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On Stopping The Storytelling

Last Sunday I talked to my yoga class about storytelling. Not the kind of sweet stories you tell children but the stories you make up in your head that cause you fear, anxiety, questioning and doubt.

This is something I have struggled with for a long time. I completely freak myself out about things and build them up in my head to be these terrible scenarios that they completely are not. When I feel unease about a certain situation I immediately go into worst-case mode. And it drives me CRAZY. Especially given that 99.9% of the time everything turns out completely fine.

I especially struggle with this in regards to friendships and work. Example…I don’t hear from a close friend for months and then begin thinking they don’t want to be friends with me for a multitude of reasons I come up with. Then we connect and I realize that it was all totally stupid. We’re both so busy and it takes two taking action to make a relationship work. We pick up right where we left off. Example…I send an important work email and don’t immediately hear from my boss so I spend the next 24 hours thinking that I didn’t get the communication right and questioning what I could have done better. Then I get feedback that I was spot on and get frustrated with myself for letting the doubt and questioning even enter my mind.

So I talked to my yoga class about stopping to realize when we’re telling these stories in our heads. They’re mostly fiction. The truth of the matter is that everyone is so wrapped up in their own world and busy and dealing with the demands of their daily life.

We talked about this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. Actually, I think about my friends and family so much but my ratio of thinking to taking action about it is pretty bad. But I do find this quote is really applicable for when you get so worried about what everyone in your peripheral network is thinking of you.

#1 – They most likely are not thinking of you
#2 – If they are, you are NOT in control of what they perceive to be reality

You can only do the best you can and accept your own humanity. You are not a perfect robot. You are flawed. And you are not alone in your imperfection. We are all with you. People who truly love you will not judge you for this.

Let me tell you a true story. I taught a yoga class at Y2 this morning. Teaching yoga is easy for me. I feel completely comfortable and in my element when I’m doing it. It inspires me and lights me up. Well, this morning my class took a turn south and left me questioning myself and storytelling.

I made it through 40 minutes of the class flawlessly and then in the last 5 minutes of standing sequence everything went wrong. My cueing was off. Everyone was on different legs and doing different things. I got really flustered and finally ended up telling them to just freaking do whatever they hadn’t done on the other side. Self direct people!  One new student left in the middle of all of this and my mind went to, “he’ll never come back to my class, this is such a clusterfuck, ugh.” I felt kind of guilty that people had carved out an hour of their day to come to my class and I screwed up their standing sequence. I told them, “this is just yoga, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing or what leg you’re doing it on as long as your breathing and moving” but I built up this whole story in my head that I failed them.

Then after class one student after another came up to tell me how awesome class was. The turning point was one sweet yogi who told me how happy she was that I struggled through because it was so refreshing for her to see that I’m not perfect. One person told me it was hysterical. Another that it was the “BEST wrong legged class she’d ever taken.”

This morning’s class was exactly the lesson I needed to reinforce my own message. A huge thank you to yoga for always delivering that dose of perspective that I need. I have written many times that I still struggle with hanging on to this image of perfection but one lesson at a time, its getting easier to show up to life in whatever state I may find myself in.

Tell me about storytelling? Is it something you find yourself doing? If so, how do you deal?

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Holly June 4, 2013, 10:47 pm

    Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read tonight.

  • Marie June 4, 2013, 10:55 pm

    This was written exactly for me; thanks so much! Sometimes I feel like I am my own worst enemy! 😉

  • AC June 4, 2013, 11:12 pm

    omg Jen thank you so much for putting this out there. I’m going through a big transition in life right now and have been overthinking things BIG TIME. I come up with these horrible scenarios about my new job and start freaking out over how things aren’t going to go well…basically I just realized today that things WON’T go well if I don’t even give myself a chance at success…I can’t let this be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I literally just wrote down those first two quotes and pasted them to my fridge. I’m not even joking. This is TOTALLY not the kind of thing I normally do (not just in that my fridge is bare, but I just don’t get into Pinteresty quotes and stuff like that) but I feel like that visual reminder to tell my brain to shut the hell up could really help. I need to live in the moment and count my blessings. Thanks for reminding me to do so. You sound like an AWESOME yoga instructor and I really wish I could take a class from you. You are a real inspiration to many people

  • Shannon June 5, 2013, 12:14 am

    Jen, I don’t think you could realize how much you do for people through your blog. I’ve been a loyal reader for a couple of years now and you are absolutely at the top of my “role models” list, which isn’t a very big list! Your honesty, diligence, kindness, balance, etc. provide such a great example and source of motivation for so many of us reading your blog every day. As an NC native who now calls Arkansas home, I was flying into Charlotte for Christmas two years ago and tried to find a way to make it into one of your yoga classes but the scheduling just did not work out. 🙁 You are an inspiration and a breath of fresh air!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Lauren @ Sassy Molassy June 5, 2013, 1:21 am

    That’s awesome that you received a compliment right after you felt like you’d really screwed up the class. Honestly, I think most yogis are so impressed that the teacher can EVER remember what side or part of the sequence we’re on that if there is a slight mistake, it’s no big deal. Plus, I think we all appreciate the humanness in each other. Being flawed is a good thing although it’s not always easy to remember.

  • L June 5, 2013, 6:08 am

    These quotes are awesome, and we need to continually remind ourselves of them. I am my own worst enemy and let these terrible, terrible thoughts run through my head. Mine are especially negative and run through all the “what-ifs” when I’m laying in bed at night trying to rest. I CANNOT let go of the worst-case scenarios. I am in the midst of job hunting and it is ridiculous the negative thoughts I let run through my head. If I don’t hear back immediately after an interview, I’m determined they hate me, or think I’m just the worst employee ever… which probably is not true, they probably aren’t even giving it one thought and things just take time. I always try to tell myself, if you wouldn’t tell this to your mother or your best friend, you probably shouldn’t tell it to yourself. I would NEVER tell my mom she’s a terrible person or completely worthless in her interview, so why should I tell myself that?! Thanks for this–it is very inspiring. You truly are an inspiration…. definitely a role model and I appreciate your transparency. Oh, the ebbs and flows of life, right?

