This might come as a surprise, but you don’t really care what other people think of you.
Others have derided or criticized you, and you might feel bad about that, angry and even sad for a while. But have you ever fundamentally changed Who You Are because of that criticism? And has the criticism ever changed who you fundamentally are at your core?
Your conscious mind is waiting to tell you notions similar to this. Your unconscious mind will continue to say, “This criticism is serving a purpose because it is helping me to develop a thick skin. It is part of being a human — no one can escape judgment. I’d better get used to it, and I’ll be better off in the long run because of it.”
But your unconscious mind, if you listen carefully, says, “No one knows you better than yourself. The words that are said about you are simply words. It’s how you choose to interpret and analyze them that brings you suffering… or not.”
Don’t suffer if you don’t have to
I know You because You are like myself. We spend so much time worrying about what others will think or disappointed in others’ reactions, that we create a bigger unease out of something that might not be that big of a deal. An example:
Them: “Did you get your hair cut? It’s… nice.”
You, internally: Nice? Obviously you don’t know good style. I love my hair this way. This is the best haircut I’ve had in ages! So what if you don’t like it? It’s not like your hair is that great… Well, maybe you’re right. I did have some doubts when it was being trimmed. Oh no, now I have to walk around like this until it grows out again!
And so on and so on. We’ve all been there, whether it was about your hairstyle or not. Long after the person has made a comment, we’re analyzing and reacting and this all takes energy in our brain — great amounts of energy to justify our choices and the way we live our lives.
What if you just… stopped?
What if you listened to your conscious mind: To the You that is not trapped in the tide of thought. The You that recognizes Your authority to invoke the childhood adage, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything you say sticks right back to you.”
Freedom = focus your awareness
When you latch onto others’ critiques of you, it’s not long before your inner dialogue ramps up similar to the haircut example. We get lost by coming to our own defense. Most of the time, we don’t do so publicly. So here you are in your unconscious mind, reenacting a play-by-play all by yourself. You + you are the sole audience.
Seems a little silly when you look at it that way, right?
Yoga and meditation are the tools to focus your awareness. They’re the gateway to listening to what your conscious mind is waiting to tell you. I purposefully say “waiting” because the answers to all your worries are already there.
“What differentiates a conscious, centered being from a person who is not so conscious is simply the focus of their awareness.” -Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul
The next time you feel attacked or criticized, consider what’s worse: what’s been said to you, or you repeating it to yourself long after the incident has passed.
When you focus your awareness in this way, you’ll find freedom in your reaction — namely, that you don’t have to react at all.
Try it: Sugar Cane, Ardha Chandra Chapasana
This pose, for me, is one of those “I don’t care what other people think” asanas. It’s got so much going on physiologically — hip opening, shoulder flexibility, backbend, balance — that it’s necessary to make modifications so the pose fits your body… not the other way around.
The yoga journey is not about how you look. It’s about how you feel. And when you feel into this posture in particular, your heart will brighten, your mind will calm and you’ll find freedom by letting go and letting the posture come to you.
- Stand in Tadasana with hands on your hips. Bend both knees and plant your right fingertips on the ground about two feet in front of you and slightly to the right for stability. You might choose to use a yoga block here.
- Inhale and lift your left leg up, incrementally stacking hips on top of the other for Half Moon Pose. Reach your left arm high. Breathe evenly and slowly to come into your balance.
- Maintain a soft bend in the right knee as you deeply bend the left lifted leg. Reach back through the left hand to take hold of the top of the foot, either from the outer or inner sole depending on your shoulder flexibility and reach.
- Once you’ve made contact, engage the shoulder blades down the back. Press the foot into the hand and hand into the foot to arch the spine into a backbend, navel tracking toward spine. Keep the gaze down or forward. The gaze can also be up, but only if there’s no strain in the neck.
- Hold steady with your breath for five rounds. Release your foot and lower your left leg to the ground for a forward fold. Repeat on the other side when ready.