I grew up figure skating. Not in the holiday hot-chocolate past-time type of way. I grew up figure skating to win. I was traveling internationally for the US at age twelve. And, by age fifteen, I was Junior World Champion. And, yet, even with all this success, it was (is!) a struggle for me to like myself. And, it is a constant practice for me to accept myself as me without context or achievement. In hindsight, my terse relationship with self-acceptance seems clear. How could I recognize myself as uniquely whole when I was always contextualized by my achievement? How could I see myself as complete, when there always was more work to be done? These are the questions that continually gnaw at my esteem and this is precisely where yoga heals. Yoga does not say go out and change you. Yoga says: Be you.
The Poison of Conditionality
Now, I recognize that not everyone is growing up an Olympic Figure Skater. Still, almost everyone grows up with goals. And, most of us are too familiar with the prevalent system of achievement = reward/validation/love. In this system, the romance of achieving a goal sets up a dangerous conditionality very easily. Accomplish something?: "I rule." Mission aborted?: Sweet- Now, you've got fuel for self-loathing your way to more goals! Soon, the rhetoric of: "I am worth as much as I have done.", actually seems to make sense. But does it? Does it actually make sense to say: I am worth what I have done today?
For me, it cannot make sense to exchange myself for what I do. It simply cannot. Now, don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I love myself doing it. But, I will not allow myself to set up an economy of 'musts' before I matter. I know from direct experience that when I participate in the exchange of 'having to' it is toxic for my self-love and my sense of self. As much as it is nice for people to affirm who I am, I need to affirm that for me. By me. Even on the days when I sleep in!
The Things We Nourish Grow
So, I watch myself nowadays and ask: "Will I love myself if this does not happen?" "Will I love myself if I mess this up royally?" Then, I catch myself. Because remember, I come from a 'goal' mind. And, because it's never that simple. Training the mind is yoga. Remember that. Then, I practice my own acceptance. Inhale: Acceptance. Exhale: Acceptance. The things we nourish grow.