Who do you think you are?
No, really. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror.
Take note of the deepening lines around your eyes and the soft sag settling around your jawline. Notice the thick, rebellious gray hairs that refuse to be tamed by your drugstore dye job.
Look deeply into your own eyes and remember the person you wanted to be. You had so much hope and brunette hair back in your 20s. What happened to you? Weren’t you the girl who wanted to be… (choose your own adventure here)? Here you are in your 30s and you have become what you most feared.
No, not a Republican.
You’ve become a fraud. Even with all your best intentions, you’ve become the John Friend of your own life story. You’re just waiting for someone to bust you.
You are just like my friend Amanda. She was a little girl who loved bossing people around. Adults, children her own age, dogs, it didn’t matter. She ran a tight a ship at school and at home. Nobody could accuse this girl of lacking confidence.
As an adult she managed several successful restaurants and was praised by her co-workers. She was smart, efficient and hardworking. She got married and became a stay-at-home mother. This was a new role and one that she was anxious about. She is sane, after all. She seemed to handle it well. Not perfectly. She is a real person, after all.
“I think I messed him up,”she said. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I feel like a failure, and I’m so ashamed.”
This from the woman who could put a scrapbook together, diaper two babies, put the finishing touches on a caramel pound cake, and tame an overgrown backyard simultaneously. Her son had been acting unruly lately as four-year-old boys are required by law to do. This phase threw her into a frenzy of self-doubt and shame that no phone call or Harry and David gift basket (chocolate truffles have been known to cure depression) could stop. As much as she tried to be a good mother, she feared that she had become a fraud.
Then there’s Beth.
You think you’re a fraud? This girl thinks she has the right to be a college professor. Not only that, but she is under the misguided notion that she’s writer. A good one. There is strong evidence to support these insane ideas. I mean, she does have two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. She was the smartest girl in every classroom, and I should know. I envied her through two writing workshops and a computer science class (which I only passed because of her help).
When Beth looks in the mirror, though, she doesn’t see those accomplishments. She sees a person who is over 30 and hasn’t published a novel or found a man who loves her or lost those extra pounds or traveled to Europe. A woman who can’t even get her cats to poop in the litter box like they’re supposed to.
She recently received amazing feedback from a faculty member who observed her class. They recognized her talent as a teacher. She recognizes herself daily as a complete and total fraud.
Then there’s me, a.k.a. the biggest fraud that ever existed.
I somehow wormed my way into an ashram and got certified as a yoga instructor. I spent the next three years honing my craft in front of a class full of students, some doting, some filled with distrust. Even though I believed I was fat and uncoordinated, I stood in front of those classes and forgot myself. I taught those students with grace and confidence.
For my entire career as an instructor I’ve felt that my life was in shambles. I’ve never felt like a balanced, spiritually sound person. To be honest, I don’t know that I have any right to be in that position. Teaching, though, gives me faith in the goodness of the world. Makes me feel like I have a right to be in it.
Still, I fear, my downward dog is janky. Even Shiva Rea told me so. She didn’t use those words exactly. She actually just put her hand on my shoulder. But I knew what she meant.
All this yoga and meditation will teach you to distance yourself from your monkey mind and its sneaky ways. The mind will tell you that you’re a fraud. A good yogi will sit with this unafraid. A good yogi would know this is just the mind stuff and let it float on by with the rest of the chatter. A good yogi would know that cultivating happiness means adopting a new mantra.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be yourself and celebrate the victories that already exist in your own life? You can, I think. No, I know. Be honest with yourself. You’ve survived tremendous obstacles. You’re surrounded by people who love you in spite of your flaws and failures and the heaps of time you spend hating on yourself.
You aren’t a fraud, but you are very skilled at self-deception. Let your bulls**t go. Namaste.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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The 4 Stages of a Good Divorce. A Letter to my Children: You do not come from a Broken Home. These People are Rare Gems—Keep Them, Fight for Them, don’t Give Up on Them. Mom, can I Call her Mom, Too? Jon Stewart makes first appearance since retiring—”it’s not your country.” Waylon shares 10 transformingly beautiful Quotes about Love. 40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years. My Marriage had to End—for my Life to Begin. Why your Yoga Goals are (Probably) Irrelevant, if not Downright Dangerous. Dear Woman in the White Car at Margaritas Mexican Grill in West Memphis, Arkansas on July 15th, 2012.