(This is a piece I wrote and submitted to Elephant Journal. The piece is on their site, and I would appreciate if you could head over to their site and heart and/or share the piece. The more views it receives the more likely I will be able to continue sharing ideas with EJ. Thank you! ~Shel)
Why we should practice self-reflection, self-study, and share our truth.
Have you ever had difficulty with internal dialogue or self-talk? You know, listening to the voice that is sometimes a complete ass hat?
Sometimes I struggle with an ever-present inner monologue, creating stories in my head—stories of unworthiness, negativity, fear, and anger. The stories can sound something like, “Someone covered class for me last week. What if students stop coming to my yoga classes because they realize I’m not good as a yoga teacher, and I’m not actually worthy of being their teacher,” “My body is a waste. It’s not worthy of taking up space,” and “How can I help people see that their bodies want love and compassion if I struggle with mine?”
From an early age, I have had a remarkable ability to weave threads together and create a tapestry of untruth. For years, I was not able to see that I was telling stories. I truly believed all the things I was telling myself about me and others. By all means, these tapestries were not only created with threads I spun and dyed myself, but also from threads given to me by others, like comments from strangers, biases that were taught, beauty standards, social media, and many other sources.
Recently, I landed in a place where I was creating a lot of negative stories. I was struggling with my body image, fighting the urge to reinstate my gym membership, change to controlling my food intake and choices, and telling myself I wasn’t good enough in most aspects of my life.
One day, I decided to post about it on Instagram to share this idea of storytelling and untruth with my classes. For me, sharing my thoughts when I have felt stuck, no matter what the thoughts were about, has helped me find answers. After sharing these concepts online and with my students, I was thrown back to my college days.
During college, I studied Architecture and Interior Design. In my design studio and art classes, I was taught and required to justify all the decisions made during the design process. I had to constructively criticize and critically think about my projects. When asked, “But why did you…,” the answer, ”Because it’s neat,” or, “Because it’s pretty,” or, “Because it has pop,” or any other surface-level answer was not acceptable because they were subjective and based on opinion. If those answers weren’t acceptable in those hypothetical situations, then why was it acceptable to give my self-surface level, superficial, subjective answers to the stories being woven into my head?
This ignited my inquiry of “but why.”
But why was I struggling with my body image? But why I was struggling with self-worth?
The first couple of answers were the surface level answers—those easier to believe and digest because one doesn’t really want to get to the actual reason since one would then have to feel and learn something. With each “but why” I was able to look at each thread I had used. Inspecting the threads qualities, characteristics, and if it actually added anything of interest to the overall tapestry. As I looked at the threads already in the tapestry, I was able to observe and analyze what was really there, and decide if this was worth saving, or it if would be best to remove it from the loom and start fresh.
The practice of questioning our stories and asking “but why” is the practice of Satya (truthfulness)—one of the Yamas (ethical guidelines for living; one of the eight limbs of yoga).
This self-reflection and study allow us to decide if the story is actually fact or fiction. It allows us to go deeper within ourselves, see our truths, and then share those true stories. Sometimes, this inspection of our self is uncomfortable. Sometimes, it requires that we ask harder questions and receive unsavory answers. It’s not just the stories about ourselves that we can begin to question, but also the stories we tell other people.
What are the stories you tell yourself? What are the biases you’ve been taught to believe? What are the threads used in the tapestries you weave?
Can you start to ask, “But why?” Can you start to look at the qualities of the threads in your story’s tapestry? Self-study and reflection will allow you to speak, live, and share your authentic self with others, even those who’ve lived a different life than you. It will guide you as you continue to weave and display the pieces of art that represent who you truly are.