Here I am, 32 years old and admitting to the world that I was once a mean girl.
In high school, I once pulled a girl's hair because one of my best friends didn't like her. I verbally harassed a younger, prettier girl, calling her ugly and a slut when I walked past her in the hallway. My friends and I mocked a teacher just because we knew we could get her to leave the classroom in tears.
Like a drug, there was an extreme high that I felt after putting someone down. But the high also came with lows that subliminally fueled my negative thinking — something that I didn't realize at the time.
I now understand that I was coming from a place of fear — fear of being different, fear of being vulnerable, and fear of being myself. I was more focused on comparing myself to others and constantly seeking their acceptance. I learned to get the attention I needed through ugly means, like putting others down and being dramatic.
I grew up in a household full of verbal abuse and negativity. My mother regularly told me that I looked ugly when I didn’t wear makeup or dress nice. She constantly compared my actions to what other “popular” girls were doing. I could not sit inside and read on the weekends because it wasn't social enough. She would say things like that my dad was gay because he wouldn’t have sex with her, or my brother was a loser for not having friends.
I coped by building defense mechanisms. I dealt with my emotions by attacking rather than being attacked. I could change on a dime and become anyone I wanted, just to fit in. I was no longer myself but rather someone who I thought people wanted me to be.
After years of self-neglect, I became severely depressed and suffered from anxiety. I continued to feel empty into my 20s, and I had no idea why. I had everything that anyone could ever want: I was engaged, owned a house on the water, and had many good friends.
I remember standing in my kitchen looking through the window at my fiancé and feeling angry at him for smiling. I suddenly had a vision of my future self — I was my mother. For the first time, I saw my real self, and didn’t like what I saw. I needed to make a change.
I tried different things like calling off my engagement, changing jobs, and starting therapy, but nothing worked. Then, yoga taught me the tools to discover what it was that I longed for deep within myself. My yoga teacher training helped me develop an awareness of myself that I had no clue even existed. It was like I was being introduced to myself for the first time. Through exercises like meditation and self-reflection, I began to recognize my negative thought patterns and think more positively.
A large part of yoga is choosing happiness. It helped me choose to no longer rely on others in order to feel good. I'm responsible for myself, and I can decide who and what kind of person I want to be. I have found true happiness because of it.
I can now write and admit to the world my imperfections, regardless of possible judgments and rejections. I can teach a yoga class and open my heart up to connect with my students. I can love and accept my mother for what love she is capable of giving.
But I'm not perfect. I still find myself judging others in my mind, comparing my yoga practice to theirs. When those negative thoughts bubble up, I try to understand them. They usually have something to do with my own insecurities or fears, though it can sometimes take seconds, minutes, or even days to realize that.
My hope is that many of you recognize that you, too, might have a mean girl inside of you. We are not terrible people, even though we may have said or done some pretty hurtful things. In the end, we all want the same thing: to be happy, to feel loved, and to know that we matter.
Today is a new day, and each moment is a new moment to wake up and try to be better. It is time to forgive yourself and let go of that hurting girl. Life is better without her.
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