Hauling My Butt Out Of The Yoga Comparison Trap
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | June 25, 2020
When I first moved to Asheville there was a very popular teacher named Shala. People loved her classes then and they still love her classes now. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone want to come to my classes when they can go to Shala’s? She’s thin, beautiful, strong and flexible…Compared to her, I suck.”
I had fallen hard into the comparison trap.
When I took the time to breathe, think, practice yoga and respond rather than react, I started to acknowledge and then deconstruct my mental comparison habit which clearly, was not serving me well.
I practiced Yoga Sutra 2.33 when disturbed by a negative thought, flip it around to it’s opposite.
And I also practiced 1.33, eliminate your misconceptions by cultivating love, compassion, friendliness and imperturbability.
maitrī karuṇā mudito-pekṣāṇāṁ-sukha-duḥkha puṇya-apuṇya-viṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaḥ citta-prasādanam
I stopped comparing myself. I mentally wished her well. When someone told me how much they loved her classes, instead of collapsing into inadequacy, I contributed to celebrating her. I reminded myself that real success is your capacity to make others shine. And I remembered that I have my own unique gifts to offer.
I “kept the focus on myself” (as they say in 12 step programs). When I found myself slipping into the trap, I acknowledged my lonely inner child’s pain and redirected my mental energy towards an internal focus about my own work. What do my students really need? How can I better serve them? What did I really want to create? What did I want to offer?
As I began to crawl out of that comparison trap I got more and more positive feedback and my career began to build. I started teacher training programs, I was invited to present workshops in other cities, I wrote articles, people interviewed me. I started to gain traction for what I was doing, and, in my mind, Shala became a local teacher that I admired, but otherwise didn’t spend much time thinking about.
Of course, just when you think you’ve learned your lesson…I wasn’t out of the weeds yet. The comparison trap resurfaced in other insidious ways.
As I became better known and Subtle Yoga began to grow, I found myself comparing myself to big named teachers like Amy Weintraub who also specializes in mental health. People would tell me how wonderful her work was, and that they would travel far and wide, and spend lots of money to study with her because she was so good.
Since I also specialize in mental health, I noticed that I could slip into a new comparison trap (although it felt quite familiar). “Why would anyone want to study with me when Amy Weintraub is more experienced, smarter, thinner, and more charismatic than I will ever be?”
Poor me. Pout. Complain. Ben and Jerry’s Pity Party.
Clearly, my inner child needed some attention.
So, I used the same practice. I chose to think about her differently. I mentally wished her well, when other people told me that she was so wonderful, I celebrated her success and told others about her work and her books. I reminded myself that my work was different and I had other gifts to offer. I reminded myself that there is a lot of space for people who want to share yoga for mental health. In fact, the world needs more of them!
Again, things started to get much better and my career continued to grow.
When I entered the online space a few years ago another comparison trap seductively whispered to me. I noticed that I was at times comparing myself to the big named online mental health yoga teachers. “Ashley Turner has beautiful, slick LA marketing, I can never compete with that!” or “Dierdre Fay is brilliant and writes amazing books, who would want to study with me when they can study with her?”
Blah, blah, blah.
I started to realize that the comparison trap is not a trap at all.
It’s simply a ruse – of my own creation.
Here’s Ashley’s site and here’s Dierdre’s. Have at it!
They are both doing amazing work and I celebrate them.
I come back to those affirmations like mantra: My work is different. I have unique gifts. There are lots of reasons people want to study with me.
It’s wonderful that there are so many good yoga teachers out there online and IRL because I’ll never be the perfect teacher for every…single…person (Thank goddess. What a relief! I don’t have to teach everyone yoga. Whew.)
During the shutdown, I’ve heard from more than one yoga teacher who thought it was a waste of time to try to teach online. The logic is something like: “There are already SO many online yoga classes, I’m not prepared to go online and no one would be interested anyway because there’s already too much out there.”
