“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody” – Bill Cosby (maybe not someone we want to imitate in all areas of life, but hey, it’s a good quote)
You simply cannot please everyone. I have heard this so many times but for some reason, it never fully sank in until I started teaching yoga.
As a yoga teacher, it is impossible to create a class everyone will love. Some people like music, some people don’t. Some people like a lot of talking and philosophy, some just want the physical practice. Some people like faster flows and some people like to hold poses for a longer period of time. The list goes on and on.
Fortunately, there are thousands of yoga teachers out there, all with their own unique style. And with the rising popularity of yoga, depending on where you live, you may have access to ten or more studios all within a few miles of your house. Those of us who practice yoga know how great it is when you find a teacher you totally jive with and we also know that not every single teacher is our cup of tea.
The same goes for people! Not everyone we meet is going to be a lifelong friend, and that is ok.
I used to spend a lot of energy trying to keep up connections with every person that I met or spent time with. I also felt like I had to be friends with everyone and that everyone should like me. Let me tell you, this was neither useful nor a sustainable way to live.
These days, I put more energy into fewer relationships and am much happier for it. The relationships I truly care about get nurtured on a regular basis and the others fall away. Some relationships requiring more attention than others, and some go through different phases of closeness, but I try not to waste my time trying to force friendships or connections that don’t really feel right.
In addition, I am learning to accept that not everyone I like will want to be a part of my life – it can be a hard pill to swallow, but teaching yoga really has helped me understand how we all have different preferences and sometimes they just don’t line up. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how we humans are.
Be your authentic self and the rest will follow
One day during my yoga teacher training, our teacher asked us to write down a list of what we love in a yoga class. We shared them with each other and I was amazed to hear how different all of our preferences were. Even though each of us had a lot in common and had chosen to come to this specific yoga school in India, we all had different ideas of what the perfect class would look like to us.
Fortunately, that experience helped me realize very early on in my teaching practice that I shouldn’t try to please every student. What I have done instead is to take the aspects of yoga that I love and incorporate them into my own personal teaching style. What I have tried to avoid is taking things that I don’t understand or that don’t resonate with me and using them just because I saw or heard another teacher using them, or because I think that’s what people like in a class.
There are even some aspects of classes that I really enjoy but have chosen not to adopt as my own because they do not feel authentic for me to be sharing. For example, in my teacher training in India, we chanted in Sanskrit at the beginning and end of every class. I love chanting in Sanskrit and I loved singing in unison with my fellow students, but I have chosen not to incorporate any of this into my own teaching because I don’t feel that it is mine to share and I don’t have enough connection with the words or their meanings to teach it to others.
Over the past year, my teaching style has evolved as I have experimented and tried out different methods to see what works for me. I have learned that I prefer to use language that is clear and direct rather than flowery and verbose. I like to give a lot of verbal cues while also leaving space for silence from time to time. I don’t give a lot of physical adjustments because I feel I have a lot more to learn in order to be confident in that department. I create playlists with music that I enjoy and I share themes that feel personally meaningful. When I can, I like to share science-based information about the body that relates to what we are doing in class. I also like to share information about the chakras and the 8 limbs of yoga that is relevant to our theme.
And you know what? In remaining true to myself, I have drawn in groups of dedicated students who resonate with my style and the things I am sharing. I’m sure there are plenty of students out there who have taken my class and thought “Nope, this is not for me!” and that is totally fine, because I am not trying to be everybody’s yoga teacher. For every teacher, there is a group of students out there who wants what they are dishing out and those are the students I am teaching for.
A few great connections
And the most beautiful thing of all is that this is a lesson that does not apply only to yoga! (big surprise, right?) Like many aspects of yoga, it has implications for so many other aspects of our lives.
When we compromise who we are as a person and instead try to be what we think everyone around us wants, we are doing a disservice to both ourselves and others. Not only are we making life way harder and way less enjoyable for ourselves, we are depriving those around us of connecting with a truly amazing person whom they love and admire exactly as they are. We are taking away the opportunity for someone to meet a person (US!) with whom they authentically connect. And that is just a darn shame.
I used to think I needed everyone to love me in order to be happy. But I have learned that when I am authentically and unapologetically myself, I draw in the people who are resonating on the same frequency as me and create a truly wonderful tribe in which I have deep, meaningful, rich relationships with people. A few great connections is worth so much more than hundreds of surface-level friendships with people who don’t know the real you.
Be yourself and the people who love you just as you are will gravitate towards you. And by being true to who you are, you will unconsciously give others the permission to do the same.