Throughout our lives we receive so many messages which tell us we’re not good enough.
It could start at school and be reinforced by the continuous rounds of tests and exams. The media and advertising are constantly force-feeding us aspirational messages to encourage us to be discontent with ourselves – “buy this and you’ll be more beautiful / popular / happy / wealthy / successful / better than other people” – and so it goes on…
We can become constantly caught in a cycle of trying to please other people and being what we imagine other people think we should be.
We so easily internalise this judging voice and tell ourselves every day the pernicious lie that we’re not good enough, often without realizing we’re doing it.
We are perfect as we are
What I love about yoga is that it comes from a position that we are all perfect as we are. We have everything we need already inside us. We are full of love, compassion and contentment. We have all the inner resources we need.
We ‘just’ need to rediscover this beautiful fact.
It sounds so simple, but I know from experience that it requires self-discipline, awareness, and a willingness and courage to acknowledge the negative thoughts and experiences in our lives and examine how they have impacted on us and how they may continue to affect how we behave and think. And then to learn from them and move on.
Yoga offers us a way back to our true self
Our teachers encourage us to practise yoga with acceptance: to notice and be aware, without judgment, of how our bodies are feeling, the emotions we’re feeling and the thoughts going on in our mind.
And as we cultivate a quality of acceptance in our yoga practice we can begin to extend that to all parts of ourselves – and to others.
Witnessing our emotions and thoughts is a vital step in developing a non-judging mind. And if (when!) the inner critic’s voice starts judging what we notice, well just witness that too with a gentle awareness.
Practical ways of working towards self-acceptance
As well as working with awareness in our Asana (posture work) and Pranayama (breath work) practice, consciously working with the Yama (restraints) and Niyama (observances) aids us in this process.
For example, if we practise Ahimsa (non-violence or harmlessness) we will be gentle with ourselves and not commit harm to ourselves by judging and getting angry with our perceived failings.
Focus on Aparigraha (non-greed) and actively decide not to want what others have – longing to possess material goods or a lifestyle which someone else appears to have is a sure way to discontentment and feelings of inadequacy.
Observe Samtosha (contentment) and be thankful for who you are and your life; cultivate a feeling that you lack nothing.
Practise Swadhyaya (self study) and reflect on who you are, what’s important to you and why. Try and read something every day which is wise or up-lifting.
And next time you notice that you’re telling yourself that something about you is not good enough, stop and notice … and smile, because you are perfect just as you are.