When I began teaching yoga, I was determined to succeed. I thought part of success was acting and looking like a yoga instructor. While teaching, I would speak in an odd voice that I thought sounded yogic and authoritative. I imitated phrasing and anecdotes from successful teachers and passed them off as my own. I began to dress like a yoga teacher (imagine Kane from Kung-Fu!). I abandoned my old buddies and only hung out with yoga teachers. I listened to yoga music (yawn!). I attempted to transform myself into what others thought a yoga teacher should be.
Everything looked yogic on the surface. But man, was I drained! I spent tons of energy trying to be someone I was not—what I refer to as, “Image Management.”
The unhappiness and stress of trying to live disingenuously eventually forced me to revisit my assumptions and choices – and it holds valuable lessons as you try to figure out your life plan. Soon, I let go of who I thought I should be and returned to being much more of who I really am. I developed my own authentic teaching style and lifestyle based on what I valued—of course, in the process, I rediscovered my loves for punk rock, German beer and people from all walks of life!
Sure, it feels safer to mold your image so you fit in. But in personal relationships and in business, others don’t want imitations—they want the real thing. I’m not advocating that you tone back your ambition to grow, to achieve, or to have material things. On the contrary, I believe it’s perfectly healthy to want nice things, like a beautiful home or fun car. The point is to evaluate your desires carefully and be certain of what you truly value. It’s only when materialism is motivated by unhealthy or false motives that it begins to undermine your personal happiness and potentially your business success.
The Authentic You
When you’re operating from a more authentic space, great things begin to happen:
- People will trust you more and put you in positions of trust.
- Business relationships will be more fruitful and honest.
- You will cultivate a “down to earth” climate in all your interactions – which is infectious and healthy.
- With more straight shooters in your life you will save time, money, and avoid hassles.
You will find that by embracing who you really are, rather than trying to project an image, you will feel a new sense of ease and confidence. Things will flow more naturally for you. And you’ll spend your precious time and energy working towards substantive – instead of hollow – goals. Getting clear on what you really value may take some serious introspection and honesty, but as you're thinking about your own life plan it’s well worth it.
Rob Woollard teaches yoga full-time. He provides mind-body-soul coaching and shares smiles, humor and epiphanies every chance he gets.