Photo: Miss Menighan (Detail)
Yoga for confidence
Constant second guessing ourselves isn’t discernment, it’s cruel and debilitating fear. Yoga asks only that we observe without judging what wants us to let it grow.
BY MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT CORINNA BARSAN
My confidence went astray somewhere between puberty and declaring a major.
There was a time when I was younger, when my confidence was rambunctious, determined, and spirited. Yet I misplaced it, or let it slip down the drain. While some people seem to escape those insecure adolescent years unscathed, I stepped into adulthood with my back bent under a heavy pack of uncertainty and aimlessness.
I was suffering from what you might call lack of direction.
It happens to many of us at some point in our lives—we lose sight of ourselves. The question is how do you get it back?
Post-graduation, I was on my ideal career track. I had landed a tony position at a Condé Nast women’s magazine that came with freebies, destination photo shoots, and seats at Fashion Week. I teetered around New York in borrowed designer clothes and an intoxicating illusion of luxury.
In reality though, the veneer of glitz and glamour had faded quickly and I ended up resenting the superficiality of the job, accrued too many IOUs to my credit cards, and I was subsisting on low budget meals endlessly based around eggs.
Before me loomed a decision of significant magnitude—should I stay in my coveted job or should I go?
Unhappy, dissatisfied, and stuck, I was unsure of what bliss I was supposed to be following and how I would even recognize it when we crossed paths.
I wavered. I second-guessed myself. My internal frequency was tuned up so high that all I heard was static.
So I started searching for answers in all the wrong places. I was looking for clues at the bottom of vodka tonics. I was grasping for ego boosts through a string of bad relationships that only left me feeling discouraged. And retail therapy, courtesy of Visa and Mastercard, was a short-lived joy.
My personal self-worth was floundering.
One day, over coffee with a mentor, I expressed my angst about making the right decision and my fear of never discovering my raison d’être. She listened patiently to my rambles, watched me pour too much sugar into my coffee, and then with the sage wisdom of a female Yoda, she told me
My bliss wouldn’t just show up unannounced on my doorstep in full regalia; I had to invite it to my party.
My mentor advised me not to think of it in terms of choosing a “career,” but in simply finding a job that interested me. She said if I followed my enthusiasm, if I paid attention to what motivated and excited me, my path in life would start to take form.
So I began listening and reconnecting to my voice.
Much in the way that we follow our breath through vinyasa, I followed my cues of interest—photography exhibits, literary readings, a chat with a friend about taking a creative writing class. Step-by-step, breath-by-breath, I began to take note of the things that made me happy and I filled my basket with them.
It wasn’t that I necessarily lacked a vision for the future, but I lacked the confidence in my abilities to see it clearly and to manifest those dreams.
In gathering my likes and dislikes, I was cultivating self-trust and charting a new course—one that had my name all over it.
Over-thinking and over-controlling our lives, can only lead us into a tailspin. It’s when we give up on pushing and prodding, in trying to fit a square block inside a circular hole, that we allow a natural rhythm to take over that doesn’t cloud our perspective and our individuality.
Often when I find myself in an uncomfortable or painful yoga pose, I soon realize it has everything to do with keeping up with my more advanced neighbor or wanting to impress someone in class.
In that one moment of clarity, I bring myself back
with the reminder that my only responsibility is simply to mindfully move through the asana at my own pace, trusting in my journey. As long as I breathe and listen to my body’s cues, I can flow through not only my practice but also the myriad daily challenges that await me outside the door.
So while it took drills, cranes, and shovels to excavate my ol’ barrel-chested self-esteem from beneath a pile up of doubt, confusion, and anxiety, I got it back. It certainly still likes to sneak off every now and then when things get hairy, but I’ve better learned how to tune out the nagging doubt and tune into my inner frequency—the answers will eventually reveal themselves.
Challenges usually cease to be frightening as soon as we trust that we have the necessary tools to conquer them.
As for my overwhelming twenty-something dilemma, I decided to quit fashion and I found a new job in photo editing for magazine and illustrated book projects, a road that would later lead me to my passion for book publishing. Wherever I am on my path today—a detour, a highway, a country road—I have come across moments of bliss that inspire me to keep moving toward old and new-found dreams.
But as they say, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I’m still searching, but confident I’ll get to where I need to be.
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Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.