There Are No Mean People.

Via Amy Taylor
on Sep 14, 2012
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The recent article about mean girls in yoga resonated deeply with some people I know; they shared the article widely and one said it helped explain why she no longer taught at a studio.

I appreciated the way the author advocated for kindness…but I was puzzled.

Who are these mean girls and why haven’t I noticed them stinking up the yoga studios I frequent?

And what does it mean to be mean, anyway? Is this an issue of personality or group dynamics? Transient behavior or true character definition?

Let’s get to the heart of it.

Here are two sheets of paper; one labeled ‘Nice’ and the other ‘Mean’. So, which are you?

Anyone willing to sign the ‘Mean’ sheet?

Most people would probably add my name to the first list—but there are a few who would put it on the other, so I guess I better sign both.

Yes, there are people who do mean things, usually people who have some growing up to do (meaning they are still breathing). But I submit to you that there are no mean people—only people who haven’t found a better way to deal with the particular crap on their plates yet.

We don’t know what that crap is and we don’t want to know. So, it’s easier to point and label.

It’s natural to get defensive and divisive when you feel snubbed. Friends and strangers have launched wars against me for reasons that seemed silly. I usually go through the whole Kubler-Ross cycle of emotions before realizing that such behavior typically reflects someone else’s suffering.

I can only take responsibility for my mistakes, learn and go forth.

  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been blessed with some real growth opportunities this year. Dark, shameful pockets have been emptied out in front of the world; it’s been horribly hard but the hidden gift is that I’m a whole layer closer to real than I was before. That’s how I know I’m not a mean girl, despite what you might have heard.

And neither are you…well, except when we are, right?

Critical people typically criticize themselves most harshly. Sororities are filled with insecure young women trying to find identity through inclusion—group dynamics cause people to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

But, even as adults, we don’t always act as we know we should; we get irritable, insecure and itchy in our skin—our heads throb with stress, our bodies ache—and we shut down.

Some of us get snippy with loved ones. Others take it out on the stranger on the next mat who’s in our psychic space.

That’s why we go to yoga; we practice because, afterwards, our fuses are longer and our psychic space has expanded.

Those girls who seem mean? Whether it’s a mental health issue or just an attempt to boost self-esteem through gossip and group alliance, these women probably really need that practice.

Isn’t it great that they are there, trying to work on themselves, rather than out clawing people on the streets?

So, how should we respond when meanness wafts our way?

As usual, love is the answer.

(I love to chew on the Merton quote that’s shared here.)

You can hate the hateful.

Or, you can try to love the insecure child shivering within the diva—and have a shot at transforming both of you.




Editor: Bryonie Wise

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About Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor writes about parenting, yoga and other journeys for, GaiamTV, elephant journal and others. Find her biweekly columns here. She completed 200-hour YTT at CITYOGA in Indianapolis in 2008 and teaches classes for all ages at  Community Yoga. When she's not writing or practicing yoga, Amy loves to read, research and have adventures with her husband and twin sons. Follow her on Twitter.


13 Responses to “There Are No Mean People.”

  1. Amy says:

    I have to confess that, right after I submitted this piece, I started noticing mean people–yes, in yoga studios! I still hold to my belief that we're all too complex to be defined by such labels but now have to admit that the epidemic exists and probably deserves focused attention, but more importantly, healing.

  2. coco says:

    Honest post, thank you. I am going to ask what to do when right after a hot yoga class coming out and being blocked by a deeply involved yoga student texting furiously standing right in front of the personal 'cubbies'? What about the really badly skilled poorly prepared substitute? What about the person who impatiently rides your car bumper as you squeeze your car into a parking place .. she gets by and then you are in class together? And after class seeing that the owner of a giant SUV which took 1 2/3 parking spaces.. was the person on the mat in front of you? Shower hogs after a noon class downtown- when there were 20 in class and only 2 showers?

    I had some difficulty with the Mean Girls article.. as the lululemon gang can be a litle loud talking entering a studio.. opions wafting through a small studio entryway.. and the author is a lulu amba, but not likely a loud opionated person.

    As I read your article I had the above scenarios coem up.. I appreciate you rcomment.

  3. Heather says:

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

    ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

    While I love quotes…and have a record of many of them I also always feel like they never probably tell you HOW to get the point they obviously are in having written them! The road to not feeling bad by others…and their behavior is long, hard and real for each person……and often it is a path untravelled since each person has to discover for themselves how to heal.