The problem is that if you have been teaching yoga IRL your students want YOU, not Yoga with Adrienne, to teach them. And until all 7.5+ billion people on the planet are doing yoga online every day, there’s still plenty of room for your unique skills and gifts.
Believe me I get it.
It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. And it’s a tricky one to drag yourself out of. But I also think that the effort of breaking out of the trap it is a very important yoga practice – it’s in that effort that you transform yourself into the teacher that you were always meant to be.
If you occasionally slip into the trap, here’s a little suggestion: Remind yourself that you do good work. That you have unique gifts. That even if there are thousands of teachers out there, they are not you – they don’t have what you have – your experiences, your stories, your interests. They don’t offer what you offer. You are special and you are the perfect teacher for your students.
Your students want YOU, not Adrienne, to teach them. So if you are not teaching online and you are still in an area where people are not going to live classes, I encourage you to offer your teachings online. You can do it.
And if you want more students, then please, use the very well known, effective tools of marketing to get your work out there to the people who are waiting to discover you.
Let’s be clear, capitalism fosters competition, jealous, comparison, and scarcity mentality. There are some very real reasons why the comparison trap exists in the first place, it’s not just your own individual, insecurity problems – it’s a systems issue. Within the limitations of this economic model, within this dog-eat-dog world, we can still rise, we can still feel inspired and inspire others, we can still find our dharma – our meaning and purpose, and we can still act on it.
When I acknowledge the problem as psycho-social, it helps me personally to haul my butt up out of the trap, celebrate the success of others, and move forward with a sense of optimism and a sense that when I celebrate and support others, I can be part of creating new ways to think about the business of yoga and help get yoga to more people.
Please check out my free ebook, Weather the Storm: A Subtle Yoga Guide for Building Resilience
WEATHER THE STORM:
A SUBTLE® YOGA GUIDE FOR BUILDING RESILIENCE
Cultivating Calm in Times of Crisis – A Subtle® Yoga Tool Kit
Discover how to help your students get through this crisis… by gaining an incredible skill set from the comfort of your home and within a few hours!
Subtle Yoga for Greater Nervous System Resilience and Brain Function
Download my FREE Yoga class video - plus script and stick figure cheat sheet today! Try something different! Help your students focus on their nervous system, not just their hamstrings!
Stay Up To Date!
Sign up for our newsletter.
You have Successfully Subscribed!
We would love to hear from you!
Please wait while comments are loading...
“Let’s be clear, capitalism fosters competition, jealous, comparison, and scarcity mentality.” Yep – that’s the root of the problem – it’s systemic and it’s SO EASY to fall into this trap. Great blog post – very helpful!!
Thank you, I needed to hear this today!
Agreed Nina! Thanks for your comment.❤️
Great post, it brought tears… thank you!
Thanks for this and all of your blogs Kristine! I generally quitely follow you. But this one touched me so much. Your inspring words gently remind me to get back to putting those yoga sutras in to practice, honor my self, my knowledge more and focus on what I can offer my students. Namaste !
Yes! Every day is another opportunity for a little growth with yoga. It never gets boring does it.
Aw, thanks Amy. ❤️
Yes yes yes, this spoke to me on every level. I love your offerings Kristine and have done several of your courses which have been the best courses I’ve done. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll be signing up for another, so yes your teachings are so valuable and unique and I love your gentle humour in your videos too x
Thanks Claire, I so appreciate your kind words and glad that you resonated with the blog.
Totally relate. Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you for your honesty! I too have shared similar feelings, telling myself the story that it’s some old pattern of “there’s not enough room for me”, since I was the ‘oops’ baby of the family! It becomes more clear that we are all influenced by the systemic cultural overview of competition (which I relate to patriarchal views) , although I feel that the rise of the feminine principles is about the circle ~ how do we work together. Also in the sutras is remembering that the best we can offer the world is to be fully ourselves!
