In honor of April Fool’s Day, let me tell you a story about making a fool of myself in public.
“I hope I don’t fall flat on my face.”
This phrase is a familiar euphemism to describe our very human fear of failure. That worry that we will look foolish, be revealed as a fraud, show up and be found lacking. I’ve used these exact words repeatedly in those instances where I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone to try something new. We use it to describe the anxious, hand-wringing, awkward, totally normal feeling of hoping we won’t embarrass ourselves by public failure.
Of course, it has little or nothing to do with ACTUALLY falling on your face.
MOST of the time.
So, here is my story.
One of the ways I take care of my body, mind, and spirit is through the regular practice of yoga. As you likely know if you are also a yogi, we don’t say “I DO yoga.” We instead say “I PRACTICE yoga” or “I have a yoga PRACTICE.” This intentional word choice is our first clue that the practice of yoga assumes a growth and learning mindset. We never become a yoga expert. We are always in process.
With that said, yoga is the only somewhat athletic, “exercise-ish” endeavor that this bookworm does with some proficiency. I know the names and technique for most poses and my super bendy, flexible joints allow me a certain level of confidence in taking many of those poses at a more advanced level. Since the first of the year, my yoga practice has been particularly consistent and I am feeling stronger with each passing week.
I’m sure you see where this is going.
For those of you who are familiar with Crow pose, you know it is not a beginner pose. While my legs and core are fairly strong, sometimes the poses that require arm strength are a little more difficult for my little baby bird arms. BUT I am getting stronger and my attempts at Crow are more and more bold. For those of you who don’t know Crow, please consult the provided photo.
Last week, in a moment of bravery, I committed fully and absolutely nailed Crow pose for about 10 seconds.YES!
And then fell forward and landed HARD on my face. On the hardwood floor. In a room full of people. With a loud THUD. And since my arms were otherwise occupied, there was nothing to break my fall.
After years of using the words playfully, I indeed, painfully, fell flat on my face.
- No, I did not break my nose.
- No, I did not have to leave class a bloody mess.
- Yes, my nose and face were slightly swollen and hurt for several days afterwards.
- Yes, I avoided eye contact with every member of the class on my way out.
- Yes, I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
So, dear reader, why am I sharing this foolish tale in the midst of war, cancer, rising inflation, lingering pandemic fears, gun violence, and movie star fisticuffs?
Because falling on our face, literally or metaphorically, is part of being brave.
UGH! I know! I’ve been looking for a shortcut too, bless our hearts.
As I said on social media the other day, a challenge I’ve played with on and off for years involves intentionally doing one brave thing every day. Being brave involves a certain amount of risk or, by definition, we wouldn’t need to be brave. The experience of falling flat on my face in yoga reminded me of a few of the things I’ve learned along the way about failing forward:
Eyes on my own mat
In yoga, and in life, it is rarely helpful to compare ourselves to others. What might be brave for you, might be easy for me. And the thing I consider brave might be no big deal for you. Your hard is not my hard, and your brave is not my brave. Other people learn, grow and make progress at a different rate than you. Or me. Whether it is writing, painting, running, performing, creating, taking a risk, learning a new skill, choosing vulnerability, or anything else that requires us to step out of our comfort zone, it is OUR journey. Whether in yoga class or in my career, comparing myself to others just gets me stuck in analysis paralysis. Let’s instead choose to trust the Voice that calls us forward, show up, do the next right thing, and trust that the process is unfolding in perfect timing.
Ask for help
After the aforementioned “incident,” I talked to my yoga teacher about what happened and asked her for some tips. While she did offer me a few tweaks to my form, she mostly encouraged me to keep practicing at home with some padding set up around me. Apparently, falling is just part of it, so I may as well make the fall a little more comfortable (that sounds like a whole other post!) 🙂 While we don’t want to compare ourselves to others, it often helps to consult with others who are a little further down the path we are walking. When I was writing my book, I attended conferences, asked others to edit my work, and asked lots and lots of curious questions to those who knew more than I did. Same with everything hard I’ve ever done: parenting babies, parenting toddlers, parenting teens, parenting adult children, running, coaching, public speaking, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. Sometimes we make the journey WAY more difficult than it needs to be by stubbornly saying “I’ll do it myself.” Asking for help is sometimes the bravest thing we will ever do.
This one follows closely on the heels of the last one, but sometimes we don’t need help, we just need company. We don’t need direction, or answers, or guidance, we just need to know we are not alone in the struggle.
A quick aside: I sometimes link old posts on a similar topic. For instance, you will notice the words “in the struggle” in the previous sentence are a different color. That means you can click on it to take you to a past post on struggling. In this case, it’s one of my all time favorites and, coincidentally another funny story about me falling down, so check it out if you get a minute. Ok, please carry on…
During the pandemic, I obviously did most of my yoga practice at home by video. When things began opening back up, I literally got teary the first time I experienced the privilege of practicing in community again. While I don’t necessarily need the presence of the people on the other mats, and I can easily watch a teacher lead practice by video, something about the energy of humans gathered together in one room absolutely made all the difference. And this applies to so many other aspects of our life. We are wired for human connection, and there is science to support the power being together has on our mental and physical health. We are better together. We are braver in community. If you are struggling to take that first brave step, ask a friend (or a coach) to join you on the journey.
Cultivate a sense of humor
Maybe it is the enneagram 7 in me, but I just cannot do hard things without an occasional dose of laughter. Life is absolutely, excruciatingly painful at times, AND it is also delightful and silly and weird. We have been battling cancer in our family and it has been heartbreaking to see two of the people I love most in the world suffering. It’s not fair and it makes me want to punch someone (I generally prefer to skip over sad and go right to rage. Is that just me?) On top of that, the world outside our family often feels like a never-ending, rapidly spreading dumpster fire. Those things are true. And they aren’t funny.
And yet, there is still joy in the world. And there is laughter. My puppy Jolene dishes out huge doses of silliness every day. The cherry blossoms in full bloom around the Tidal Basin last week were absolute magic. My husband and I just celebrated 35 years of marriage in March and he still makes my heart beat a little faster when I glimpse him across a crowded room. And I bet a video of this 57 year old, non-athlete crash landing crow would be laugh out loud hilarious. Sometimes the bravest thing we will ever do is refuse to give up on laughter, even in the midst of heartache. And even when we are laughing at our self. Cultivating joy is always worth the effort.
To that end, I will nervously begin a 6 week Improv class at our local theater on Monday night in brave pursuit of joy and laughter and community. Perhaps I will tell you more about it in May’s post!
And gosh, I hope I don’t fall flat on my face. Oh wait, I’ve already done that and lived to tell the tale!
How about you? If I were to challenge you to do something brave, what would you do? And which of the 4 things above would be most important? Reach out and let me know so I can cheer you on!
Thank you to all who attended our March seminar “Stress and the Brain.” We had a great conversation and I plan to repeat this important topic in a couple of months. April’s FREE webinar will take us back to the Enneagram. We will meet on April 20th and discuss “Head, Heart, Body: Wisdom from the Enneagram Centers”If you are interested in joining us, REGISTER HERE.