    Still, I hope you don't let the mean people around you affect you now….:-)


  4. Anonymous says:

    True Story: There is a teacher in a studio where I used to teach that has been overheard saying: "That student is a Groupon student. I am not going to give them modifications or assist them in poses." That to me is 1. completely unprofessional 2. mean-spirited and 3. why are you a teacher if you do not want to "teach"? And that attitude overlays to other teachers and how she treats them. "Oh, you only 3 students in your class Friday, well, maybe you should rethink teaching yoga." I mean seriously…what is the point of having that kind of attitude in the world ESPECIALLY when you have been taught and continue to educate yourself on the yogic path. You have to wonder if that person is truly "mean" or has other issues yet to be determined. I personally do not feel that kind of teacher should be in any yoga studio because it hurts students, other teachers and the practice – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. There's enough unkindness and hate in the world…the yoga studio and yoga class room is one place that should be free of that. Which is why I decided to teach privately in parks, my home, others homes and anywhere really I can find to teach yoga and the philosophy of yoga.

    Saying all that, I very much appreciate your insight and writing this article. It was right up my ally. 😉

    And sorry to post anonymously but I do not want to deal with any form of retaliation for sharing my view, this teacher's comments and things I have seen.

  5. Amy says:

    I appreciate these comments. I expected some push back (no one has mentioned Hitler yet!) but was honestly stunend to see the own issue arise in my life in the wake of my idealitsic writing. I guess the next question is how do you help the person perpetuating the negative energy as well as those affected by it and then how do you establish a climate with mores acceptable to and comfortable for the majority? I wonder how many studio owners establish standards for how clients should be treated and are able to monitor those successfully…

    Driving is a great example of a place many of us behave badly but still get anrgy at others for doing it. Great place to practice all that spiritual growth we're working on, I guess. And, yeah, if I could only figure out how to implant a good quote into my psyche deep enough to take root!

    Thanks again for weighing in.

  6. thirtydaysofyoga says:

    I like this article, thank you, it is great to have that other perspective.

    I've been reading the mean girl articles and similar with interest. It seems to be that yoga is viewed by some yogis and some people who haven't yet found yoga (because there are only two groups, right? ;O) as something to place on a pedestal; it really shouldn't be there. Yoga is truly for everyone and is something to be practised, not something to place all your expectations on to. It isn't tangible, like a suitcase, it can't hold the load! I don't really think anything could.

    Yoga does not have any more or any less mean peeps than any other group; we're all just a bunch of people trying to gain a better understanding. Some people have a long way to go, sure but, like you said in your article, I would much rather have them standing next to me, a yogi who can definitely take it and maybe even help because my feelings won't get hurt by someone else's pain lashing out.

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, thirtydays. I will be continuing to think and talk about how we can create healthy environments for yoga practice in which sensitive souls feel safe and rough edges can be smoothed and nobody leaves feeling any more or less valued than another person. I know yoga practice in community can be this way; I've been fortunate to be a part of that many times. I guess, in the end, it comes down to each one of us standing in our truth and striving to treat one another as we wish to be treated. Simple yet somehow so hard to practice in daily life! Namaste.

  8. Mariucc says:

    Something similar happens to me – as soon as I feel like I addressed or "let go" of some issue I am dealing with – there it is, in my face, maybe stronger than ever. I feel like it's the Universe, God, etc saying, "Yes I will help you really see and deal with this – by showing you how you are still responding to it in old ways" or something like that. If we truly self-reflect, feel and take responsibility of the anger, feelings of victimization or whatever, it does get better. There is always work to be done, but there is also healing.

  9. Amy says:

    Yes! It was good for me because I can be naive. It also challenges me to do more than just write about these issues but consider how I can actively work to promote the values of which I speak in my own backyard. That's the real work of becoming a person rather than a plant. Thank you for your comment!

  10. Erin Hart says:

    Oh, this is hilarious, given the fact that I practiced last night with a bunch of women who wouldn't meet my gaze or respond to my smile, who talked loudly and incessantly in the "quiet room" before and after practice (not during, thankfully), and generally drove me crazy at a time when I wanted to be sane. The guy who taught the class seemed loud and harsh. And of course, the "extra set of hands" teacher who was there to do adjustments grated on my last nerve, which is highly unusual.

    But I agree with Mariucc's comment about receiving the lesson of, "Oh yeah, you think you got that one handled? Think you know how to be serene when everyone else is rude? Hahaha, let me give you a new challenge." So I went back to the old teaching of, "Notice your breathing. Bring your awareness back to your body." And my fuse was infinitely longer at the end of practice than at the beginning. I could see the mean girls for who they were–people, just like you or me, trying to get through the best they know how.

  11. Amy says:

    So glad to hear that you were able to salvage your practice and tune out the negativity, Erin! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.