  • Parita June 5, 2013, 7:56 am

    You have no idea how much I needed this today. Thanks for sharing in a way that helps us realize we are not alone. 🙂

  • erin June 5, 2013, 8:37 am

    The best part about being in my mid-30s is that I have finally learned how to silence my inner critic…mostly 🙂 Life is much sweeter when you’re not so hard on yourself–or others, for that matter. Thanks for the beautiful post, Jen.

  • Priscilla June 5, 2013, 9:01 am

    Last week I copied this quote onto my desktop, and it seems perfect for this discussion: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it only empties today of its strength” -Corrie ten Boom. Thanks for being so honest. That’s why your blog is such a joy to read.

  • Kimberly @ Healthy Strides June 5, 2013, 10:28 am

    I am incredibly guilty of this negative story telling. If I see my immediate supervisor go speak to a bigger boss, I immediately assume it’s because I did X,Y,Z and they are going to fire me. If someone doesn’t come back to a BP class, I assume it’s because I’m a poor instructor. I think part of it is, for me, a lack of self confidence coupled with a lack of feedback.

    I am beginning to realize and embrace the Eleanor Roosevelt quote more and more, not just in terms of life but appearance. (Read: Finally got over myself and bought my first bikini!)

  • Carolyn June 5, 2013, 10:33 am

    GREAT post, Thank you!! 🙂 On a side note, thought you might find this article interesting…on yoga and crossfit

  • Larissa S June 5, 2013, 11:59 am

    This post hit home for me. After social gatherings I go into this mode of analyzing.. Did I talk to much, did I listen enough, ask enough questions. My over analysis ends with extreme anxiety and I end up forgetting how fun it was. Your post really struck a chord and those quotes are phenomenal. Thank u so much for this create post and self reflection.

  • Katie @ running4cupcakes June 5, 2013, 1:42 pm

    I am guilty of this way too often. .. I think in our immediate gratification society where we usally get quick responses. . . it can get the best of us when we don’t get the response expected right away. Great reminder Jen – thank you!!

  • Ja @Ja on the RUN June 5, 2013, 2:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a good read today! 🙂

  • Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona June 5, 2013, 4:13 pm

    This is a great post for me to be reading today. I tend to over think things a lot, and stressing myself out when there’s no need for it.

  • Blaire @ Just Been Running June 5, 2013, 4:31 pm

    Every time you write a post like this I feel like we have a lot in common. I definitely get this way more than I would like to and when I have the realization that everything is going to be ok, I just kind of kick myself because that’s how it always works out.

    I tend to overthink things and get all worked up over nothing and a lot of the times my mind is my own worst enemy. I also have friends who share the same problem…honestly, I would say most people share this problem and I love that you can openly talk about it on the blog.

    I took Suzanne’s class at Charlotte Yoga on Sunday (she is my fav teacher!) and I had been having a really horrible weekend. Something with a friend happened on Friday night and it was weighing really heavily on me all weekend so when I found myself on my mat I become very emotional. Suzanne’s teaching that day felt very similar to the situation that I was going through and I ended up just crying right then and there when I was in a pose. I wasn’t embarrassed and I honestly didn’t try to stop crying either because I felt that I really needed to just be in that moment and let it happen. Afterwards I felt so much better and come Monday, things were worked out with my friend so it was really just mostly in my head. Crazy how that happens.

    Sorry for the novel, but I really appreciated this post!

  • Jackie June 5, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Jen, I love your blog- It’s my very fav. Thank you so much for this post. I can relate to feeling this way a lot- I talk myself into thinking the most negative, sad things, and then like you said things don’t happen that way, and people aren’t actually thinking the bad things about me. I guess this post makes me feel a little less crazy that other people have this issue too. For me it’s something I am really working on stopping!
    Your blog is always such a great treat to read. Thank you!

  • Angie June 5, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I am probably almost twice your age and yet have been dealing with this type of storytelling all my life. One of the stories is that I am the only person that ever does this so you post meant a lot to me.

  • Jessica June 5, 2013, 10:05 pm

    Love. This.

  • shanna June 6, 2013, 8:05 am

    I totally have jacked up a class myself at Y2. For some reason I did a sequence and a half on one leg. It was so bizarre. Like I finished the seqence but started over and the students kept doin it! I got excited and just started calling stuff out. I realized what I was doing and abruptly just told them to sit down. I did feel bad about it for several days but deep down I knew that “sh’t happens and that students need to know that their is no perfection in yoga. Yoga is supposed to help them deal with life and life is not perfect. How they deal with situations when their teacher messes up can be a great lesson for them.

  • Becca June 6, 2013, 8:30 am

    This post was exactly what I needed today! Self doubt is such an emotional cancer. If you don’t fight it, it will completely eat you up. I’ve been trying something new lately and there’s a voice in my head that keeps telling me I suck at it, but really, whether I suck or not, it’s something I enjoy doing and it’s hardly a matter of life or death 🙂 Sometimes keeping things in perspective is hard. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

  • Katie @ Live Half Full June 6, 2013, 11:30 pm

    Oh my goodness, this is so me. BUT, I’ve been working on over thinking for the past two years and this post made me realize how far I’ve come. Thanks for that!

  • Alyssa June 7, 2013, 12:26 pm

    I needed to read this. I get flustered as a new teacher and it’s nice to know someone else does!

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