On Self-Doubt

As a child, I was bold.

Behold, the mullet.

I rocked a mullet happily, insisted on wearing only twirly dresses (because then, duh, I could show off my twirl), and had no qualms about asking my mom to stop in the middle of a busy shopping mall so that I could “breastfeed” my doll.  Cough, let’s forget I ever mentioned that.

Hey, that's a great dress.

Hey, that’s a great dress.

Indeed, one time, I even boldy decided that I’d had enough of my Catholic school uniform ( a plaid jumper, Peter Pan colored shirt).

My uniform…and my brothers

My uniform…and my brothers

So, that day in second grade, I donned my favorite twirly dress, borrowed one of my mom’s full-length rain slickers (it had shoulder pads, by the way), and came down to breakfast with my secret fully hidden underneath the coat. I have no idea why my mom didn’t question my attire. However, I made it safely to the St. Robert School drop off, where I whipped off my mom’s rain coat with a flourish, skipped into the building, and showed off my twirly dress to everyone in Mrs. Cain’s class. (By 8:30 in the morning, of course, I was called to the principal’s office and forced to wear a uniform dress from lost and found. It smelled like the fake syrup we’d get on french toast sticks day.)

Nowadays, I’m ostensibly bold.

sunglasses…and my friend's adorable (now three year old!) daughter

sunglasses…and my friend’s adorable (now three year old!) daughter

I wear big sunglasses, and I still favor twirly dresses in brash colors.

I’ve moved cross country at least four times, to locations both known and unknown by me previously to having moved there.

I’ve asked out just about every boyfriend I’ve ever had, including the man who is now my husband.

I booked my wedding venue the day after I got engaged, having never seen it before and only having visited Hood River, OR once. I booked the caterer without tasting a lick of the food and ordered several cases of wine I had never sipped. Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t boldness so much as it was SHEER OVERWHELMING EXCITEMENT about getting married to the best person in the whole entire world.

the best person in the world

the best person in the world

I act in plays and and have been known to break out into simultaneous song. Road trips with me are painful as I narrate the journey in  “psalm speak” (like in Church) or in an uproarious melody a la High School Musical.

I am a crazy dancer.

dancing

dancing

dancing at my wedding...

dancing at my wedding…

bringing back the chicken dance

bringing back the chicken dance

This year, I left a stable teaching job and moved to Hood River, OR, where I enrolled, on a whim, in a yoga teacher training that turned out to be simply amazing and challenging and heart-breaking and heart-making.

Like I said, I’m seemingly audacious.

And yet…I am often consumed by self-doubt. Indeed, the amount of time I spend obsessing about various scenarios in which I’m somehow not good enough is alarming and not all together healthy. I angst – angst – over everything from small interactions with a  barista at a coffee shop (like, “Oh my gosh, I forgot to say ‘thank you,’ and now that person is going to think I’m a total jerk. Would I be weird if I walked back in and said thank you? Or would that be nice? Should I do it? No, that’d be awkward, but I’m going to write myself a note for next time.”) to big, impactful real life questions about whether or not I’m smart enough to go to graduate school, interesting enough to interview for a job, or strong enough to let go of a career I know isn’t suiting me. All this comes from — what? Maybe the idea that if I’m anything less than perfect that I’ll have failed. That I’m not worthy just as I am. And sometimes I even indulge this neurotic, self-obsession, thinking it’s cute in that Liz Lemon, Elaine Benes, Mindy kind of way. 

But it’s not cute; it’s maladaptive at worst and a time suck at best. Last Wednesday evening, for example, I had a meltdown, a full-on, shame spiral of “What if I’m not good enoughs?” kind of unravelling. It was the night before I was to teach my first hot yoga class at the studio where I’ve been practicing in Hood River, and rather than settle into a good night’s sleep, I subjected myself (and my poor, bystanding husband) to all sorts of self-doubting questions: What if I forget the sequence? What if everyone thinks I’m too fat to teach yoga? What if everyone’s more flexible than I am? What if I forget my key and can’t get into the studio? What if I oversleep and miss the class?” And then the heart of the matter, “What if everyone thinks I’m not good enough?”

Like other “bold” decisions I’ve made, it wasn’t the idea (here, of teaching yoga)  that was scary to me (in fact, I was dying to teach the class! I had practically begged for the opportunity.), it was the potential encounter with judgment and failure that might present itself on the other side of things. It was at this point that Jared turned to me and said, “Listen, you’re going to be bigger than some teachers and smaller than others, more flexible than some people and less flexible than others. That isn’t what yoga is about. It’s not about being perfect. You can either let this fear eat away at you or know that you can simply do your best and trust that that will be okay.”  It was in that moment that I decided once again that I wouldn’t let fear derail me, and the philosophical idea that “I am worthy just as I am” solidified into a practical approach. So, the next morning, I got up (on time) and taught my first hot yoga class to a group of wonderful human beings at the ripe hour of 6 am. And it was just great.

I’ve read a lot Brene Brown’s work recently, and I know deeply – not just understand philosophically – that there’s something essential about being “bold,” about allowing our most vulnerable selves to be seen. Indeed, Brown** insists that vulnerability is the thing that makes us, saying, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” She is absolutely right. Yes, I was scared about showing up, about making myself vulnerable to judgment and failure, but if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have experienced the joy of teaching yoga, of connecting with others on a mat in a dark, warm room on a rainy morning in Hood River.

And the class wasn’t “perfect,” by the way, but it was good enough just as it was…despite the fact that the only scenario I hadn’t bothered to worry about came to fruition. I taught the entire class with my pants inside out. And I had a grand ol’ time in spite of myself.

**If you haven’t seen her Ted Talk, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

9 responses

  1. This was the very best sentence: “It wasn’t the idea that was scary to me. It was the potential encounter with judgment and failure that might present itself on the other side of things.” AHA! I’d never thought about that before in my life: being thrilled and excited to do something, but walking because of the potential judgement that might come with it. You made me realize: I would be the one feeling the excitement, and the other people would be feeling the judgement (if they were judging at all!) A+, no matter how you wore those pants!

  2. Just wonderful! I often think of things you shared during our teacher training program, how your voice changes when you’re nervous, and the funny squint half smile- half sticking tongue out face when you’re brave enough to laugh at yourself. (Not hitting on you, not that I wouldn’t hit on you.)

    But truth is, when one lives as fully as you do,it is only natural to be overwhelmed with all the beauty you create, enjoy, and inspire. I want to join this book club!
    Also I am going to wanderlust, you?

  3. Pingback: Book Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale « The Ladies' Gluten-free Book Club

  4. Sarah! So fun to read your lovely writing and hear more about what you are up to. Maybe you should consider another move cross-country (at least partway) back to CO. We miss you! xo

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