We must accept ourselves as-is before we can change
"We practice not because we are perfect, but because we are," stated the yoga instructor on my DVD. Abruptly, my ears perked up. I had worked out with this DVD on several occasions, yet I had never paid much attention to that particular line.
I got up from my mat, found the remote, and rewind the DVD. I listened to the words again.
"Huh, there is something to that line of thinking," I said aloud to an empty room.
I paused and rewound the DVD once again. This time, however, I sat and focused intently. "We practice not because we are perfect, but because we are." I noticed how the instructor's voice dramatically paused after the word "perfect," and then slowly enunciated each of the remaining words. Thoughts quickly surged through my mind as I embraced that statement and its implications.
Only the day prior to this workout, I was engaged in a couple of different conversations in which each person, one a teacher and the other a weight loss instructor, was bemoaning the fact that their respective students and clients were not making the progress they had hoped to inspire. My mind then leaped to priests and pastors. I wondered if they often felt they same way. "My congregation is not making the progress they should be making." Yet, the same implication could be made about any person in charge of a flock, such as real estate brokers, restaurateurs, retailers and so forth.
It is the idea that we humans can control, inspire, or promote certain actions within others. "If we say just the right combination of words;" or, "If I focus on these desired benefits and outcomes;" or, "If I create the perfect image of enticement," then my preferred result will occur. Certainly, this is often the case, especially with successful businesses. However, as even a successful business manager knows, human behavior isn't always a straight line of predictability -- especially with regards to changing one's behavior.
Which leads me to the flip side. As students, clients, and even customers, there is a "doing" side within us that perceives personal inadequacies, such as "I don't have enough knowledge, I need to learn more;" or, "I am not healthy enough, I need to lose weight and/or exercise more;" or, "I am deficient in X-area, but if I buy this particular item, I will no longer be deficient." The point is that frequently, as humans, we tend to reject who are. That said, there are certainly times in life and areas of our life in which all of us can learn, grow and improve. This begs the question, how do we balance the two (very) human extremes?
Perhaps this yoga instructor is on target, acceptance of others and yourself as-is. We have to accept ourselves "as we are" in order to move forward or change. Likewise, instructors, teachers, pastors, managers, and other leaders need to accept students, clients and customers "as they are" in order to inspire learning, change, and other forms of "success." This line of thinking, at least for me, was a powerful shift, both on a personal level and professional level.
If schools accepted only "perfect" students, they would soon be devoid of pupils. If churches only accepted "perfect" parishioners, there would be little to no one sitting in the pews. If businesses only accepted "perfect" clients/customers/employees, they would soon be out of business. In order to initiate any form of change, we must accept others "as they are."
Human minds have a tendency to perceive a deficiency, whether real or not. Then, that same mind begins focusing and ruminating on the "deficiency;" such as, "I'm stupid;" or, I'm fat;" or, I'm ugly;" or, "I'm out of shape." Once the mind plays this negative thought over and over and over, it then conjures up a place of perfection where the human thinking this thought "should" be. Then, if that human doesn't get to that place of perceived "perfection," the whole mind shuts down into "failure" mode and nothing ever changes.
I know, I've been there, countless times. How about you, Dear Reader?
As another instructor frequently states, "Human beings fall. Falling is part of life. Our self-worth shouldn't change because we fall."
In other words, while your brain may say, "you are a failure," you are not your thoughts! This is a potent personal realization. Rather, think of Popeye, "I yam, what I yam." Then, you may come to any endeavor, "as you are," shaking off the chains of "perfection." "I can't," changes to "I can try;" or, "I can try again."
Likewise, educators, instructors, pastors, managers and other leaders would do well to bear in mind the same thought, "Human beings fall." Once this line of thought is accepted, and, most importantly, put into practice, the way in which we reach out to our students, parishioners, clients, employees, customers shifts. "You have this need or deficiency," can be changed to, "I accept you. This new material, plan, change or whatever, is here for you when you are ready."
That said, the person in charge still needs to keep planting seeds of knowledge and/or desired behavior outcomes, but the leader can offer it with hope. "You can try (again)" philosophy, rather than a "you will;" or, "you must;" or "you have to."
Accepting yourself and others "as they are," may be paradigm shift. I know it is for me. However, when you think of the personal and, perhaps, professional ramifications of this shift, it may be worth considering.
May we all embrace others and ourselves "as we are."
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.