learn from me because I’m not successful enough
- I’m too emotional / inexperienced to be respected as a leader
- I thought I’d be better by now
- I thought I’d be further along by now
Are you quietly nodding and thinking about some aspect of your life? Yeah, me too.
I feel like a phony all the time:
- I worry other yoga teachers will scorn me because I can’t do a free-standing hand-stand.
- I worry a coaching client will interrupt our call to say “I’m a coach too and you just totally messed that up”.
- I worry I’ll release my next product and people will whisper about how embarrassed they are for me.
We all have thoughts like these.
Why do we tell ourselves such awful stories? One big reason: Per-fect-ion-ism.
Perfectionism is a seductive habit reinforced daily by our cultural mindset and carefully-selected social media presence. In a world where the rich, young and beautiful grace our magazines and all your friends have better Facebook profiles than you, it’s easy to see the ways you fall short.
But perfectionism has secret rewards too. Otherwise you wouldn’t keep torturing yourself with it.
Perfectionism is an awesome stalling tactic.
Waiting until you feel ready to take a risk lets you hold on to your dream but never have to try and fail.
Take this guy I met last week – he’s an incredibly talented computer whiz and has all the skills and expertise he needs to start his dream business. But instead of giving it a shot, he’s waiting until he knows as much as his mentor, who’s 10 years ahead of him. You can do the math, but it’s safe to say, he’s never going to catch up.
Perfectionism gives you a great excuse to stay small.
It’s scary to think you have more power, knowledge and wisdom than you believe you do. Stepping into your own greatness means announcing to the world that you are someone and you have something to say.
In Australia and New Zealand, when you get too successful for the group’s comfort level, they cut you down. It’s affectionately called the tall poppy syndrome and works wonders at keeping people well below their potential.
But there’s a world of difference between stepping up and showing off.
Showing off is ego-driven and opens you to criticism, ridicule, and isolation. This is the reaction we fear; what we stay small to avoid.
Stepping up is soul-based and aligns you with the flow of the universe so your true gifts and talents can be shared and expressed in the world.
In the case of my phony-feeling friend, the path she’s embarking on through yoga is inviting her to acknowledge and own her wisdom. Ask anyone who knows her – she has immense depth and her teaching will help others move through pain and heal as she has.
She is meant for this work, and every “I can’t”, “I shouldn’t” and “I’m not good enough” just proves it more.
These are the hurdles of perfectionism on the way to embracing your wisdom.
Of course, I failed to express any of this to my friend in the moment. Luckily, I get to try again.
So the next time you wonder if you’re good enough for what lies ahead, here’s what I want to say to you:
I’m not a teacher because I’m more knowledgeable than you.
I’m not a teacher because I decided to be a teacher or bequeathed myself with a title.
I’m a teacher because I’m so curious about my own journey that I can’t stop experimenting and telling people about my discoveries so they can feel how I feel too.
My teacher isn’t a guru because he’s an egomaniac who demands reverence. He’s my guru because he’s been intensely focused on one subject for decades out of his own desire for knowledge and relief. The deeper he goes, the more he discovers, and the more he has to share with others.
This is a not a yoga perfect.
This is a not a yoga realized.
This is a not a yoga actualized.
Not even a yoga enlightened.
It’s your yoga practice.
And practice asks only one thing – that you show up.
So lay aside the perfect mask you’re tempted to wear and step into your vulnerable, imperfect, beautiful self. The world can’t wait to truly see you and neither can I.