A lesson on the self-indulgence of self-doubt

2016-07-27 08.11.25I took a good lesson about self-doubt away with me from our most recent yoga teacher training weekend. Admittedly it wasn’t a new lesson, but sometimes we need to learn the same thing many times…

It was weekend 9 of 11 so we spent a lot of time practicing our teaching skills on one another, including a section of what we are each planning to teach at the final assessment. It was wonderful to witness how far we’ve all come, and how we are developing unique teaching styles and finding our own way. I loved learning from everyone. Our teacher Elena gave us lots of constructive feedback but was very gentle too – there is always more she can teach us but she knows that what we need now is confidence and self-belief.

However it was also a tough weekend for me. I was emotionally exhausted after hearing that my grandma was seriously ill after a bad fall, and a busy week at work that had given me little recuperation time. I felt like I was going through the motions rather than really being in the room. But after I had taught my section, Elena’s reaction was ‘wow, it seems like you’ve been doing this forever, very clear, very professional’. And what was my response to this lovely feedback? I said, ‘really? I thought I was rubbish!’

But the thing is, I kind of knew it wasn’t rubbish, I knew it was my exhaustion speaking. Because that niggling voice of self-doubt always takes advantage of my exhaustion.

And here’s another thing I know – criticising myself isn’t helpful for anyone. It actually takes something away from my students. It brings everyone’s attention to me, when it should be about them. And it brings attention to fear and constriction rather than joy and expansion. As my fellow trainees told me the things they had enjoyed about my teaching, I realised I had been so focused on whether I was doing things right or wrong that I hadn’t paid enough attention to what they had received from me. It felt selfish and self-indulgent.

This reminds me of a quote I have often been drawn to from Paulo Coelho’s novel, Brida:

“Judging oneself to be inferior to other people was one of the worst acts of pride he knew, because it was the most destructive way of being different.”

In other words, self-deprecation is harmful, not just to you but to the people around you. But confidently sharing what you have to offer, in service to others, is a gift to them and to yourself.

So the lesson I was reminded of, and that I offer to you here, is this:

Shine your own unique light as brightly as you can. Nobody benefits from your self-deprecation. Believe in your light and be generous with it. Because the world needs more light.

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