“When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are.  All you notice is the person who doesn’t.” ~Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

As a yoga teacher and personal trainer, I am blessed to learn to know people on a deeper level than many others.  At my studio, my clients and I share tears, fears, pains, and illnesses but also celebrate victories, joys, triumphs, small steps and giant leaps forward.  My career has blessed me beyond belief, and I am humbled to be allowed to share so many wonderful, defining moments with each of my clients.

My little studio has turned into a safe haven for many people who would otherwise feel alone and discarded in our society.  We have many students who are new to the area who struggle to find their place in our small town.  Many come from areas of the country that differ in theological beliefs, political views and social concerns which makes it all the more difficult to find a place to feel at ease and welcomed.

Last week, I was told, as I have been told many times before, that I have created a welcoming place, a place where people feel at ease to be themselves.  While I find this statement to be a compliment and it warms my heart, I am disturbed at the same time.  “Why,” I asked myself, “should I be so rare?  Why should this place be so rare?”

I feel as if I offer people acceptance and kindness.  I don’t condone everyone’s choices and actions.  I don’t agree with everyone’s beliefs or how they may live their lives.  However, I also feel as if their choices, beliefs, and actions are really none of my business.  What does concern me is how they treat me, personally.  What concerns me is whether they are kind to me and to others who attend class.  What really matters to me is whether they feel better for having attended a class at my studio than before they arrived.  Those are the things that matter to me when I interact with others.

I also have contemplated deeply the reasons  I am able to make others feel comfortable to be themselves; my conclusion is that I am comfortable with myself and who I am.  I, for the most part, have never been ashamed of who I am, even though I have done some pretty stupid things in my life.   I am quirkier than most and definitely not normal (whatever that is), but I’m genuine and generally don’t succumb to the pressure to pretend to be anything other than myself. When all the chips are down, I like myself.  I like ME, the real me, the me who maybe doesn’t always say and do the right thing.

I also finally realized that in order for us, collectively, to be able to help other people feel more integrated into our society, we have to be okay with ourselves.  We have to like ourselves to be able to accept others for who they are.  If we can accept and like ourselves, it’s much easier to like others and they us.  If we were to learn to be okay with our true selves, we could save ourselves from many of our societal woes because no one would feel rejected for who they are.  We can disagree with peoples choices but should never dislike them for who they are, if they treat us with kindness and respect.

My recommendation? Learn to first like yourself and then go out and let others lean on your confidence so that they can learn to be confident and genuine also.

We are all God’s creations.