If you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve started putting myself out there more by growing my business, launching my Yoga for Digestion program, and posting Sampler Videos on YouTube. (Have you seen them? They’re pretty cool!). It’s full speed ahead around here these days.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone takes courage, but there’s nothing more gratifying than being able to do the work I am passionate about. It’s like a tickle I can’t get away from, making me deliriously happy and giddy all at the same time. I want more.
Every time I’ve moved myself in to a new step in my career, first teaching yoga classes, then my blog, then privates, then workshops, then teacher trainings, etc., I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and take the plunge into the great unknown. This work—this passion to serve—has, and will always be, the driving force behind what I do. It’s not always perfect, but I don’t pretend that it is. It is my goal to share and educate based on my own experience studying and living my yoga practice.
So, what happens when you put yourself out there and someone doesn’t like it? Believe it or not, I’ve dealt with my fair share of criticism over the years. Sometimes it’s from people I don’t know and sometimes it’s from the students I cherish teaching. Constructive criticism is one thing, but there are times when people’s words have cut straight through my heart.
How do you continue to serve when someone’s tried to knock you down?
Here are my top 10 ways your yoga practice can help you deal with negative feedback and get you back on track.
Surround Yourself with Love
I have the most amazing, rock solid support group in the form of friends, colleagues, family members and students. When my resources are low, I reach out to them for a a) reality check and b) encouragement. The people that love you most will always be there for you, no matter what. And, they want to support you and surround you with love. Let them do their job and ask for their support. It’s an amazing experience for both of you.
First, remember that one person’s opinion of you doesn’t define you as a person. Second, when the going gets tough, I choose to let my emotions ride, rather than trying to explain it all away with spiritual bypassing. Though I may be reeling, I know down deep that “this too shall pass,” “everything is perfect,” and “I’m more than this body and mind, I am an eternal soul,” but there’s one more thing…I’m also human.
Students often forget that their teachers are humans. I don’t claim to be perfect, but I’ve come to learn that students put their teachers on the pedestals of perfection regardless. In my effort to share my experiences through my teaching, my humanity often comes through and that can be quite shocking to some people. I know mentioning that I enjoy a glass of wine now and then and accidentally using a swear word in class have made some student’s jaws dropped. I’m just as human as you are. Remember? I am you, you are me?
Yoga is Not Always Pretty
News flash: when practicing yoga, it may not always be pretty. And I’m not talking about the weird shapes you make with your body. I’m talking about the stuff it dredges up and forces you to confront. Seane Corn says (and I’m paraphrasing here) “as the light gets lighter, the dark gets darker.” Meaning, the more you turn yourself towards the light of the Self, the uglier the darker parts become. It can be quite frightening.
The more I practice, the more I know that the teachings are not there to help me only when I’m feeling good, but also to help me when I’m feeling like I’m stuck to the bottom of the ocean floor. Yoga teaches us to find equanimity in all experiences. As my good friend and teacher Kathy Judd shared with me “of course we always want to be loved and appreciated, but part of this path as you know, is to not get too high by the good reviews or too deflated by the bad ones.” Right on cowgirl!!
Embrace More of Me
I try to take situations where I’m faced with naysayers as an opportunity to reflect. What is it about this situation that is making me react this way? When I stop to reflect, I find that I need to start embracing more of me. That’s hard to do, but if you can truly embrace and accept yourself, then who cares what people think.
In the past when I’ve reflected on these situations a lot of lights went off. Words like intense, committed, disciplined, funny, lighthearted, caring, honesty, passionate, organized, and strong were bounced around. At first hearing that I was intense made my toes curl. But after deep introspection, I guess it’s true. Being intense isn’t a bad thing. If I wasn’t intense, I wouldn’t have the drive to stick with my practice, nor would I be as passionate about what I do; learning to curb that intensity is another thing. I choose to embrace all of who I am as a teacher, business woman, mom, friend, wife, etc. including the not-so-good as well as the glowy, feel good parts.
I’ve written about this before. It’s true, I’m sensitive. But being sensitive isn’t a bad thing. For me, it’s a gift and what allows me to be a good teacher. My sensitivity helps me to tap in to my intuition, creativity, and objectivity. I’m always working on ways to protect myself from being too deeply hurt. Sometimes I accidentally leave my guard down. That’s okay though because….
Let it Fall Apart and Watch Yourself Grow
It all happens for a reason. I often realize that I have been trying so hard to keep everything together that it needs to fall apart. Dealing with negative feedback and criticism is a wake-up call and an opportunity to grow. When it falls apart, then I can rebuild and put it back together again. There is always more work to be done, but if this is part of the process, then thank you very much for your unkind words!
Which leads me to the next….
My teacher Sri Dharma always has the most amazing insight. That’s why he’s the master teacher. I always think of him and his teachings on Karma. He says “if you knew the laws of Karma, you would become content immediately, no more complaints.” What he means by this is that everything that happens to us during this lifetime is a cause of previous Karma either done recently or in previous lives. Perhaps in another life I said something unkind to someone, well…there’s my Karma payback. Instead of getting upset, I choose to thank the critic for allowing me to move through this Karma and get closer to Self-realization. The path again is not always pretty, but it’s how you navigate that matters. Gratitude, I find, always makes the best travel buddy.
While I may receive a negative comment here or there, I am constantly showered by positive feedback all the time. Rather than spending all my energy lost in the words of one person, I choose to focus on the multitudes of other people that get me and what I have to share with the world.
Forgive and Forget
Listen, it’s just not healthy to harbor bad feelings towards anyone and honestly, the only person that suffers is YOU. I can speak to this from first-hand experience as situations where I’ve felt resentful or upset with something someone has done or said to me has directly impacted my health. Why let anyone take your health and happiness away from you? In fact, why give your power to someone in that way? It makes no sense. Best to forgive, forget and move on. Remember that ultimately everyone is doing their best with where they are at on their path.
Forgiveness is a constant practice and hard work, but it can radically change and heal your life (more on that to come). The tools and teachings I’ve gained from a grounded practice helps me in this process. Which leads me to my final thought…
Remember the Teachings
When times get tough, I go back to the teachings. From deep breathing, to mindfulness of thoughts and emotions, to study of the Yoga Sutras and the Four Keys to Happiness. Yoga gives you the tools to navigate life in order to maintain evenness in all situations. Keeping a calm mind helps you rise above the criticism and feel compassion for others.
There are so many ways to deal with difficult situations. These are just a few. How do you deal with naysayers and critics? What yogic teaching do you rely on the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s support each other!