Impostor Yogi - The Perfectly Imperfect Teacher by Kim Reyes
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
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I’ve come a long way since I started practicing yoga regularly two years ago. No longer do I rely on medication to control my mood and temper. No longer do I feel lonely, therefore, less afraid of being alone. No longer am I concerned about my future because I trust that no matter what, things will eventually work out. These truths motivate me to continue in whatever direction I am currently heading towards. However, the constant immense stress I endured 2013-2016 caused actual trauma and damage to my brain, which would take a lot longer than two years to heal, if ever. To say the least, I still have my triggers (i.e., when I’m in a traditional classroom or in a situation where I have no choice), which causes me to have moments of panic and terror.
"How could I teach about non-violence and letting go when I, myself, am not proficient in these practices?"
After each of my most recent anxiety attacks (only 2 in the last year), I would feel immense guilt. Guilty for relapsing. Guilty for saying things that were unproductive and harmful. Guilty failing to practice what I’ve been teaching in my yoga classes. I was facing my fear as a teacher: I am a fraud, so I am not worthy of what I do and love. How could I teach about non-violence and letting go when I, myself, am not proficient in these practices?
"The spiritual life is always about letting go. It is never about holding on.” -Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson
Truth is, I’m still holding on to a lot of things, physically and mentally, but that’s okay because I’m aware of this weakness and weaknesses only need more strengthening. Additionally, this acceptance of where I am currently, flawed and vulnerable, is a great demonstration of contentment. So in admitting my weakness in letting go, I am strengthening my happiness.
"I decided to redefine the 'perfect' teacher as someone who is flawed and vulnerable..."
Rather than punishing myself and in turn feeling bad for not being the perfect teacher, I decided to redefine the "perfect" teacher as someone who is flawed and vulnerable because that’s who students will relate to. The yogi who feels fake, makes mistakes, and sometimes breaks has the greatest opportunity to lead by example. By demonstrating self-reflection, courage, and contentment, students will open up as well and become more forgiving of themselves in their own process and journeys.
"The perfect teacher isn't someone who practices what they preach, the perfect teacher preaches what they practice."
The perfect teacher isn't someone who practices what they preach, the perfect teacher preaches what they practice. Those moments where I've felt like I failed for not being the "perfect" yogi and teacher were actually opportunities to strengthen and learn even more. The more I learn, myself, the more I can offer my students.
Truth is, the imperfect yogi and teacher is the perfect yogi and teacher so long as as they choose to see opportunities rather than setbacks. The perfect teacher doesn't actually need to teach, they just need to learn and in turn, students will follow.
Understanding this, I am relieved of my fear of making mistakes and feeling unworthy. I can accept my weaknesses and use this consciousness to be more productive in my own personal practice. I can learn from any situation and be the "perfect" teacher.
Thank you for reading! Namaste.
- Kim Reyes