I’m not joking you, I have literally had this ridiculous thought before. Maybe I don’t use the word spandex. Not only has this idea crossed my mind, but I’ve gone to the extent of spending an hour in lululemon trying on a variety of yoga apparel at $80+ a piece, only to ditch everything in the change room and rush out of the store in a fluster as my thinking shifts to “what the hell am I doing? I already have tons of spandex!” (again, maybe I don’t use the word spandex… I just think it’s funny because that’s what they are: fancy, expensive spandex).
Brené Brown is a writer and research professor at the University of Houston – Graduate College of Social Work. She writes, researches and gives talks on wholehearted living and its relationship to topics such as authenticity, shame, vulnerability, and courage. I’m giving a silly example of my weird neurotic thoughts of purchasing something material to make me feel more worthy, competent, and credible as a yoga teacher, but trust me when I say I have much deeper examples that come down to the same idea of sacrificing my authenticity at times for the approval and acceptance of others. I think we all do it to some degree in our own ways.
The thing is, when we choose being liked over being real, we tend to feel small and depleted. Yoga pants (or whatever it is for you) have nothing to do with who we are – they may just make us look good… Spandexy pants certainly have nothing to do with how I teach yoga. Yet, the association is still there and fueled by our individualistic, consumerist culture. I know that and you know that. That’s why I rushed out in a total frenzy and gasped for air once I hit the pavement outside the store. It is in our nature to cling to this need to fit in at times in our life. I would like to distinguish fitting in, however, from the notion of belonging. Fitting in involves effort and is driven by a mistaken belief that belonging is about being liked. Belonging comes from feeling connected to ourselves and others on the sheer merit of being who we truly are – with all of our idiosyncracies intact. Belonging is a need. Trying to fit in only creeps up on us when that need for belonging is not being met (or when we perceive that the need is not being met).
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of who You Think You are supposed to Be and Embracing who You Are, Brown jokes about how we should be born with a warning label that states “Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief”.
You can learn more about Brené’s work through her most recent Tedtalks:
Believing that we are whole and complete just the way we are takes tremendous courage. No one actually cares what spandex you wear.