From a Yogic Perspective
I’ve always believed that some of the best things in life are never easy but truly worth it – be it pushing one's' career forward or running that extra mile when you rather collapse.
The joy and fulfilment that comes from worthy, effortful action is often unmatched – the reason why many of us hold ourselves to high standards.
So in the quest for striving to better oneself, how does the concept of ‘I am enough’ (as introduced as theme in many yoga classes) fit in?
The concept of radical Self-Acceptance felt indulgent, a path to complacency & passivity; an idea opposite to striving for growth. Why should I accept anything in the world or the unsavory parts of me when everything has a room for improvement? I wondered.
This appears to be a common conundrum as I've seen many friends tell me things like: "I tend to get lazy, that's why I need to be hard on myself" or another one said "Being hard on myself has helped me in my career and propelled my accomplishments but sometimes, I lose perspective of the value I have created"
But what if I told you that it doesn't have to be this way! You can have gazillion accomplishments without being hard on yourself. You can unconditionally accept yourself at all times without losing your competitive edge or letting yourself off easy. You can feel worthy and enough amidst your worst failures. AND you can scale your business and live those dreamy life goals at a much faster rate without having to listen to your inner critic ever again. Does that sound like a win-win? Well truth be told, this is exactly how it's meant to be.
And how have I become this wise, again? You may ask.
The sacred texts of yoga (which incidentally co-relates to the research in psychology) coupled with my lived experience of the practice has brought me here.
Before I unpack the idea of 'I am enough', let's to a mini quiz to see where you guys are at:
Q1 - Do you feel disapproving and judgemental about your own flaws and inadequacies?
Q2 - When you fail at something important to you, do you become consumed by feelings of inadequacy?
Q3 - When times get really difficult, you tend to be tough on yourself?
Q4 - When you think about your inadequacies, does it make you feel more separate and cut off from the rest of the world?
If you have answered 'yes' or 'fairy often' or even 'half the time' then you are struggling with a certain degree of self-acceptance, my friends! Oh, and so am I ;). But, like I said it doesn't have to be this way. Believing that You Are Enough Is Not Contradictory To Our Desire For Self-Improvement.
I am going to say this one more time...
Believing that You Are Enough Is Not Contradictory To Our Desire For Self-Improvement.
Below are 2 biggest Myth Busters and One Actionable Tip to help you resolve this confusion forever. By digesting the 2 myth-busting concepts and TAKING ACTION, you will learn how to unconditionally accept yourself and dramatically improve your ability to achieve goals and live out your innate desires. Imagine the possibility of having high standards for yourself without ever being self-critical.
Myth 1# Self-Acceptance makes me lazy, weak or self-indulgent. Not true.
On the contrary, it is a faster way to reach your full potential.
Unconditional self-acceptance is understanding that you are separate from your actions and your qualities. You accept your mistakes and flaws but you do not let them define you.
When you remove your sense of worthiness from your actions, you begin looking at your setbacks and shortcomings from a place for curiosity and non-judgment. Separating your sense of self-worth from your actions is absolutely critical as it fosters Self-Acceptance. And it is only through Self-Acceptance that we get clarity on what needs to change.
In the words of Carl Rogers : "When I Accept Myself Then Only I Can Change"
Self-Acceptance facilitates change because the sooner you unconditionally accept all parts of you, (especially the messy ones which often elicit self-loathing or shame), the sooner you can make a skillful decision about how to move forward. Self-criticism deflates you and no good has come from this place of fragile self-worth.
Sharing my personal experience here: Sometime during Q4, 2020, I began to notice a dip in my motivation. I was not getting up on time; I was procrastinating work, wasn't meeting my weekly goals and just gliding through with bare minimum. This went on for nearly a month despite my best efforts to 'un-slack'. Instead of feeling like sh*it and devaluing myself, I got curious about my patterns and came to realise that it was loneliness that was coming in my way. As a newbie entrepreneur, it was getting increasingly hard to do all this business stuff solitarily. I craved connection, support and inspiration. Once I understood the root cause of my problem, I was able to create accountability partners, surround myself with a community of yoga teachers and seek mentorship. Soon enough, I was back on track and raring to go. Had I allowed my inner critic to pass judgements on my inadequacies, I would have never had the right headspace to gain clarity on what needed to actually change. Had I not got curious about my problem I would have tried really hard to wake up on time and stick to a schedule without even knowing, let alone addressing the main problem - that is loneliness.
