I've always loved how life drops us in the midst of a big connected picture, if we are willing to see it that way, and this morning when I opened up my Facebook feed and saw a fantastic post on not feeling ashamed to share your accomplishments, I felt a theme growing. I can remember feeling proud as a kid and if I shared what I was proud about, someone in my large (and opinionated) extended family would usually undermine my 'accomplishment' by taking me down a notch. Enough so that as I grew older I would be surprised when those same relatives would give me a compliment. Why was I surprised? Because as a kid when someone crushes those little moments of pride (presumably in a well-intentioned attempt to keep you from growing up into an egomaniac) it strips away at the self-esteem that builds when a child is allowed to feel good about themselves. It's a pattern I'm gong to invest a lot of energy into not repeating with my son, because I know that it didn't serve me as a child, a teen, or an adult and I believe that he deserves better than that.
It took a long time to re-build my thoughts and self-concept to not include those nagging feelings of being not good enough all the time. Unfortunately not everyone gets out of these patterns, and the unhealthy quest to feel in control and have a sense of personal power continues throughout adulthood. Take the debate over yoga selfies. Lately there have been a myriad of yoga experts who have been quoted debasing the practice of sharing yoga selfies. I admit, at first glance I could concede to some of their points: yoga isn't for show, yoga selfies feed the ego, yoga selfies aren't about yoga, they're about showing off. But, as I began to search 'yoga' on Instagram, I quickly realized there was a lot more going on than yoga egos running wild. In fact, the community of IG yogis may be living a more authentic form of yoga than the experts busy shaming them. It's easy to judge the yoga challenges and picture of poses without bothering to really take a look at what these yogis are doing, but if you did, you wouldn't see a bunch of ego maniacs in perfect poses holding contests meant to inflate their egos and seeking internet fame. Instead you would find a group of mostly self-taught yogis, many of them moms, most with completely self-taught home practices that range from strong to brand new, who have built a beautiful and supportive community where they share in each others triumphs, goals, knowledge and growth. The challenges they host aren't meant as contests for them to show off, they are meant as fun ways to get each other on the mat every day and to help each other grow their respective practices. It's easy for other yogis to judge them, particularly with the ready made threads of yoga philosophy that can be spun in a way that casts a negative shadow, but the reality is that those "experts" are just pushing another down to satisfy their own ego (they didn't turn the chance to be quoted in an article down - did they?) Their judgements have everything to do with themselves and not a whole lot to do with the selfie shooting crowd.
My new parenting book says "empathy opens the mind to learning." (Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years). If we can relate to others, rather than tuning in to our pre-conceptions or samskaras, and stop attaching what we think they need to the situation, we may open up the opportunity not only for our own concepts and understanding to grow, but for them to continue to discover and grow themselves too. I think it's an opportunity we all deserve.