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The Fear of Being Special

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness

That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small Does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.

~ Our Deepest Fear, Marianne Williamson

The fear of being special

A few days ago I had to go to Milan for a meeting. Milan - the capital of fashion & style. Good-looking people, beautiful shops, trendy hairstyles and eye-catching dresses. The beauty in Italy is literally everywhere around, and that's one of the reasons why I love being here so much!

Even though I like dressing up myself too - usually I look pretty casual. I think, except for just loving the comfort, and being used to leggins and jampsuits, I belong to the generation of women who - in order to get respect for their intellectual powers, and in order to be treated more professionally - had to hide a bit the physical body, so I tend to choose looking rather 'average'. This time, as I was supposed to have just a regular lunch in Milan I chose whatever I found in my wardrobe, without any special intention or thought. Oh no, sorry - my pink Dr Martens are always very special to me, but in Milan they are not as spectacular as you would expect.

As I was leaving the house my partner checked on me briefly. Besides being Italian who loves art & beauty he runs also a company designing ties and bowties - so I like using his eyes to approve my 'adequate' look. ’Take this hat’ - he said grabbing one of several hats hanging in the hall. ‘Now you look really cool. Figo, mi piace.’ *

{*figo= cool, stylish; mi piace= I like}

I looked in the mirror, and yes, I did look cool, actually. But then, immediately I felt that I absolutely could not go out like this. I started feeling shy and kind of anxious, like a little girl who feels stupid and embarrassed. Yes, me - I know people find me super self confident and courageous - would you guess I have moments like this? I certainly do, a lot! I am a human too…

My body shrunk, and I started imagining all those eyes gazing at me, at my 'unusual' look. Watching this fast flow of my thoughts I quickly realised what was happening: I know this situation so well, especially from my work as a yoga teacher trainer! In my memory I instantly saw faces of a few students who I was working with on this particular issue - the fear of being special.

In my experience the fear of being special is pretty common. At least in the field of my work, or among people I work with - in yoga, holistic health, psychology, coaching, personal growth... People who I train, very often after hearing about their potential, talents or unique qualities, simply don't believe it at all, and partly or totally reject accepting what they hear. And it is not just a courtesy. It is really that they constantly sabotage their powers by denying to be special.

A big part of Yoga TTC & yoga community is supporting the diversity and uniqueness of every student, here workshop in Goa/ India 2015

For example, I still remember Tatiana - a student that I met back in India in 2013, I think in Dharamsala. Gosh... she would be so harsh on herself, even though she was such a beautiful and natural teacher! One day, when students were sharing their own creative sequences in small groups Tatiana prepared - as always - a very unique flow with perfect instructions, great demonstration's strategy and all looked super professional. When everybody (not just me) would give her feedback after all - how great the sequence was, how safe everybody felt, how beautifully she was guiding us... she would look at us like we did to her something bad, and finally she grabbed my hand after session to whisper "Karo, can you tell me now what you really think?". I would never forget this moment - her eyes, and here stressed face - cause she really felt like we all just lied to her... But Tatiana was just one of hundreds, thousands that I met...

Sometimes all we need is someone to hold our hand (or foot) for just a second - in this way we can feel supported, stable, and then we can find our way to re-discover our power. In asana classes it happens often - as a teacher I usually just gently help my students to find their strength and balance, and then they can work wonders!

Why is it so hard for some of us to accept our beauty, our strength, our uniqueness? The paradox that strikes me is: we all try to shine on Instagram, on our websites, on our selfies, or in the front of our students/clients/families... but when we really see how unique and special we are, or when we get this feedback - it is hard to believe, hard to digest... isn't it? Too many of us feel like frauds, having a kind of impostor syndrome, even if what we offer to this world has a deep and really powerful meaning. Shame is an unspoken epidemic.

What makes us hide, or feel ashamed when we are seen truly? What makes us feel so comfortable unified, staying in the brackets of 'average' or 'not too'? What makes us underestimate ourselves, just in case someone notices our power or gifts?

Marianne Williamson suggests in this beautiful poem which I quoted above that we hide in order not to make others uncomfortable. But wait, she is so right when she claims that everybody is special, everybody is powerful. I do see this potential in each and every student that comes to our trainings and courses. I really do. For years. But - as my best friend says - the potential is not equal to reality, and our task is to convert one to another...

What if - as she says - by allowing our 'special self' to be seen and acknowledged - we allow other people to notice and accept their powers too? What if - by allowing ourselves to shine and be different - we make others comfortable with their gifts and 'differences' too? Yes, that is what I have been always teaching, and see - here I am - myself facing the trap that I de-construct for others in my trainings on daily basis. Here I am - vulnerable and sort of speechless - studying all this yoga, all this psychology... listening for hours to the wisdom of dr Brené Brown, dr Elaine Aron, Vedic Yogis...

But hey - when we meet an obstacle it is also a great opportunity! I really got triggered here, so I took that damn hat, and decided to make an experiment - I went for my trip observing how people react to my look, and observing myself - how I feel and behave. It was not easy at first, but after several minutes I actually started forgetting the hat was any issue. The reality check is one of the best tool which we can use to deal with self sabotage.

The truth is - not only majority of people I met on that day didn't find my look 'inadequate', 'different' or even 'unusual' (in Milan to feel inadequate or unusual you need to put a great effort I guess), but I actually noticed that some of people around me smiled to me gently (as they always do in Italy) - maybe because I am blond, or maybe because I have a funny dog, or maybe because my eyes smile to them... Nobody did make any drama out of my hat. Not for a second... On that day I came back feeling empowered, and really proud of myself. Maybe these studies and yoga are working after all, maybe we cannot avoid all the traps and challenges, but understanding their nature helps us to deal with them wisely.

I found Williamson's poem many years ago. Like half of the Internet I thought it was Nelson Mandela who said these words in 1994 in one of his speeches. He did not, but it doesn't matter - he could have said that, and I am sure the real author wouldn't mind. If these were my words - I wouldn't. The point is - each of us in unique, and I strongly believe in that. Not each of us demonstrate the full power, and I get it (yes, believe me, I get it as you can see sometimes I struggle even with wearing a cool hat in the streets of Milan), BUT each time when you catch yourself on having this pattern, each time when you find the 'shrinking' self-sabotage tendency - please step back, take a breath, make a reality check, and remind yourself of this beautiful poem.

Lastly - you need to know I am not a religious person, but that being said, I do like all philosophical systems - to analyse, to think of them, to contemplate them. As in this poem there is a word 'god' I want to let you know I am rather agnostic (if we need any label), with a strong hope that there is something beyond us, but not necessarily 'god' as presented in the religious systems that I know. Everything though can be my inspiration for life and my teaching - so seeing Marianne Williamson's poem widely, I don't mind and I am not afraid of 'god' being involved, even if my interpretation of this part may differ from yours...

With love, have a beautiful week!

Your Karo.

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1 comentario

eman saffo
eman saffo
11 oct 2021

Great read. Thanks

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