The absolute terror of the first time I walked into an Ashtanga Yoga Mysore class is something I will never forget. The room was silent and steamy and the teacher did little more than grunt and nod to acknowledge my existence. The students looked like professional athletes carrying themselves like some hybrid contortionists-ballerinas through each graceful move. I felt short and stout in comparison and without the right clothes or yoga gear to join this sacred club.
But I was already in the room.
I had two choices and they both seemed equally horrifying. I could turn around and leave which would definitely not go unnoticed, or I could stay and fumble my way through my poses in the room to which I certainly didn’t belong. As I made the decision to stay an incredible courage came over me. I would do this thing, for myself and nobody else, the best I could, despite my inner assurance that the whole room would be laughing at me.
I put down my mat and I took my first Ujjayi breath.
Fifteen years later I am now the proud owner of my own yoga studio, Land Yoga, Executive Director of Three and a Half Acres Yoga nonprofit, co-producer of SOULFest NYC, and author of My Bliss Book as well as several published articles. I speak all over the world about yoga, yoga service, and goal achievement, including presenting for companies such as Halstead, Estée Lauder, the JCC and more.
How did I make the leap from sheer terror and utter embarrassment to becoming a respected leader in my field?
Here are the five simple techniques I used to turn my embarrassment into a success story:
- Remember that EVERYONE is in their own heads about how they are being perceived. They are way too involved in sorting out their own insecurities to be judging YOU! We think we are much more important to others than we are and that is because we are each the lead character in our own story. Once you remember that each person is the lead in her own personal story, you will realize how little others are thinking about your performance and how much they are focused on their own.
- Focus intensely on your task. When you are truly, 100% focused on what you are doing, you have no time to be worrying about what anyone else is thinking. That is wasted energy that could be channeled into your project. How can you land a handstand, master a closing argument or complete any challenging act if a part of you is thinking of something else? You can’t. Focus on your job and your job only and you won’t only block the others out, you’ll be better at what you do!
- Play out the worst case scenario. When all else fails to allow yourself to go there. See yourself making the most embarrassing mistake possible and consider the worst possible outcome. If it’s a yoga class, perhaps your worst fear is you slip on your mat falling over on someone. What would happen then? Do you really think they would kick you out of class? Stop speaking to you? Do you confidently believe that no one has ever made this mistake before? Think it through and ask yourself if it is really worth not taking a shot at something you want to learn if the worst thing happens.
- Consider the people whose judgments are holding you in your tracks. Are they really worth going into your shell for? If those around you fault you and treat you harshly when you try something new and make a mistake, are they, in fact, the people whose opinions you really should be trusting? If those you trust are that harsh with their response to failure, they are not the right people to be looking to. Leaders know that failing is a critical part of discovery and advancement and they encourage calculated risk-taking around them. How do you respond to people around you taking a chance and trying something outside their comfort zone? I hope with encouragement and praise. Surround yourself with people who will do the same for you.
- Finally, the best way to get good at risk-taking is to make it a habit. Get in the pattern of taking chances and embarrassing yourself with abandon. Learn to laugh at yourself, dust off the dirt, evaluate and get right back up each time you make a mistake. The more you get used to taking chances, the easier it is to put yourself out there the next time and time after that. One of those times the chance you take is going to pay off into an embarrassingly big WIN.
Here’s your BONUS tweetable final motivator inspired by the excellent book Grit:
Success comes from stick-to-itiveness, not from innate talent.
Use that one any time you’re tempted to give up!
So now it’s time for you to comment and commit. Which one of these methods will you be using to get yourself out of holding back? Do you have other tricks? Share with me in the comments and share the blog with someone you know it could help!