Comparison is the thief of joy
I don't take many pictures of myself. I am not of the selfie generation where its not adequate to take just one picture, but maybe 10 or 20 in a day. All posing, looking pretty, interesting, , successful, fabulous darling. Perhaps if I was younger, prettier, thinner then maybe I would. Or maybe not. I totally accept that a certain amount of pictures of oneself is necessary in this vacuum of marketing on social media. In fact I am always amazed at how many people actually want to see other people's faces and bodies and that this has become quite normal in the yoga world. Not only do people want to see your face, but the next yoga pose - you know the really tricky one that took you years to attempt and then to complete but not necessarily master. They want to see you looking buff in your yoga leggings; sweatless in your arm balance; perfectly poised in your inversions and achingly gorgeous in your backbends. Because yoga has become another extension of the fitness and wellness industry where everyone has a goal to reach and body to aspire to. Yoga asana is and has always been a great way to maintain a healthy body, but we know that this is not what yoga is about. Well we should know this. It is, of course, responsible for bringing back the body to its natural level of well-ness but most practitioners who are prepared to go beyond the surface layer of yoga realise that yoga has so many more layers than the external and really the maintenance of the flesh and bones of this body is just preparation for much more important work. And we could say that this work includes the dropping of the ego.
So this leads me on to my next point. I have a love hate relationship with social media. I post a fair bit of content. Being my own boss of my own yoga business means this is necessary, but not only that, I have also got caught up in the slight addiction to nosing round other people's businesses through the lens of their camera phones like modern day curtain twitchers looking in on their neighbours lives through net curtains. This, I admit, is not healthy. In looking into other people's worlds we believe what it is they want to show us. We take a picture at face value even though we know that often if we take a picture of ourselves it may have gone through several edits, deletes and filters before we present it to the world to view. Long ago in the age of analogue and camera film we would take a picture and have absolutely no idea how it turned out until we got the prints back from the developers. Then we would go through each one laughing at the stupid imperfections and poses we awkwardly took knowing that we had no idea what an idiot we looked like - and really also not caring, because we were caught in a moment of fun and joy - the present moment was key. The future development of that picture was a curiosity but not serious (professional photographers aside). In this digital era of impermanence whatever picture we take can be sent to the delete folder of doom, or tweaked within and inch of its original edition to look presentable enough to be shown to and judged by others under the spotlight of the 'gram. And then move on to the next post to view, judge, delete. I am all for impermanence per se. We are, after all such temporary beings on this planet. We are born, we live, we die. The only real certainty in life is inevitable death. But showing our superficial physical selves to a forever scrolling market of non - friends seems a little shallow and a lot futile. Because what are we showing (or showing off) in the end? A glimpse into a concocted life? A gateway into somebody's dreams but not reality? A shiny, happy image that people can assume you are having a beautiful life? Is it real? Is anything other than the present moment real for any of us? I think not. Yet we get caught up in the algorhythms of must haves and must be's created by data eating corporations whose aim is ultimately make money from us. Let's not be fooled that any of this is our own creation for our own good.
I digress. It was not my aim to curve off into a political statement about the corporate world and what we are fed to believe. My aim was to write about my own failings and fallings of being a 50 something yoga teacher in the world of beauty and perceived perfection. I write this because of observing my own reaction to 2 very different yoga teachers both of whom I know. My first encounter was with a wonderful teacher who has been teaching for many years, living on Ibiza for much of her teaching. We discussed how her business of being a teacher trainer had dwindled to very little and how she needed to be invited to teach or offer her teachings on mantra and massage in order to attract any business to her these days. She barely uses social media and finds only very conscious and curious yogis were seeking her out her wealth of knowledge (my words, not hers). I felt I could relate to so much of what she was saying - that feeling of almost being left behind on the very path we chose to tread. My second encounter was not physical but digital. On scrolling though Instagram I saw a person's name whom I know and who another person had been telling me she goes to her classes. I purposely don't follow this person because I have found myself to feel irritated by her posts. But there I was and she popped up so I took a sneaky peak at her feed. And of course, I felt instantly irritated again! She is young and thin and has thousands of followers and a kickass yoga practice. She has many people going to her classes and is invited to co-teach teacher trainings all over the place despite teaching yoga for relatively short period of time. She talks A LOT and is ultra friendly and always has people around her. So why does she irritate me? Because I find myself comparing myself to her and coming up short. We are not alike in any way. I have no need to compare myself. Our life experiences are vastly different. But I guess I feel this tiny twinge of jealousy when I see how popular she is and how many people want to receive what she is giving in contrast to my clientele. I end up feeling not worthless but less worthy when I cast my eye over her digital world and what she is achieving and I feel like I am failing. This is absolutely not her fault. This is my ego reacting to her ego in a rather skewed way. I don't have to like or agree with how she runs her yoga business and what perfect pictures of her in perfect yoga poses half naked with her perfect body she posts on Instagram. I don't need to read her reams of text explaining on each post how much she is in tune with herself, with nature and understands explicitly what her followers needs and wants are. Its really none of my business and clearly she is giving many people just what they want and need. The responsibility I have is to not look at the things that make me feel like I am lesser, like the not so popular girl in school again. My work is to not judge another because its not how I would be. She is she and I is me.
