The fact that I do not want to teach yoga is a personal milestone, believe it or not. For me, it’s an indicator that I may be capable of moderation and gradual progression, after all. Let me explain.
First, I am a teacher by nature. Every time I have ever taken the Myers Briggs personality test, it comes out as ENFJ (“The Teacher”). My first impulse, once I feel competent in something, is to figure out how I can help others learn and master it, as well. That sounds really admirable, perhaps, until you take into consideration the other side of the same coin. If I am not feeling competent about something, I typically give up on it entirely and relegate it to the category of “things I cannot do,” let alone teach.
“This is not a character trait that I particularly admire in myself, even as I recognize it.”
In general, when I try something new, I have one of two responses to it: (A) “I stink at this, let me never try it again!” or (B) “I can see myself being so good at this that I could teach/lead it. As a matter of fact, I should!” And then…I do. That’s it. All or nothing.
- Wasn’t good at tennis the first time I tried. I haven’t picked up a racket since.
- Was good at aerobics when I tried. Became a fitness instructor in short time.
- Wasn’t good at math. Shun it as much and as often as possible.
- Was good at writing. Became a creative writing instructor & instructor of instructors.
I consider myself either the worst at something or I will work to quickly become one of the best at it, almost always hinging on my experience with my earliest tries. This is not a character trait that I particularly admire in myself, even as I recognize it. It’s stunning how quickly my brain leaps from “I’m just a novice trying this out” to either “Nope. This totally isn’t for me” or else “Get out of the way and let ME teach this.”
Recognizing my all-or-nothingness, I have long desired to cultivate in myself the ability to do something “well enough” and be OK with that. To be OK with growing in steady, if modest, increments, rather than in leaps and bounds. To not feel the need to become one of the best – a leader – in it, yet to keep at it and not give up, either. To just practice.
I don’t think I’m alone in my quest to master moderation (yes I do get the irony of that sentence), so I thought I might write a blog post about it on the hunch that some reader might go, “Oh yeah…I get that. Me too!” Moderation is hard work for some of us.
“I don’t think I’m alone in my quest to master moderation. Moderation is hard work for some of us.”
Though the word addiction is riddled with connotations that make people think of drugs, alcohol, and sex — the sort of obsessions that can wreck lives and come with support groups — it’s not a stretch to say that many of us have addictive personalities that have little to do with those things, addictions that may even seem admirable or positive but, nonetheless, leave the addict feeling unbalanced, uncentered, and just sort of off. If you can think of a workaholic you know, you understand. He or she gets a lot done and achieves a lot…but sacrifices personal well-being, lacks a sense of balance, and may alienate others as a result of his or her compulsion. One way that Maia Szalabitz, author of Unbroken Brain, discusses it is as something of a “failure in self-regulation.” At any rate, I recognize it in myself.
Telling: Fergus calls me a pitbull because once I start working on something, I hang on tight and don’t let go. I have a hard time stopping or taking breaks until I’ve mastered whatever it is, often to the exclusion of other things I should or could be doing. It’s both an affectionate nickname and also his recognition of this addictive quality of my nature. All or nothing. I get a lot done. Often, I achieve things I’m very proud of because of this trait. Yet, as I have always suspected, in Unbroken Brain Szalavitz states that, “The healthiest patterns are found in the middle of the curve, not at the extremes.” Yup. Makes sense. Whenever I do manage to hit that sweet spot, it just feels more healthy.
“The healthiest patterns are found in the middle of the curve, not at the extremes.”
Here’s the thing about yoga: I’ve dabbled in it for years, only recently becoming more serious about my practice, and I know I’m not particularly good at it. Never have been. I’m not horrible at it. Not embarrassingly clueless or incapable; but, in a class of 12-15 people, I’m typically among the 4-5 least bendy, least balanced, and least advanced in terms of pose progression. What strikes me about this is that — in spite of my own nature as explained above — I’m totally OK with it. I like it, anyway. I want to keep doing it, anyway. I believe I will grow and get better over time and I’m perfectly fine with doing it slowly and incrementally. And, most astonishing to me, I don’t feel the slightest need to work toward leading it. I like just practicing. I like being a student of yoga.
Folks, for me, this is news. I’m proud of myself.