Did you every have a wardrobe mishap during a yoga practice? Well, last week I did! I took my first downward facing dog and couldn't figure out why there were lines running down both sides of both legs or why the material was raised along the seams. Then it struck me: My pants were on inside out! And with those seams so pronounced, there was no playing it off that my pants were expensive and just designed to look that way.
I considered running out of the yoga room for a quick change. To my relief, however, my shirt was long enough to cover the tag, so I stayed on my mat. Besides, I was doing yoga, not walking the catwalk. Who was really paying attention anyway? I knew the answer was a big fat NO ONE.
For the first half of class I beat myself up for being careless, irresponsible, and in too much of a hurry. This negative tape devolved quickly, sinisterly whispering, "You are a disgrace." Pretty harsh, right? I was aware that my reaction was out of proportion to my innocent mistake, but those deeply ingrained tapes that have had a field day for so long automatically kicked on.
With every breath and pose I tried to let go of the negativity. It was hard; I was distracted. And if I am completely honest, I was also intent on finding meaning in my wardrobe mishap. This has to mean something, doesn't it? I searched for profound meaning or an inspiring realization about "living from the inside out" or "coming apart at the seams." In the end, all I came up with was more forced cliche.
Days later my mind continued to loop back to the incident. Why couldn't I let it go? Why was I thinking about it so much? Then it dawned on me ... the incident DID mean something. The meaning was the truth that wearing my pants inside out meant or said nothing about me or who I am at all!
Here's the "aha" of it all: This incident meant nothing in the same way it means nothing at all if we can balance on one foot, stand on our head, or fold perfectly in half with straight legs. It meant nothing, just like the size of our jeans, the number on the scale, if we have poker straight or kinky curly hair, if we have freckles, are flat footed, or wear glasses ultimately means nothing.
All of these "perceived flaws" say or mean nothing about the depth of who we are, what we value, our capacity to love, how hard we fight our demons, or how loyal, kind, and genuine we are.
This rather silly experience showed me how habitual my negative tapes are, which is something I am committed to working on. The larger alarming issue, however, is the cultural habit to believe that things we perceive as flaws (especially anything related to our bodies or other valued markers of identity like grades, income, status) deserve self-inflicted discipline and punishment. Think about your relationship to your body. How do you identify with it? What self-diagnosed flaws do you berate yourself for? How much of your identity is wrapped up in trying to fix, hide, undo, and banish your perceived flaws?
I have one more question for you: Do your perceived flaws say or mean anything about the depth of who you are, what you value, your capacity to love, how hard you fight your demons, or how loyal, kind, and genuine you are? I encourage you to really take this question deep inside and let the answers bubble to the surface on their own time. You might be surprised by how much more there is to you than your perceived flaws. I would venture to say you are probably quite likeable and dynamic. Who else are you?
I admit, it's satisfying to have formed a conclusion about the meaning behind my wardrobe mishap. The work now is allowing my perceived flaws to fall away and to replace them with aspects of who I am at my core, those values and virtues that come through in my eyes and smile, my parenting and profession, and my relationships.
I guess you could say this is living from the inside out.