I joined my aunt and uncle’s morning meditation group today at 7:30am for the second time. Last week I felt a little awkward since I didn’t know any of the other members and didn’t know what to expect. So it was a bit surprising to me that I felt the same awkwardness today as I did last week even though I knew what was going to happen and that everyone was happy to have me join them (they said so, repeatedly).
I thought about that a bit today, wondering what it was that made me feel like I didn’t belong when I had been shown and told the opposite. Since it wasn’t coming from outside, I figured it must be coming from inside myself.
I had the same feeling later when my uncle asked me if I wanted to help him with some work he was doing for a client. He wanted me to help him analyze some data from a survey he’d taken, and as he was showing me what he was doing, my first thought was of my own inadequacy. In that moment, I felt totally incapable of doing meaningful work. It was like someone had taken my confidence and just sucked it out through a straw.
This particular incident is not the important thing though. What I want to figure out is why I have this sudden drop in confidence in certain situations. For example: I didn’t feel self-conscious hardly at all during my first Tai Chi class with several people I’d never met, contorting my body into awkward positions in front of a giant mirror. You’d think (and I would too) that I would have felt more at ease at home just talking to my uncle about data analysis than in a group of strange people while balancing on one leg.
Having pondered this I am forced to conclude that my surplus of confidence during Tai Chi and deficit thereof during meditation this morning is a matter of practice and familiarity. Although I was not familiar with the instructor or some of the other students during my first Tai Chi lesson, I had spent about a week practicing Tai Chi on my own and was familiar enough with it to not worry. Whereas I have not ever sincerely practiced meditating, although I have done some guided meditation work on my own in the past.
I think it is not just familiarity. It is also a matter of my own expectations. During my first Tai Chi lesson I had no expectations of myself. I wasn’t trying to be perfect or impress anyone. I just wanted to learn. I came to the class with no pretension, presenting myself as what I was: a beginner.
Somehow, with the meditation this morning, I had the feeling that it was important for me to show people how quick of a learner I was. I wanted to be able to slip right in to their routine without disturbing anyone else and without making any “mistakes”. Of course, that attitude makes no sense. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, and it doesn’t make any more sense to me now. All I know is that the way I approach something clearly matters.
When I expect myself to meet some sort of expectations that others set or that I imagine others have set (or that I have set for myself), I forget that I am here on this planet to learn.
After all, isn’t that what this whole wellness quest is about? For me to learn?
Ok, so that’s the issue. Or the opportunity. Or the obstacle. Or the process. Whatever you want to call it. That is what I’m facing. So what is the application, the “take away”, the action point?
I think stated simply, the best thing for me to do to combat my tendency to lose confidence in myself when approaching situations in which I may have imagined expectations is to be mindful of my thoughts as I engage in my daily activities. In truth, it isn’t just Tai Chi or meditation that I could be mindful about. I can be mindful as I eat, mindful as I take a shower, mindful as I breathe, even mindful as I walk. If I try to approach every situation as a potential learning opportunity I think first of all, I’d learn a lot more, and second, I would have more confidence and less awkwardness. Because even I know better than to chastise someone who is just beginning to learn something new. Even when that person is me. (Ok so not always. I’m not perfect. But you get the picture.)
Thanks for putting up with my post this evening. It’s kinda preachy, but I wanted to make sure I exposed this growth opportunity of mine and proposed a solution of some kind.
Thanks for reading,