I’m here to be unpopular.
I was listening to wFUV the other morning on my drive to go teach. On this particular morning, the DJ was talking about “Artists Who Had Strayed From Their Sweet Spots”. These were alternative folk and rock singers who had gone a little too far left of center—experimented a little too far into somewhere their audience couldn’t follow.
As an example, she played a track from Bob Dylan’s last record: a Christmas Album. I personally believe that once an artist produces a Christmas album they are officially bone dry on inspiration, but to each his own. I also later found out Dylan made it for his Grandkids.
After 30 seconds the DJ stopped playing the track “for fear of pissing us all off”, but mentioned another track from Bob Dylan that was once considered out of Dylan’s “sweet spot”, which had pissed a lot of people off when it was released, but that had changed the course of musical history: Like a Rolling Stone.
Dylan wasn’t very well liked for changing direction and trying to get people to come along with him. Initially, he wasn’t very popular and he sure as shit pissed a whole truck load of people off—often. But dylan had something to say, and he didn’t really care if people didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with his truth.
He wasn’t interested in being a beloved house-hold name, in fact he outright rejected becoming like everyone else. He was interested in speaking his truth. Sometimes when we exist in that sweet spot we effortlessly channel our craft, we flow with our voices, we create something to give back to the world and everything is in sync. Sometimes our truth leads us to step out of that sweet spot to create something. Sometimes we need to take a risk to use our words and actions honestly.
Back in high school, I’ll willingly admit I was not the most popular girl at school.
By “I was not the most popular”, I mean I was the nerdiest, most rebellious, completely below the radar, punk-rock loving, dog-chain wearing, gender bending closeted freak you can imagine. Whether it’s because I organically never fit in or whether its a result of my not fitting in that I rejected it, the world may never know.
I specifically remember a catalytic moment in 3rd grade. I was befriended by the most popular girl in school, Ashley (not her real name), and I realized she was taking my unicorn pencils without my asking. She was having a pool party and wasn’t inviting my other friends because they were “smelly”. To top it all off, I told her a secret and she had directly gone and told everyone in class. I walked up to Ms. Thang, and in a rare moment of asserting myself and breaking out of my shyness that I wouldn’t rediscover until middle school, I told Ashley to shove it, and to give me my unicorn pencils back. Actually, what I think I actually said was: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!”, but to me it felt like the former.
It was in that moment I realized that there was a structure to the kids around me, mostly revolving around privilege, money, looks and meanness.
Once I realized that, I also realized I had no desire to participate in what I would later learned was essentially being “popular”. This rejection of the social norm continued for most of my life. Here and there, there was an attempt or two to homogenize myself, to neglect my own truth and try to become part of the popular crowd.
These attempts mostly ended in failure. When the group realized something was up, I was traitor in their midst. I always had something dissenting to say, or wore the wrong thing, or wanted to do something that seemed below them. Eventually I gave up trying.
I just didn’t dig perpetuating the same cycle of fake friendliness, cruelty and pretending to be ways I wasn’t.
Now, I understand that this is my “story”. At some junctures in my life it made me feel bad about myself. The unhappiness of trying to be well-liked, beloved and good looking combined with the fear of losing all of that made me do some wretched things. Most of all, it made me rot inside, like a pretty candy apple with worms in the middle, glossy and bereft of nutrition. But I also understand that we create meaning in our lives in whatever way we choose, and I chose this story, so I’m living it out.
Part of living that story was learning how to speak truth, even if that did make me really unpopular.
Things that aren’t pretty make people uncomfortable and the truth isn’t usually very pretty. I’ve gotten pretty well versed on that kind of truth—on calling myself out on my bullshit—and calling other people out too. I realize sometimes that’s going to make people angry. I realize sometimes its going to initially hurt people’s feelings.
Of course I also see that the greater good comes from living truthfully, from walking truthfully, from speaking truthfully. I know that whoever receives it, will eventually be better for it. Although it all depends on how you receive it.
So let me take the first step, and offer some unpopular opinions right here and right now. How have so many of us gotten so far from our sweet spot, but without using that exploration as a vehicle for truth? Riding around, doing our thing, ignoring the the minor “stuff” that bothers us or those nagging thoughts that we don’t want to deal with; going our way, and without contributing anything useful to the world? How have we lost focus on creating change, on speaking truth, on being radical, just for the sake of being well-liked and popular?
Lately, I see yoga becoming a lot more a more like being back in high school.
Instead of creating change, instead of making ourselves and our students more aware so that we can shift the greater consciousness of the world, we’ve become a homogenized group of flexible cheerleaders for detoxing, creating good vibes and doing perfect handstands.
Is it because we want to all be well liked without rocking the boat? Is it because we’d rather have things be pretty, than be honest? Where is the dissenting voice promoting the use of our power, strength, awareness, compassion and consciousness for petitioning the U.N., for creating equal and fair legislation for all of our citizens, for spending our bucks on fair trade small businesses instead of hundred dollar yoga pants made with petroleum?
Where are the teachers teaching real world lessons, creating mobilized empowered students, instead of preaching about tenets of yoga while they pay lip service to actually working towards substantial change of creating a better world?
I know pointing this stuff out is going to piss people off. That can happen when you speak your truth. I’m also not saying that there aren’t any teachers and students doing these things. There are those who are do amazingly beneficial work, but wow are they are far and few between.
All of this yoga “stuff” we do is not just for a hot bod. It’s not to feel holy and then just sit in our holiness. Its not to teach classes geared towards making everything look pretty and nice. We practice to create awareness, to kill unconsciousness and to use that to create change. This change cannot just be within ourselves, on our mats, in our cute outfits and awesome facebook pictures. We have to remember that we are part of a greater whole, a whole that still suffers.
So I’m ready to make people angry, if its to tell a greater truth and to live that with my actions. A good friend once reminded me, “We lead with the way we live”. Ok then. I’ll move out of my sweet spot. Even if it means being unpopular.
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Bec Gathmann bio: dance party in human form. loves glitter. nicknamed: Sass. yoga teacher by day, caped crusader by night. writes stuff sometimes; big mouthed rebel at heart. find her here: http://www.facebook.com/Yoga.Rebels and here: http://www.yogarebellion.com/
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan