Your Relationship with Failure

We’re all going to try and fail at some things. If you’re like most people, you’ll try and fail a LOT and hopefully every time you fail, you’ll learn and grow and strengthen and also figure out how invested you are. How determined. How much it means to you, whatever “it” is you’re trying to do.

Failure is a topic that resonates with most people pretty instantly. You have some kind of relationship with failure, some feeling about it, whether you feel like a failure in certain areas of your life or you want nothing to do with the idea at all. As if failure might be contagious. Some people who are wildly successful by society’s standards still feel like a failure. Some people who are failures by society’s standards feel utterly fulfilled.

Sometimes we “should” on ourselves and compare and contrast our experiences with those of our peers and end up feeling pretty awful. It can be a lot easier to focus on what we haven’t done, or what we haven’t done well, than to pay attention to all the things we have done and all the things that are flowing.

You might find you spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror wishing you could turn the car around and go back a decade or two to do things differently.

Whatever the case, your relationship with failure is going to depend on your definition of success. So maybe consider your definition of success and look at your life through that lens. Do you have love? Meaningful connections? Pursuits that light you up? If you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head you won’t have time for questions like these right now, but otherwise these are good things to consider.

This is also what we’ll be talking about during the Friday Family Meeting on the Yogis Anonymous Practice Page. If this topic resonates with you, join me Friday at 11:15am PST! It’s free to join, we talk about a different topic each week and how to apply the practice of yoga to the topic at hand. Then I lead a live guided meditation. I’d love to see you!

Much love to all ❤️
Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here!

Get Off the Hamster Wheel of Not-Enoughness

When you’re part of a culture that is always sending you messages that you aren’t good enough, and teaches you to base your feelings of self-worth on how you measure up compared to other people, it’s really easy to feel like you suck. The truth is, there are about 7.5 billion people on the planet, but there’s only one of you. There never has been and there never will be another you, isn’t that incredible? Your worth has nothing to do with how you’re stacking up compared to the person ahead of you or behind you, whether you’re in a socially-distanced line or you’re looking at your social media feed. Your worth is not the number in your bank account or the number on your scale or your breast-size or waist-size or bicep-size. It isn’t in an arm balance or inversion, it isn’t in how many “followers” you have, it isn’t in your hair or the beer you drink or don’t drink, it isn’t in your car or your job or your partner. Your worth is intrinsic to you. You are here and you are unique and you have something to offer this world only you can. That’s amazing to me. You might need to get out of your own way, or heal on a deep level, you might need to stop believing old stories that keep you stuck, but your worth is never at issue.

One of the best ways to start coming from a place of abundance instead of lack and the fear that there isn’t enough for you, or that someone else has or could steal your place in the sun, is to focus on what you DO have, what is flowing, the gifts that might be easy to take for granted but are actually huge. I opened my eyes this morning and I get to be here another day with the people I love. That’s huge, that’s everything. I HAVE people I love deeply, who amaze me with their kindness, intelligence, insight, humor, enthusiasm, passion, steadfastness and resilience and I am loved in a deep way by a few people who really know me, see me and understand me, and that’s the luckiest thing I know. These are three gigantic things I could easily overlook if I allowed myself to get caught up in the hamster wheel of not-enoughness, but the antidote for that is a gratitude practice, a daily effort to remember. And this has helped me through some very dark days and tough times, and it doesn’t mean we don’t feel despair, fear, frustration, rage and every other feeling under the sun, it just means we take some time each day to appreciate the things we do have. It makes the painful days a bit less so and the beautiful days that much more piercing.

Sending you lots of love,

Ally Hamilton

What’s one thing that’s lighting you up right now? I’d love to know!

Where You Find Your Shoulds You’ll Find Your Shame

You know about “shoulding” on yourself, right? When that nasty inner critic pipes up and says you should be further along than you are professionally or you should be married by now or you should make better choices with romantic partners or you should lose that ten pounds or you should be able to do it all and still look like a million bucks or you should be able to work and be an amazing parent, partner, friend, or you should not have said that stupid thing or lost your patience or made that horrible decision, and if anyone knew they’d also know how unworthy you are of love, friendship, anyone’s high esteem or affection.

That’s the problem with shame. It’s a liar, because the truth is we all have things we wish we could go back and do differently, we all have things we don’t share, even with our closest people, we all struggle with feeling like it’s just us. Shame makes you feel like a fraud, like you’re bad and not worthy, and because of that you have to push down your worst choices and biggest mistakes. Shame separates us from each other.

No one gets through life without making mistakes, no one feels good about every choice s/he has made. It’s okay, it’s called being human. Stop shoulding yourself and start working on forgiving yourself so you can offer up that particular spark of yours to the world. Life is too short for anything else.

If the world isn’t being gentle with you, I hope you’re being gentle with yourself. 
Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Does Yoga Teach You How to Trust Yourself and Others? YES!

trustMy parents divorced when I was four. The broad strokes about my childhood experience after that are as follows–my dad liked women a lot, and my mom liked Chardonnay a lot. There was more to it than that, of course, but I spent a lot of time feeling bewildered and concerned about both of them.

Working Through the Confusion

I spent most of my growing-up years care-taking and peacemaking, and trying to be perfect so everyone would be happy. There wasn’t a lot of time or room to think about how I felt about anything, or to value my feelings. By the time I reached young adulthood, I had no clue how I felt about anything. I didn’t know what made me happy, scared, or inspired. I didn’t know what my gifts were, or how I should go about sharing them. I knew I didn’t want to be abandoned. I knew how to make myself indispensable to romantic partners. I knew how to be the good girlfriend, best friend, sister, daughter, student, but I had no clear sense of who I was, not really.

Dealing with the Pain

Needless to say, I found myself broken-hearted and pretty lost in my twenties. I was depressed a lot of the time, or anxious. I had frequent, debilitating migraines. I’d be in the kind of pain that makes you crawl around on the floor, vomiting, unable to see. I had a doctor give me a prescription for Percocet at seventeen and tell me to take it whenever I felt any pain coming on. It became hard to figure out the difference between an impending migraine, and normal stress, tension, or any uncomfortable feeling, so I took Percocet a lot. Basically, I was in a lot of pain.

Learning to Trust Myself Again With the Help of Yoga

When I started practicing yoga during my senior year at Columbia University, I was recovering from a horrendous relationship that had stirred the pot of all my childhood wounds. I had played out a lot of my history, looking to rewrite it, and find my happy ending, only to crash into a brick wall. On my mat, I started focusing on my breath. I was amazed at how that quieted the racket in my head. I started to pay attention to how I felt, and to figure out when my body was saying, yes, and when it was saying no. It took time and dedication, but I decided to place importance on the messages I was receiving from my body, and to reignite a conversation between my body and my mind that I’d been ignoring for years.

The reality is the body is full of wisdom and information about who we are, how we feel, and what we need to be at peace. The mind, while interesting, is full of ideas and opinions about how we should feel, or what we should need or want to be at peace. Some of those ideas are not even ours. A lot of the time we’re so used to being what other people want us to be, we’ve forgotten how to be who we are. And how can you possibly trust yourself if you don’t know yourself? Time and again, I’d put myself in reckless situations. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be loved, but I did not treat myself kindly. I did not protect myself from people or situations, even when my intuition was saying “RUN!!!” I let my mind override my gut feelings for years, because I didn’t trust my gut, I’d been taught to doubt myself. At a certain point, that isn’t on anybody else, including your parents. At a certain point, that’s on you.

Growing Trust for Yourself & Others

The key to growing in trust for yourself and trust for others has to do with listening closely, and responding with compassion, honesty and kindness. These are things you can start to practice on your mat, as I did. If you’re in a pose and your body is saying. “That’s too much”, you back off, you find a place where it’s manageable, where you can breathe. Instead of striving and forcing your way into difficult poses, you give your body time, you work with it, you develop a bond there. You place more importance on the relationship you’re having with yourself than any pose. The more you loosen your grip, the less you get intense about having to “nail” a pose, the more your body opens. You’re not likely to find balance right-side-up or upside-down if there’s no foundation of trusting yourself. If you build that first, you’ll be surprised about where your body will go and what it will do for you, and you’ll also realize that getting your ankle behind your head is not the key to your happiness. Trusting yourself is, though.

When you know that you’re placing importance on how you feel, when you trust that your feelings have an impact on your actions, choices and the direction of your life, you can relax. My mind is full of interesting ideas, and sometimes I enjoy them a lot. Other times, I laugh at the absurdity. As far as choices about where I want to be, how I want to spend my time and with whom, what it is I’m trying to offer up, whether a situation or relationship feels right, or not so much, I always listen to my gut feelings now. I still get migraines occasionally, but the frequency and intensity have lessened so profoundly, they aren’t a meaningful problem for me at this point, and I don’t have any desire to numb out. I want to be awake for my life, and open to all my feelings as they arise, even the ones that are challenging; I don’t want to blur the edges or be in a fog. I changed the way I eat, I make sure I get enough sleep, and when I need to rest mentally or physically, I rest. Having an open and ongoing conversation with your body makes life so much easier. Life is mysterious enough, you really don’t want to be a mystery to yourself!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Want to start opening that conversation between your gut feelings and your loud mind? Try this class. It’s called Follow Your Intuition or Get Burned! Preview it here.


 

Or, try a full course…

from-pain-to-peace-using-your-practice-to-change-your-life@2x copy

The Dangers of Low Self-Esteem

didionWhen I was in college, I used to babysit for this family. They had the most adorable little girl, and I loved her. Over the summer, I was with her every day. During the school year, I’d babysit some nights and weekends. She was a little sweetheart, but the mom and dad were not so wonderful. First of all, they didn’t pay me a competitive hourly rate. And then they’d always “round down”, so if they were fifteen minutes past the hour, they just wouldn’t count that. To be fair, I wasn’t assertive at that time in my life. I wasn’t used to standing up for myself. So I’d rev myself up to talk to them once in awhile about a higher rate, but they’d always say they couldn’t afford it. I was attached to their daughter, and she was attached to me, too, so I’d stay. Often, they’d also come home a lot later than we’d agreed they would. Basically, it was an opportunity for me to practice self-respect and to set boundaries, but I just wasn’t there yet.

 

I’ve had lots of experiences with people over the years when I didn’t stand up for myself and should have. There was another woman with a baby I worked with over one summer. She was a new mom, and a nervous one. She’d asked me to stay with her son while she went back to work part-time, but that never happened. Instead, I’d go over and she would stay, too, and I’d end up changing diapers and making bottles and playing with the baby, getting lunch for the mom, or throwing in a load of laundry. Sometimes I’d prep dinner. I didn’t mind, because most of the time she was fun to hang out with, but when her girlfriends came over she treated me like crap. She’d be rude and bossy and disrespectful, like a mean girl in high school. Once, she made fun of me while I was getting drinks for her and her friends. Something about my needing a haircut or something, and all these women laughed in the other room, and I blinked back tears in the kitchen.

 

Years later, I taught at a yoga studio owned by a guy who was also unpredictable. Sometimes awesome, sometimes mean. I quit after a few months because by then, I had the tools to get myself out of situations that were insulting and painful to my heart. The only reason we allow other people to devalue us or treat us poorly is if some part of us believes we aren’t worthy of more. Low self-esteem is not only painful, it’s dangerous. It often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing tendencies. If we doubt our worth, we look outward for reassurance and approval, and at that point, it’s a crap shoot. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and only encounter kind, stable, ethical people, but I highly doubt it. It’s a mixed bag out there, and chances are you’ll run into a few challenging people along the way. You might deal with people who have personality disorders that render them incapable of empathy or consistency. You might run into people who are controlling or manipulative because they’ve hardened themselves. There are all kinds of ways you can get yourself into trouble when you don’t recognize what a miracle you are, and I mean that sincerely. I don’t say it to make you blush, I say it to give you a prod in the ass if you need one. It’s my opinion that we’re all here to shine, to uncover whatever gifts we’ve been given, and to share them freely. You can’t do that and doubt your worth simultaneously.

 

How is it possible we have seven billion people on the planet, but only one of you? Those are pretty amazing odds, and the only safe bet is that you have something to give that only you can. If you’re bogged down in rage or shame or blame, if you’re numbing yourself out or running or denying your pain, it’s really time to stop doing that.

 

Life is short. The time is always now. If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated, get help today. Find a great therapist. Ask for support. You can’t allow yourself to be bruised and battered for too long, and expect life to feel good. If you doubt your worth, figure out why that is, and when that started. Nothing else is going to fall into place until you do. The relationship you’re having with yourself is the foundation of all the relationships in your life. You are not here to let other people walk on you, or treat you like crap. You are not here to teach people the right and kind way to behave, unless you have children. It is not your job to wait for someone to see the light, nor can you show it to another person.

 

You can love people who don’t know how to love, but it hurts like hell. You can recognize that someone may be treating you poorly because they don’t know how to do anything else. You can feel empathy for someone’s painful or abusive history, or for their struggle with mental illness or depression, but you cannot allow yourself to be treated badly. You are as worthy of love as anyone else walking the planet.

 

My personal belief is that we’re made of energy, and that energy is love. I think we come into this world and sometimes we forget who we are. Sometimes we’re hurt or disappointed and we harden ourselves to get by. You might have to do your childhood that way depending on the circumstances, but you don’t have to do your whole life like that; that would be such a waste, and such a tragedy. Tools exist. Shifts are possible. You can feel good about yourself, you can learn to stand up for yourself the way you would for anyone else you love. You might have some serious healing to do before you get there, and I’d really suggest you get on that. Healing takes work, but it’s doable. You just have to start.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Don’t Drive the Scorpion Ferry

There’s an old tale I love about the Scorpion and the Frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this (though I’m taking some liberties): Once there was a scorpion on the bank of a stream. He called out to a passing frog, “Excuse me! Could you give me a ride across? I can’t swim!” The frog looked at him like he was nuts. “Dude,” he said, “you’re a scorpion. I’m not giving you a ride. If you sting me, I’ll die,” to which the scorpion replied, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and I’ll die, too.” This made sense to the frog, so he said, “All right, climb on.” Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stung the frog. With his dying breath, the frog said, “Why have you done this to us?” and the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion!”

The way people treat you is a statement about where they are on their journey, what tools they have in their toolbox, what things they’ve been through, what they’ve learned about how to survive in the world, and how they’ve been treated by other people. It’s also subject to change; a scorpion may not always be a scorpion. The main thing to grasp is that it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in you.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll remember the much older man I dated when I was seventeen. He was seeing other women for the three years we were together, and although I could never prove it, I always felt it. (I confirmed my fears once). At the time, I took it as a sign that I wasn’t enough. Not pretty enough or “something” enough to keep him interested solely in me. I spent so much time over the course of those three years feeling awful about myself. I was hooked on this interaction and convinced if I could just be enough for him, then I’d be happy. I didn’t realize that his inability to be faithful had nothing to do with me, or that a person who’s lying and sneaking around is ultimately having a painful relationship with him or herself. When you respect yourself and are making choices that are aligned with what’s true for you in a conscious and kind way, you’re not going to lie.

I think if you’re like most people, the tendency is to take those times you’ve been hurt, disappointed, neglected, betrayed, or even abused – personally. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. A person can only be where she is, working with whatever tools she’s got. What is about you, is what you do about it if someone isn’t treating you well. Sometimes we get caught up in relationships with lovers, family members, friends, or colleagues. Maybe things start out well, but over time the quality of the interaction deteriorates. Circumstances change and you observe responses you wouldn’t have predicted. If you have a pattern of participating in relationships with people who treat you badly, then it is time to take a long, hard look at why. It’s about something. Identifying that something is the key to your freedom. Your deepest pain is your greatest teacher.

There are lots of frogs in the world, but there’s no other frog just like you. If you’ve been swimming in shark-infested waters too long, hiding in shadows and making yourself as small as possible out of fear, or some idea that you’re not lovable, or enough, or worthwhile, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn around and swim directly for the mouth of that shark. Otherwise you’ll never rest. You’ll keep running the Scorpion Ferry, becoming harder and less hopeful with each ride. Being a hopeless frog sucks. I know, because I was one. Letting yourself get swallowed whole by the shark of your fear is not a fun ride, but it won’t kill you, either. If you’re still hanging with my Moby Dick-Aesop’s Fables-Life of Pi metaphor, then you probably already understand the Willa Cather quote, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” The Dark Night of the Soul is a storm. It’s also an invitation to know yourself, truly and deeply. To heal and liberate yourself from your pain, so that the next time a scorpion calls to you from the bank of a stream, you’ll be like, “What’s up, Scorpion? You need to get your ride from a shark, my friend!”

Sending you love, and the strength to swim toward your pain if you need to!

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, please find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.