September 14, 2012

There Are No Mean People.

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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