Four score and seven years ago, I taught yoga classes in person. Some of you may remember this. When I first began teaching, I would read the room with vigilance, looking for signs of approval. Some days, students would look absolutely miserable, which of course, in a crowded 100-degree room, is not allowed. We must be happy! We must “Woo!”. I would notice a grimace here and a groan there, and catch some folks child’s-posing at every break. Some students even refused to high five their neighbor when I told them to!* The nerve!
For a long time, I’ve been battling a case of good old fashioned PPS (People-Pleasing Syndrome). My ego LOVES to please. She drools over nice ClassPass reviews and rakes me over the coals for negative ones. Her intentions are in the right place- she wants to be the best yoga teacher she can be, but by looking to the external world for validation, she can’t help but try to control how others think and feel.
Beyond “You can’t please everyone,” I’m understanding that it’s not my job to please everyone. It’s not my job to make anyone feel anything. Somewhere along the line, I got this idea that if I keep everyone around me happy, that makes me a good person, but lately I’ve been on this journey of being cognizant of what is in my control, and what is not. As it turns out, other people’s opinions? Largely out of my control. Other folks’ emotions? Fully out of my control.
What if we tried this: We let those who are angry be angry, and let those who are happy be happy? This doesn’t mean we don’t engage; rather, we can engage so much more efficiently if we do so from a stable, neutral place.
This isn’t just about saving our energy or being a better listener. It’s also about de-centering ourselves. There’s a fine line between being considerate- or perhaps even compassionate- and being controlling.
When I see friends on Instagram getting especially angry over a story, (regardless of whether or not I agree): Their anger is not mine. When I’m in a heated debate with my dad at the dinner table: His feelings are not mine to manage.
In one of my favorite quotes by Katie Byron, she says, “My favorite thing about my suffering is that it isn’t yours.” This isn’t to say we should all be apathetic. It’s simply a reminder that a certain level of detachment must be had in order to honor each other’s unique stories and struggles. In other words: maybe we would all benefit from a large dose of “She doesn’t even go here.”
*This was a reference to pre-COVID classes. Please don’t ever high five anyone again, ever.