Part of what I love about practicing yoga is that you can practice every day and still get something new out of every class. Literally. I left class recently feeling particularly inspired by my talented teacher and the owner of Prema Power Yoga in Marblehead, MA (also where I completed much of my teacher training). She spoke about something that really struck a chord and I wanted to share it here because I believe it’s relevant for so many of us.
Most of us, over the course of our lifetimes, have acquired a story of sorts (or various stories) that becomes such a huge part of how we identify ourselves, it starts to color how we approach life. For years, my story was one of pretending. I was constantly presenting myself as a self-assured go-getter who had her shit together. But when the curtains closed and I was alone, I was actually consumed with self-loathing and shame at my disordered eating, my depression, and how “on the brink of falling apart” I constantly felt.
I was convinced that if I could just achieve a body I deemed “acceptable”, I would then be able to heal my relationship with food and I would like myself enough to open myself up to a world of opportunity. That was my story. In reality, I learned that it took healing my relationship with myself, first, that allowed me to heal my relationship with food. The body stuff actually tends to take care of itself once we mend the broken relationship with the self.
But in this class it struck me with particular force…Almost all of us have a story that can easily consume us and impact our view of the world. Maybe it’s a sick family member or the loss of a loved one; whether or not we have a family of our own; a need to prove something or live up to some expectation; maybe it’s our career. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a painful experience, though for many of us it is. Our story might be anything that dictates how we SHOW UP in the world every day. For some of us, it might propel us forward. But for many, it drags us back time and time again.
Right after getting out of that class, I went home and called my mom. She, too, has a story that she often gets “stuck” in. That doesn’t mean she isn’t extraordinarily strong or successful. She is both of those things and much more. If I know anyone that has been able to take the shit that life throws at us and march forward anyways, it’s her. But I also know that there are days where mending the broken heart of her story can feel like too much to bear.
My story doesn’t define me anymore. I guess that it never actually did. But for years I let it be so big, so prevalent, that it drove how I perceived everything and how I showed up in the world. Sure, it’s still there. There are days it has a stronger presence. But that doesn't make it my present. I get to choose whether that story is my reality each day. Some days it still is. And that’s OK. But most days it isn’t.
Our experiences shape us, most definitely. Hopefully, we can take those experiences – especially the painful ones – and use them to better ourselves. The deep pain I experienced in my own depression and eating disorders allows me to support others and help them in their healing journeys. What a gift. It’s important, though, to decipher that those experiences don’t define who we are. They don’t make or break us. They don’t (have to) steer the direction of the days ahead of us.
Of course it’s not easy to break free of your story. It’s yours, and probably has been for some time. Letting go of it doesn’t mean it never existed, but maybe it can mean it doesn’t have to shape your present. I find that for me, sharing my story, vocalizing it, diminishes the power it had when I lived alone with it.
I challenge you to ask yourself: are your past experiences dictating your present self? Might you be stuck in your own story? What would it take for you to let that go...and would it make you a happier person? Please share in the comments below.
Sending lots of love your way. XO