It’s a common question when meeting someone—“What do you do?”
This was easy to answer when I had a regular corporate gig as a director. But now, when I respond with “I teach yoga,” I’m often met with confusion and occasional discomfort.
So people ask me the same question again in case I didn’t get it the first time.
The interesting thing is that as a yoga instructor, what I do is also very much aligned with who I am. To be honest, it took me most of my adult life to grow up and allow myself to be who I really am. Before then, I was mostly just pretending to be what everyone else wanted me to be.
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." – e. e. cummings
Give yourself permission to be authentic.
While Lao Tzu’s sage advice, “Be simply yourself and don't compare or compete,” is something you hear in yoga class all the time, following it can be quite challenging. With these five keys to authenticity, however, we can apply these words to our lives.
1. Be honest with yourself.
Integrity is really just being truthful about who you are. On the mat or in meditation, we have time to rediscover and reconnect to our Core Identity.
2. Admit that you don’t know who you really are.
"I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.”
“But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!"
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Regain your confidence by allowing yourself to grow beyond the not knowing.
3. Take responsibility: I make my life and no one else makes it for me.
The most challenging thing when we practice yoga is to accept responsibility for the way we feel, the way we move, and the way we breathe.
Take charge. Empower yourself to take back authorship of your own life.
You are doing yourself and others a disservice by catering your actions towards how you think others will react. Instead, just be yourself, exactly as you are.
4. Stop projecting your self-doubt, insecurities, second-guessing, and fears on others.
You have to work harder than your fear to make the truest discovery of who am I. The answer only comes from within; no one else can tell you who you are, and blaming others only robs you of your energy.
Eventually you must find the courage to accept yourself, or as Derek Walcott puts it, “The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the others welcome, and say, sit here.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life.”
5. Stop pretending.
In the sacred text, The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna talks to Arjuna, who is questioning if he is ready to go to battle, even though he is a very skilled warrior.
Krishna says, "You are empowered as the forces you are able to cultivate in yourself. Take the beauty of who you are... That beauty will lead you your gifts. Better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another's."
This means it is better to be yourself imperfectly, than it is to pretend to be something you are not perfectly.
When what you feel, think, and do are all in alignment, you will be rewarded for your courage with a life that reflects your true essence—instead of an invented identity created to please others.
By being yourself, you will attract everything that is in alignment with who you truly are. Remember, you are not what others believe you to be; you are what you know you are and nothing else. Love yourself, love your day, love your life!