I hear this from people frequently. When they go an entire day of eating healthy, or when they go to a yoga class, people will often say to me, “you’d be proud of me.” It always makes me cringe.
We live in a world where people are always seeking the approval of other people. How many lawyers or doctors do you know who went to law school or medical school because that is what they were expected to do? How many of us actually questioned whether university should immediately follow a high school graduation? That is what was expected, so we did it. We played by the rules.
In many ways, it is easier to live life our lives when they have been designed by someone else. We do not have to think too hard about it. I remember graduating from law school thinking, “this is the first time I have had to make a conscious decision about what to do with my life. Before this, everything has just fallen into place.” And then my first job (thankfully) fell into place, and the cycle has continued.
Law is one of those professions where we want to make someone proud of us. We have mentors and colleagues and judges and clients we must constantly try to impress. When I took the California bar exam, my biggest fear was not that I would not pass it, but that I would let down the people who had made it possible for me to take it in the first place. (For the record, I did not have a job in California, so passing or not did not affect me or my livelihood.)
But is this situation healthy? Does it serve us? Personally, I do not think so.
Yoga is about going inside; it is about finding out what you need in the moment, not yesterday or tomorrow, but now. A few weeks ago, I listened to a guided meditation, and the teacher stated (rather emphatically, I might add), “when you close the eyes, you are going inside. Some people close the eyes to block out the outside, but in mediation, we close the eyes to see what is on the inside.” His tone turned me off, but his message has stayed with me.
On some level, I appreciate when people say, “you’d be proud of me” to me. It makes me feel like we have a connection worth continuing. We are close enough that we care about the other person’s opinion and want to share ways we connect. The assumption is, I think, that I would be proud because it is something I do as well and something I take seriously, which is why people say this to me most often when it involves food choices or yoga.
But I cringe because it also implies people feel I am being judgmental, or that we are all judgmental. It implies we need others to be proud of us to do things that are generally “good.” But what I would really love to see is people determining what works for them. It should come as no surprise that I think yoga can be good for everyone, but that does not mean I think everyone should do yoga.
I am the last person who will say that what others think should never matter. I believe we live in a world together for a reason, and we need to understand and respect each other in that world, so what we think and do together is vitally important. But when it comes to the internal, when it comes to “being proud” of your life choices, I know I am going to be most “proud” when we all start asking ourselves what works best for us – not superficially, but deeply.
I get giddy when I meet people doing yoga for the first time. I realized recently, however, that it’s not because there is another person out there doing yoga. It’s because there is another person ready to try something new to see if it works for them. I hope those people are proud of themselves. Rather than seeking approval from the external world, or pushing it away when it becomes too overwhelming, what if we closed our eyes and asked ourselves, “what would make me proud of me?”
© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.