Saturday, February 1, 2014

Struggling with authenticity

I realize this is supposed to be a yoga blog, but the past year's obsession has been blogging about how I feel about my life and my family instead. The thing is, many people start to do yoga for exercise benefits, and then fall in love the spiritual aspects of yoga. You will commonly hear that people say yoga helps them uncover their "authentic self".

For the first year I started yoga asana classes, I indeed felt like I was re-discovering myself, becoming aware of my tendency to hold my breath, various tensions within the body, my weak lower back, my samskaras, my ruminating thoughts, my tendency towards negative thinking, and so many more details about myself that I had never been aware of. I felt like I was in paradise practicing yoga among friendly, supportive, authentic teachers and students, learning how to be a better person, all while being pampered in a fancy studio, complete with saunas, massage rooms, yummy herbal teas, and gorgeous heated classrooms smelling of calming, healing essential oils.

I took it all for granted, thinking people are nice everywhere, and moved myself to Europe for my career. On the plus side, I landed in a much larger institute and am exposed to much bigger scale of scientific research; I found a bf I really get along with and who seems to enjoy hanging out with me occasionally. On the down side,  I'm finding it quite difficult to make friends here. Lately, the inauthentic boss and colleague are really getting to me. It seems like the boss and the toxic colleague are all about pleasing people by the means of pretending to know more than they actually do. I feel like I'm being alienated in my lab because I am too uncomfortable to go along with it.

The struggle with family and with work colleagues are about the same thing: being ask to behave in a way that makes me feel extremely inauthentic and uncomfortable. At home, my bossy and insecure mother wants me to shower her with praises and obey her every request (she orders people around non-stop all day long).  At work, my boss wants me to say yes to everything he asks and to suck up to him, even if I don't actually know how to do the things he asks me to do.

My mother has tried to shape me into a people pleaser my entire life. She "buys" friendships by showering people with gifts and praises. She was still trying to hint at me how my cousin is so well brought up because she knows how to say the appropriate phrases at the right situations to please people. Seems like the single most important value in this world, for my mother, is the ability to please people, which is a complete clash with what I view to be the most fundamental value that I can't compromise: being authentic and not tell lies. This fundamental clash of values seems to be what causes so much misery between my mother and I.

This article "Dare to be yourself"discusses exactly what I've been struggling with the past years. Whether I like it or not, some of my mother's teachings have rubbed off on me after living at home for almost 30 years. While I tend not to bribe people with presents and praises, I do try to follow people's suggestions and have a tendency to not voice my own opinions. This behavior, also known as being Miss "Goody-two-shoes", seems to piss a people off, achieving the opposite of desired effect.

At the moment, asana practice isn't helping me discover my authentic self, which is why I've greatly reduced my practice and instead blog about my life, trying to understand what I am doing wrong. I'm trying to examine my darkest sides, and experimenting with behavioral and thought changes, to see if I can be more at peace with myself. Right now I feel like I'm digging into the bottom of the pit, discovering the worst aspects of myself (selfishness, self-centeredness, lack of compassion, fear of confrontation, the list goes on). I hope I will climb out of the pit soon. Until then, I apologize for this dark period of sh*t digging.


  1. Here's a nice video about how behavior works. It's probably not much help to you, but it's worth watching.
    Also a little video on motivation.

    1. Thanks anonymous. I shall look into it sometime when I get the chance.

  2. Remember self compassion. There is no worse side of yourself. Mindfulness: intentional non-judgemental awareness of the present moment exactly as it is.

    About a year ago I started acting 100% authentically. It was similar to a leap of faith as if next to the cliff edge. I promised myself that I'd be 100% authentic even if it meant my own death, and at ALL costs.

    I totally trusted in this surrender. I'm still alive and I feel great. If you follow this path then you'll end up where you are supposed to!

    It csn be scary though so careful what you wish for.

    1. Thanks Xandrani. I am still alive too but every day I feel like most people don't like me. Being authentic is kind of useless if my personality doesn't fit with the society...