I walked in the front door and made my way upstairs to the studio. Yoga mat next to yoga mat neatly lined up across the room. There was an opening towards the center of the room, close to the wall – generally where I like to be in case I lose my balance. I nestled myself into that spot, set up my water bottle, towel and blocks.
I sat down and looked around the room. Everyone seemed to be in easy conversation with each other, old friends and neighbors. This was their weekly coffee date and time to spend together. The teacher walked around the room and greeted everyone by special nicknames, bestowed by him, and full hugs.
He moved to the center of the room and started calling out a series of poses. It was a very prescribed sequence. This is not the class you come to commune with your inner self and explore the nooks and crannies in your body and mind. This was a physical practice. And a part of me, loved the challenge.
After class was over, people rolled up their mats and resumed the conversations that they had started earlier or made their way to see a friend that they hadn’t spoken to yet. After I gathered my things, I walked by the teacher, smiled and said, “Thanks for a great class.” As I turned to leave, he stopped me and said, “You’re really strong. Hope to see you back next week.”
Ever since I left that yoga class this summer, that statement has been sitting and stewing in my mind – “You’re strong.” Was he surprised that I was strong? Because of how I looked or because I was a woman? Was he not expecting me to be? Did I not look strong?
Strength has been something that I’ve had a hard time embracing. Maybe because it’s something that I don’t expect of myself. Mental fortitude and strength to handle stressful and hard situations – yes. But physical strength?
I’m not supposed to be strong and have muscles. When I receive a compliment about my strength or how my arms look, my first instinct is to brush it off and say, “Oh no no. Not me.” Why is that? Is it because my strength is really my insecurity?
My mother always questions why I work out several times during the week and why I lift weights. She’s also the one who has told me not to wear sleeveless shirts because my arms don’t look good. Maybe that’s why there’s a little part of me that smiles instead when people complement my arms.
I’m still not sure why that comment has stuck with me so long.
Do you have strengths disguised as insecurities? How do you receive compliments?