"I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is ' Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle!" – Alice in Wonderland
I spent the last year and a half having a quiet identity crisis.
You couldn't tell by looking at me. And at the time, even I couldn’t tell. I thought that I knew myself better than the average person, having invested over 15 years of self-study, self-work and self-love. But when I moved to Seattle, I was no longer a "yoga studio owner" or a "wife" or even a "known" yoga instructor. Instead, I arrived freshly born and brand new. No fancy business card, no name recognition. I was pretty anonymous.
At first, I liked the anonymity.
But as I started teaching yoga again, I made the mistake of allowing the forces (people) around me to dictate who they wanted me to be. In my professional life, I was a baby again and with few exceptions, my insecurity of wanting to be liked had me choosing to make others’ opinions more important than my own.
I spent most of this time trying not to be too smart, or know too much, downplaying my expertise so as not to intimidate other teachers around me. I changed the sequencing of heart that is my path in teaching asana. I even got rid of the red streaks in my hair to fit in more. Little by little, I lost myself and my core identify suffered.
I accept full responsibility.
The clarity of hindsight shows me how often I pushed down my 6th chakra awareness and intuition. This led to great pain, because I no longer trusted myself. I could feel it physically; I didn’t feel as radiant as I used to. I retreated from old friends because I was so focused on finding my new friends.
As my identity got more convoluted, my boundaries weakened and I allowed myself to be bullied, lied about, pushed around, picked on and otherwise harassed by some in the local community. They projected fear onto me and I received it. The fear got so big that I started feeling sick in my body: I became emotionally heartsick and mentally foggy. This fear has a well-known name: Jealousy.
I moved around with hesitation. I responded with indecision to even the smallest choices. I became paralyzed by the fear of what others thought about me. It was consuming me alive.
I knew I needed healing.
When I went to Italy to lead my annual yoga retreat in Tuscany, I also planned a holiday post-trip. I spent time reconnecting with myself. I acknowledged and eradicated fear, self-doubt and jealousy. It was hard work. But in the end, I took my own advice:
"Don't play small. Stand up. Take charge. You are doing yourself and others a disservice by catering your actions towards how you think others will react. Instead, just be yourself, exactly as you are. When you are simply being yourself, you will attract everything that is in alignment with who you truly are. You will be shocked to see who drops away.
Their absence will leave a space for new and amazing relationships to enter your life. Just be you, and let everyone else do what they may. You are not what others believe you to be, you are what you know you are and nothing else. Just be.
You will be rewarded for your courage with a life that reflects your true essence, instead of an invented identity created to please others."
I have returned to my life once more, confident in answering the question Alice in Wonderland asks, "Who in the world am I?"
My identity is my own, just as your identity is yours. My intention for you is that you may learn from my struggles without having to suffer like I did. May you allow the yoga to help you discover who you really are. Love yourself, love your day, love your life.