might continue to feel a little frustrated that the way yoga is going feels very much dependent on visual stimulation and is beginning to bow down to a fast click industry of good looking youth performing good looking poses in good looking places. Everything perfectly placed to look natural. The irony of that statement is not lost on me. It appears this is what many people want. My only answer to that is to continue to provide genuine, authentic yoga to genuine authentic searchers of their genuine authentic selves. And that often does not feel perfect. Often that feels messy and hard and even ugly and scarred and sad and awkward and a little bit lost. As long as there are people (like me) so very imperfect and not apologising for it but willing to try to make their lives a little better through a very old technique of observing and correcting and listening and feeling and being honest with what hurts and what works, then I am here. Teaching what I know to those that want to know it. You are all welcome.
PS (Pic of my not so perfect body plus wobbly bits)
I really identify with what has been discussed Wendy, I too observe social media as this place to ‘attract’ others, either to a business or personal followers….
I know that many are suffering with this medium of passing information on and I feel its only going to get more shallow before perhaps it implodes on itself and we go back to real conversations with real people.
Hi Wendy, I really appreciated and identified with this, as a very-much non-perfect woman in her 40s trying to grow her pilates business who doesn't like getting her photo taken! Thank you.
Thanks Gill. I write from experience and pften whatever i am going through. I am pleased it could relate to you too.
This is a wonderful post. Absolutely resonates with me. Social media has actually affected my practice in a negative way and it has taken me a while to enjoy my asana practice, and appreciate my body again. So thank you Wendy for giving me comfort knowing I'm not the only one xx
I feel we need to understand we are just humans and remember that the people positng things that seem to be the most popular are also humans and probably not half as confident as they portray. the key is to watch if things affect us negatively and then we have a choice to see them or not.
I get you, Wendy. I too have been learning about me through all of this - my petty jealousy, judgemental tendencies and intolerance of anything less than true and transparent... and as such have taken a bit of a back seat from social media, internet and teaching... wanting to return to the love of practice for practice sake - not to pretend, impress or advertise... or to turn my passion and path into an award winning business. There are rumours that the next pandemic will be on the internet and it will crash... Of course, I hope this is not true, as it will be the end to so many small businesses, but on the other hand, our lives may be more real and open to magic... and less virtual and empty. Big hug to you xxx
I am caught up in the inrenet as a means to run my business but i wish i could take a backseat too. I think i will eventually. I don't like my reaction to many things and I feel its not really me being this way. So its interesting to observe my reactions and to remember its just another human on the othwr side of the posts that irritate me. Maybe its all just a big anthropological experiement.
thank you for writing this. i have to admit, i am not in the "yogi" world specifically for a lot of the pretentiousness and ego you see in the industry. however, apart from my virtual resistance... i love the movement, the calm, the things i had to learn like resilience and stillness when i went through recovery. i found the lotus pad on a clumsy google search but my experience with you reminded me that kindness and humility could be foundational in a yoga practice, teaching, and community. i can't tell you what a gift it was to spend those days with you and nils as well- the humor and lack of pretense were so refreshing. i wouldn't want the perfection- instagram experience because we all know that doesn't hold up in reality and who wants to sit around a kitchen table with that! i much prefer what you are bringing to the practice that is so much more than your wisdom and expertise, it is your humility, egoless space that makes everyone welcome- all ages and bodies. and that is a yogi. thank you for sharing and i hope to see you soon.
Thanks for your input sweetie and for the kind words about what it is i offer. I always hope that i come across as genuine and authentic and real. We all just need more realness i think. It was a joy to receive you here and hope we see you again. X
Beautifully written and thought provoking. I recognise and resonate with your blog. Comparison really is a form of self sorcery and debilitates us. And at 59 years old I still have to work on not doing it. I guess it’s part of our humanness. Much love chica … you are amazing! And I’m loving your little book of sayings btw xxx
thanks Mirelle. I feel a lot of women go through a loss of identity when they hit a certain age and also feel unseen by social media. I don't think social media is important at all but it kind of makes us believe it is so it can become a tool for self worth. Which is not healthy. Thanks for buying my book.
Hi Wendy, the only yoga retreat I ever went to was with you, and it was exactly what I needed one year after becoming a mother. The ten days were everything that yoga can be; very challenging, relaxing and at times rewarding. It helped me to find me again, basically so much I didn’t feel the need to attend more retreats, it was my physical therapy that I needed at that time. I feel this experience was so good because of your knowledge, experience, and sincerity. My daughter will turn 14 now and the decision to go to your retreat is still one of the best things I have done for myself. If I would ever choose to go to another retreat, I would choose the lotus pad again.
Thanks Eva. I am pleased we had such an important effect on you. Retreats can be life-saving and life changing. I hope you can come to us again out of curiosity and joy and a lovely treat for yourself.
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Wendy Buttery - Yoga Teacher, retreat centre facilitator, cat lover, sun worshipper, nature loving meditator.