Self-Acceptance is empowering. By having the willingness to experience yourself and your life as it is, you feel empowered to change and improve your situation.
As per Yoga Sutra 11.42 (from Patanjali’s yoga sutra) “By contentment, the highest happiness is attained.” This is to say that you can be content while constantly trying to be happier, smarter, fitter and more productive. Both can and should co-exist.
Self-Acceptance is a stronger motivator when striving to improve on a daily. This is because it preserves your self-efficacy beliefs.
Self-efficacy beliefs is the confidence in our own abilities which has a big impact on our ability to reach our goals. Because self-criticism undermines your self-efficacy beliefs, it may harm rather than aid your ability to do your best.
Myth No 2# I perform better under pressure. Not true.
If being hard on yourself has served you to be non-complacent in the past, it’s because of the fear it engendered in you. Because it’s so unpleasant to feel unworthy when one fails, you become motivated by the desire to escape your own judgment. In theory, this fear should prevent you from being complacent. But eventually getting motivated due to fear of failure is non-sustainable and frankly depleting. Which brings me to my next mythbuster.
Pressure may work as a quick fix, short term solution but always fails as a long-term strategy.
I've heard many athletes and high-achieving celebrities talk about 'fear of failure' as their driver to push harder but it's an exhausting motivator and not even an effective one as one eventually comes to realise.
On the contrary, the fear and its accompanying pressure undermines our performance, making us unnecessarily nervous, distracting us from the task at hand, and interfering with our ability to focus and do our best. We know from neuroscience when threat response is engaged, it impacts our cognitive control. As a consequence, our productivity and creativity diminish. Moreover, fear of failure or self-criticism leads to a completely different set of issue: self-sabotage.
Self-Acceptance driving force is love not fear. Because you accept yourself fully, you begin to foster kindness & compassion towards yourself. When you love and value yourself, you’re more likely to make choices that lead to well-being in the long term. In all aspects of life, self-acceptance trumps self-criticism.
Self-acceptance allows us to see our weaknesses in a safe and nurturing way, thus paving the way for improvement. This is the reason that Self-Acceptance works hands in glove with Self-Improvement.
Unconditional Self-Acceptance requires constant practice and it certainly doesn't happen overnight. It requires a whole lot of un-learning; replacing years of deep rooted and unserving thought & behavioral patterns with intentional practices.
My best tip for working on Self-Acceptance is to Make Yoga On the Mat A Daily Ritual Even if It's Just for 5 Minutes.
What brings most of us to the yoga practice is a desire to feel better in some way. Perhaps you wish to get fitter, less stressed, banish burnout, heal an injury, sleep better, or do something fun. Most of the time those goals are quickly met. If you continue with the practice, deeper and less obvious shifts begin to take place.
Yoga on the mat begins with alignment - where you work to develop the right strength and flexibility to perform the poses. Overtime, you begin to focus less on the shape of your body but more towards an inner activation and global awareness of the whole body. With right alignment, and effort, the awareness shifts from muscle, bone, and effort to energy, breath, an experience of inner connection and unimpeded flow. The breath allows you to connect with you body and feel the areas where discomforts lie. You begin to recognise the emotional imbalances that are lurking and the thoughts that are causing you to feel this way. With regular practice, the gradual awakening nurtures and sustains a practitioner at every level, and eventually intensifies to create an inner stability —a stability that is independent of the external circumstances of our lives. This has a profound effect on one's' ability to trust that I am enough - just the way I am.
So before I wrap up, here's the summary of the blog:
Self-Acceptance facilitates a non-judgemental and non-critical mindset that helps us gain clarity about what needs to change in ourselves, paving the way for improvement.
Being hard on ourselves therefore is an ineffective and short-term tactic to accomplishing our goals and desires.
We do not perform better under pressure in the long-term as 'fear of failure' is an exhausting motivator that eventually diminishes productivity
Regular yoga practice brings us closer to radical accept who we are by helping us experience the unchanging and abundant inner life-force wherein our true self-worth lies (not in our actions).
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