I recently attended a bachelorette party. Although I absolutely adore the woman that was being celebrated, I have never been one to get excited about spending a long weekend with a group of girls wearing sparkly pink beads around their necks. To be totally honest, I have never been thrilled to spend a long weekend with any group—women or men.
Growing up I always felt slightly intimidated and out of place in groups of people that were socially defined as one thing or another. Jocks, preps, nerds, choir kids—whatever the classification—my internal compass always felt like it was doing backflips in the presence of such a close-knit collection of people. Whether or not there was any logic to my thinking, I believed that being a part of a group meant sacrificing some part of myself.
When I look back, I now see how much of my life trajectory has been molded by my aversion to being stuffed inside of a box. I am terrible at following rules, I don't do well professionally when someone is managing me, and I have always preferred spending time with friends one-on-one. I thoroughly enjoy parties, but I am left energetically drained as I anxiously await a return to my quiet home.
I would be your classic definition of an introvert that comes off as an extrovert, an empath, and a highly sensitive person. Even though I said I disdain boxes, I have miraculously just crawled into three of them, all with six well-formed walls. I think it goes without saying that there are parts of all of us seeking approval, acceptance, and understanding of why we are who we are.
On Saturday afternoon, as the eight of us migrated from one drinking establishment to the next, I couldn't help but feel judgment rise up inside of me. In a city that none of us had ever been to, why were we spending the afternoon at a bar? Was that another gaggle of bachelorette ladies sitting right next to us? Why were we spending our money on meaningless entertainment that seemed to inevitably end in small talk?
In the yoga sutras, there are five yamas, which are defined as the restraints or control of our behaviors. The second yama, satya, or truthfulness, is the practice of honesty—owning one's feelings and actions, nonjudgment, and forgiveness. Aligning the belief system of yoga with the principles of mindfulness, we find that both encourage self-inquiry and self-responsibility as a key token to living our highest truth. It is only once we begin to take ownership of our emotions and how we react to them that we are able to walk on an enlightened path.
Upon deeper reflection, my judgments over the course of the weekend had very little to do with the people I was surrounded by or the places that we spent time in. In fact, my judgments and reactions were mirrored images of parts of myself that need to be examined. Turns out, judgment is a wise teacher and the ultimate encourager to see every situation as an opportunity for growth.
Spending time with a group in which I was not in control of who was there or what we would be doing brought out the little girl in me that never felt like I fit in. Even if I was social and able to bounce between groups, I typically felt misunderstood and very much like an outsider. And, like all good teachings, the lesson of belonging reemerged in this moment to remind me that I still have work to do and that I will never fully belong until I totally accept who I am moment to moment.
When we begin to practice mindful seeking, we become more confident in knowing that nothing anyone ever says or does is about anyone other than themselves. Our tendencies to react to people or situations are simply inner wake-up calls that we have something inside of us coming up to be healed. By exploring our judgments, we are taking radical action to love ourselves more, which inherently leads to a broader capacity to love and accept others exactly as they are.