When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi
That he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer
And asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses.
The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God’s judgment.
At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently,
“God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses.
God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba.”
-From the Talmud
A couple days ago I posted a video of myself on Instagram doing pull-ups. I was super excited because I’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room these last couple months trying to get stronger. We have a pull-up bar in our foyer, so I took a quick video of my seven, yes, seven pull-ups and I put it out there. Before I started strength training, I could only do two (I posted that too). I love seeing progress and I wanted to share my excitement.
Before I hit the “post” button, I thought to myself “wait, seven isn’t really that many, and I don’t have any weights hanging around my waist to make it more fancy or challenging” I thought about a woman I follow on Instagram who has posted videos of her own endless weighted pull-ups and I started to think that my accomplishment wasn’t that grand after all. Maybe I should wait until I can do something better, something more impressive. I thought, maybe I shouldn’t post it at all. In a matter of minutes, the pride I felt in my accomplishment was completely wiped out.
When we moved up here 5 years ago, I thought teaching yoga would be easy. I was a successful teacher in my life downstate. So, when the opportunity to open my own studio arose a year after we moved to Rochester, I jumped at it. It was going to be so fun! What I forgot in those moments before Cycle Swami opened were the six years it took me to get where I was at my old studio downstate. Six years of teaching small classes (during which, some people walked out!), six years of building relationships, and six years of investing my time in a community so that it would (and did), in time, invest in me.
During the first year we were open, another yoga studio opened – a beautiful space with talented teachers. I found myself going online and checking social media to see what they were up to, what kind of classes they were offering. It seemed to me that they were flourishing where we were not, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I stayed up at night doubting my value as a teacher, doubting I had anything to offer but at the same time I was angry because I knew I did; how could the people of Rochester not know that? In those two short years we had the studio, I lost sight of who I was as a teacher. I was so unraveled by self-doubt that I tried many ways of teaching, and each way took me further and further from my true way of being.
Like Akiba, I bemoaned the fact that I was not this other woman – this wonderful teacher running a studio full of good vibes and sunshine. I did not consider how long she’d been teaching here, how long it had taken her to get where she was, or what struggles she had to endure to get there. I did not consider the fact that I had no place yet in this community. I expected to transplant my six years of work and immediately reap the benefits. When I didn’t, I became acutely aware of how “not her” I was, and it sent me reeling.
Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening says, “we are born with only one obligation – to be completely who we are.” But when we get caught up in comparison, that becomes almost impossible. Social media has made this even more obvious. Very rarely do people share their failings to the broader audience – it’s only the envy-inducing eye candy shots that ever make it out there. In the same reading Mark Nepo also says that “when we compare ourselves to others, we see neither ourselves nor those we look up to. We only experience the tension of comparing…”
I completely understand the tension of comparing. Even today, I need to be vigilant and guard against that voice in my head that says: “sure that thing you did was cool but look what she’s doing.” Some days the tension of comparison is so intense I feel as if I may snap. Thankfully, there are more days I when can see it for what it is, and I can drag myself back to my center. I can appreciate where I’ve been, how I got to where I am, and I wouldn’t change it for the world – or for a prettier Instagram feed.
So, yeah, I posted that video, and you should too. Don’t wait until you can strap 50 lb weights around your waist, show the world your one, assisted pull up. Let it be okay to not be perfect. Just be you. Dr Seuss said it best: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Comparison will not steal my joy anymore, so stop letting it steal yours. I’m no Ninja Warrior and you’ll never see me on Titan Games but I’m the lead-role bad ass in my story and I’m proud as hell to say it. And, you bet your ass when I get to ten, you’re going to hear about it.