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The Preemptive Strike: Putting Ourselves Down Before Anyone Else Can

Yoga | Yoga for Beginners

“I haven’t done yoga since before I had my first. I was way thinner and a lot more flexible.” “At least you’re losing weight. I’ve gained all of mine back!”

As I sit on my mat, greeting new practitioners (combating my own nerves because I’m a brand new teacher), I silently listen to the defeating self-dialogue that already tells a story of failure.

I want to tell these women to stop talking about themselves so negatively. They are mothers with busy lives, yet they are carving out time for a yoga class. I want to tell them that their efforts are self-loving and self-focused. I say nothing.

The Habit of Preemptive Self-Strike

I check in with myself thinking of my own habits and I see myself in them. I think about how to stop myself from preemptively putting myself down before I even begin something new.

We often tell ourselves stories of not being good enough, or of somehow failing before we even embark on a new endeavor. We may even tell others this story of failure, putting ourselves down so that it will somehow cushion the fall (if we do fail) because we’ve shown that we expected this outcome.

This is a preemptive strike; a coping mechanism so that we don’t have to feel like a failure if the outcome of our efforts is not perfect.

The following week, I found myself using this exact strategy.

I taught a free demo class at a new studio that was considering hiring me. I stumbled on a few words during my dialogue, but mostly the class went well.

After class, a few women complimented me, expressed that they would love to try yoga again, and they asked if I would be back. I graciously thanked them, but plugged right into a few women who didn’t say anything as they quietly rolled up their mats.

I was sure to tell them that I was nervous and that I am a new teacher. As I was saying this, I realized what I was doing was not serving me at all.

Being Brand New at Anything Is Hard

We are not only stepping out of our comfort zone, but we are in a strange new neighborhood with no navigation system. The only way out is to make our way through.

I have just begun teaching yoga to mostly new practitioners. As a new teacher, this is challenging. Being a yoga teacher is harder than one might think; trying to tame nerves while remembering dialogue, timing, being mindful of modifications to make space for brand new yogis who also want to feel confident and strong.

Changing perspectives is difficult. Going from student to teacher can be downright frightening. As I make my way through teaching, I check in with myself and each time I attempt a preemptive strike of negative self-talk, I am mindful of the following things.

1. Not Everyone is Going To Like You.

For a long time, my need to feel liked overshadowed my own personal needs. This can be draining and stressful. Releasing this need creates space for our own expansion.

Breathing deeply and allowing the reality that not everyone is going to approve or even like us is truly freeing. This is not easy if we have developed habits like the preemptive strike.

I have found that when I catch myself preemptively putting myself down, I take a deep breath and ask myself if this will serve me in any way. The answer is always the same.

2. Honesty Can Be Gentle.

Let’s face it, when we haven’t done our best, we know it! Self-honesty can be gentle, however. The negative spiral of dark thoughts about ourselves can be agonizing.

We swing from one negative trait to another until we are in a full throttle downward spiral of self-hate. We can, however, turn away from those automatic behaviors by staying focused on one area that we’d like to improve upon.

Focusing on one goal at a time can help us move forward. There’s no need to free-fall down that spiral staircase of reasons we’re not good enough. Gently accepting an area of struggle is far more self-loving than a general feeling of failure.

Transformation lies in small steps toward self-acceptance. – Nicole Markardt

3. Masking Self-Deprecating Behavior as “Being Real”

Authenticity has become an overused word as of late. In an attempt to be real, people often are actually preemptively striking in self-criticism.

Being open and honest in our journey as we share our humanity with others is a beautiful way to connect. Opening our hearts and allowing others to see our struggles is important—it fosters a deeper connection in our relationships.

This does not have to mean that we hyper-focus on our flaws and constantly bring them to light. We can celebrate our strengths while also being honest in our struggles. We can be real without descending to “safety” by preemptively striking ourselves down. That is not safe at all.

We are entering a danger zone of manifesting failure while depriving ourselves of the self-love that we all so deserve.

You can spend your life hoping that
when only you get rid of the fear,
when you are a little bit more enlightened,
when you have built up your self esteem,
then you will show up and give it all.

Or…you can get out of your own way,
make yourself available,
and bow down to the One who plays you.

~ Chameli Ardagh

Bow to the one who plays you.

Featured in New York Magazine, The Guardian, and The Washington Post
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