This past week, I took a class with one of my greatest teachers. This woman is one I've looked up to since the day I met. I was still a budding yogi, still just beginning to explore the world of yoga and still very much in the thick of my recovery. She, in the first year of Just Be being open, came to the studio to guest teach a class one Saturday morning. At the time Just Be didn't have very many teachers, and I remember wondering what she would be like, if I would like her class, what "kind" of teacher she was. I showed up completely unprepared for what a life changing experience each of her classes are.
The biggest thing I remember about taking that first class was having a smile on my face the entire time. Her creative flows and sequences meshed effortlessly with perfectly selected music and inspirational-but-not-cheesy words. It was during this class that I was assisted from wheel to standing for the first time, and I remember having no clue what was going on, but loving it all the same. I was completely in awe of this incredible teacher in front of me, and I had no idea that she would lead my teacher training a year later.
The class I took this week was no different than the first one in that it is far more than a class, it's an experience.
At the beginning of class, she had us create an "I Am" statement: I am enough. I am strong. I am powerful. I am kind. Anything that resonated with us. Throughout class she brought us back to this mantra, all the while bringing us through a masterfully sequenced flow that brought me to my edge over and over again. Just like the first class I had taken, I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time. As the class reached its peak (a wobbly one-armed, one-legged plank), and we collapsed into exhaustion on our mats, the room grew still and quiet, with only our breath softly filling the room.
It was in this stillness that she delivered a lesson that I clung onto me for the rest of the week: "Repetition leads to belief. Belief leads to deep conviction. Deep conviction leads to change."
I was taken back to the countless times I've been asked: How did you learn to love yourself?
Many, many young men and women have reached out to me over the past few years and asked me this question. How do I get better? How do I learn to be happy? How can I recover from my eating disorder/depression/anxiety/self-hatred? They've seen the growth I've made in my own vision of self-worth, and, perhaps desperately, come to me seeking a secret cure or method I may have tucked away somewhere.
Each time I tell them two things:
One, I love myself. Wholeheartedly, I do. I love myself far more than I ever have before and I love myself as I am today, yesterday, and tomorrow. But I'm not perfect, I'm not always completely confident in who I am, what I look like, or what I do. Just like everyone else, I still have self-deprecating thoughts, get down on myself from time to time, and sometimes struggle to be kind to myself. I don't want to give anyone the false impression that I'm somehow superhuman in the sense that I'm always glowing and happy and confident. Self-love and recovery are entirely possible, but there are certain realistic standards that come with it.
Two, the biggest thing I did was just pretend. I'm a big believer in Faking It to Become It: deciding to live the life of someone who loves themselves until it becomes your own natural routine. In order to be the person you want to be someday, you have to begin acting like that person today. A recovered person doesn't negatively self talk. A positive person doesn't berate themselves for their appearance or abilities. A loving person doesn't exude negativity to others. At first these changes in the way we behave feel unnatural, even fake, but the longer we force ourselves into these new habits the more they become our new natural state. We fake it until it isn't faking it anymore. We work until it becomes ease. We practice until it becomes life.
Laying on my mat, covered in sweat and in the bliss that is the time between the peak of a class and backbends, I realized that my teacher was putting my belief into words far more eloquently than I ever could.
Repetition leads to belief. Belief leads to deep conviction. Deep conviction leads to change. When we take on a mantra or a new habit, we must repeat it over and over in order for it to work its magic. Being kind and loving to yourself every once and awhile will do nothing if it is overwhelmed by years of sadness and self-hatred. Saying a mantra once or twice one day of the week will hold no power. The more we repeat it, the action or the words, the more we are able to believe that we are worthy and capable of it. And the longer we believe this, the more it becomes a part of who we are- it becomes a deep conviction within us that is an unshakeable foundation of ourselves. And this is where the change lies.
Our lives change when we believe we are worthy of more. Our lives change when we see what we are capable of. We fake it until it is not faking it anymore: it is a belief that we hold that changes the way that we live, the way that we operate, the way we see ourselves. It takes time, dedication, and, most importantly, repetition.
That's why my advice to those seeking self love will always be to just begin. Act like someone who loves themselves and you will become it. Look yourself in the mirror and compliment yourself, the way you would a loved one. Actively delete negative self-talk from your mind. Practice self-care in the forms of good food, exercise, and rest the way you would encourage others you care about to do the same. At first it will feel fake, forced, and maybe even pointless. That's okay. Repeat these actions over and over until they become your life.
Find your "I Am" statement. Who do you want to be? What life do you want to live? The beauty in this process is that you can be anything you want to be. You can be powerful. You can be loving. You can be peaceful. Your statement doesn't, and even shouldn't, be something you already believe about yourself. It is something that you are pulling into reality, something you are manifesting in your life and something you want to change in the way that you currently live.
You can be anything you want to be. It is simply a process of faking it until it becomes truth.
Repetition leads to belief. Belief leads to deep conviction. Deep conviction leads to change.