I battle imposter syndrome daily as a yoga teacher because I still struggle so much with my mental health. These feelings of being a fraud stem from these unrealistic and unattainable expectations of yoga and of myself.
I first came to yoga out of desperation. My life and my mind felt unmanageable. I had been dealing with anxiety and depression for the majority of my life and nothing I was doing was working. I felt like I had run out of options. When it actually started to help me, I latched on for dear life and became obsessed as many new to the practice do.
Somewhere down the yoga rabbit hole, I came to view yoga teachers as higher spiritual beings that had learned all the secrets and mastered life. I adopted the idea that yoga could cure me and erase my issues.
I thought if I was still losing my shit, finding my skin crawling, or thinking negative thoughts, then I wasn’t doing something right. I must not meditate often enough or long enough. I must suck at embodying the 8 limbs, I must have not read enough books, or taken enough training yet. I must not be practicing enough. I’m not good enough. There must be something irrevocably wrong with me.
"Who am I to get up there and teach yoga, with all these problems." was my mindset.
Still fighting that, actually.
These negative patterns of thinking
have to be challenged on the regular
or they will eat you alive.
SO, here's the thing:
1. I’ve never felt helped by someone who’s figured it all out already.
Nothing makes me want to run for the hills faster then a holier-than-thou attitude. I’ve felt more helped by people saying “me too!” when I explain my struggles, then by anyone peddling a 5 step method to enlightenment. When I find someone with similar struggles as me, it makes me feel much less alienated. It reminds me that maybe I'm not as messed up as I thought, that I'm not the only one suffering. I'm trying to be that person. Shame about your struggles won't do you or anyone else any favors. Show up authentically, for real connections.
2. Suffering in life is undeniable. Buddha said so.
What you resist persists, so half the battle is acceptance. In my case, accepting that depression and anxiety is something I have to live with and making adjustments where necessary instead of avoiding or being in denial. Meditation teaches us to sit with our emotions, and examine them from a place of non-judgement.
When we tell ourselves “this shouldn't be happening", we create resistance, which only causes more suffering. Perhaps nothing is wrong at all. Too often we are just standing in our own way. It’s important to understand, depression and anxiety is not your fault, or a punishment for not being enlightened enough.
3. The key is in learning to work with what you've got.
Sometimes it feels like no matter what we have, it’ll never be enough, and that's a really shitty way to live. Aparigraha is one of the “yamas” or yogic principles that means non-possesiveness, non-grasping or non-attachment. Practicing aparigraha means to stop obsessing over what we want and how we’ll get it. To stop that chase of what we believe will make us happy. When you are struggling with negative emotions, ask yourself if it's stemming from attachment to a fantasy ideal.
4. It's our responsibility to manage our expectations.
Having too high of expectations means every curve-ball life throws at us will send us into a downward spiral of disappointment. There are a lot of people out there looking to sell you a "magic pill". Protect yourself by being careful with your expectations. In the yoga and wellness world there's a lot of words being thrown around like “transformation” and “healing”. Those are loaded words and I think we have to be really careful with how we swallow that. For many people that has been their experience, but it’s important to remember everyone's experience is different.
I’d like to state for the record, that yoga has not “cured me” of anything. As much as I’d like to tell you otherwise. I'm just a person trying to figure it out like everyone else, and every day is an uphill battle.
Yoga won't take away all your problems.
But it will help build the self awareness needed to view things with a fresh perspective.
It will calm your nervous system, making things easier to handle and relieving stress.
If nothing else, it's a block of time carved out for you, to practice self care.
There's a million studies and articles written on the benefits of yoga, trust me, I'm a believer.
Note to fellow yoga teachers and trainees: if you feel like a fraud because you don't have all the answers please give yourself some credit. You worked hard as hell to achieve that certification. You sacrificed your time, studied your ass off, and probably reached a breaking point once or twice. Avoid falling into comparison traps that make you feel like you are not good enough. Remember why you started this journey in the first place. Keep it simple.