It’s really insightful and it’s so important to understand where we’ve come from and then congratulate ourselves for who we are in spite of the adversity. I really appreciate you connecting the capitalist system with the patriarchy – they are equally toxic, particularly to women I think. I too feel that there is a rise of the feminine happening right now (my husband, who does some astrology , told me that’s actually what’s happening in terms of the stars right now). Thanks Phyllis!
I can totally relate to this, especially with the online teaching which i have been avoiding due to my own insecurities. Thank you for your teachings! Your students (including me) want YOU because you are unique. I need to remember this with my students as well. 🙏
Hey Amy, it’s so nice to connect with you after all these years! You are such a heartfelt sweet person – and I’m not the only one with that opinion!!! xoxo
I am now doing this regarding teaching online. “WHY, would anyone need my input when there are thousands doing it. A majority of them, younger, more athletic, nicer to look at, more technologically savvy, etc…..” I’m trying to get past it. I get pumped about sharing online and then the “doubt” creeps in every other day and I feel like quitting again. Thanks for sharing that I am not alone with these fears. ~Mishel
You can do it Mishel! Whenever that doubt creeps in you can notice it with compassion and move on anyway. They world is waiting!
I love your honesty and transparency, Kaoverri! I know Shala and I know you. You are both GREAT!
She’s amazing and it’s so wonderful to be able to say that without any tinge of anything other than respect and admiration. Love you Sue! You are an icon and I want to be just like you when I grow up!!!
Wow – thanks for this today! I’ve been teaching online since March and heard these same words from my students – they are happy to connect with me, the teacher they know. Also appreciate the reminder that this comparison issue is persistent, and we can empower ourselves to get out of it!
That’s right Regina! Particularly right now they really need you! And yes, there are so many yoga tools. I’m so grateful for them all!
Thank you! This feels really good to receive and contemplate. Maybe by putting ourselves out there and trusting the right folks will come to us we can change the whole system…and I love your memes..they make me laugh out loud!
Thanks Tara! And I’m glad you noticed my memes – I think I put more time into finding the funniest ones than into writing the blogs! LOL!
Thank you so much for this article!!! It’s exactly what I needed to hear!!!
Thanks for chiming in Ganna – so glad the blog hit the right note for you!
OH boy, I needed that. funnily enough, not as a yoga teacher, as I have a small following of long time loyal people in a town where there is little competition. Having said that, I needed to hear it in my personal life in various ways both in full view and trying to hide out behind feelings that crop up. Here at turning 70 this coming b’day….having pursued a good life of spiritual and worldly work, how does “not being good enough” still lurk? We can only continue to see what we see when we see it and t ask for help each day to shine the Light in all the dark corners…of our lives and in our world. Thanks Kaoverii.
So true Carol, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Wonderful and timely blog. I didn’t start teaching on line until mid-May for many of the reasons cited and then I said to myself: why not? I have a small following, use word of mouth, try to contact one new person a day with the opportunity and know those who need it show. In the meantime I am practicing my “stuff” including all the new material from Subtle Yoga. Thanks for the pep talk Kristine!
That’s great Carol. I’m so glad that you have a goal of reaching out to one new person a day. It’s a reasonable goal – as well as being personal and meaningful. Go Carol! 📣
Thanks for sharing, your words inspire and challenge me. I really love how yiour clienrt is in the centre of your model 🙂
I love how honest, real and human you are. Truly an inspiration 🙂
I have fallen into this trap many times. I love the use of the sutras as reminders and how you always seem to know exactly what I need to hear! I also appreciate the comments from others, proving I’m truly not alone in my doubts. Onward!
Yes, I think this blog really struck a chord – I think SO many of us fall into this trap and then we are embarrassed to talk about it because it means we “unyogic” or some such nonsense. I think it’s important to talk about our struggles so that we can heal and so that others don’t feel so alone. I’m grateful for your chiming in here Lynn. thank you!
Wonderful post that transcends all areas of life. Mindfulness is a great tool that helps buffer Exactly what you are expressing.
Thanks Jenn – mindfulness is a wonderful tool of yoga and it’s so wonderful that there are so many more!
Thank you for being real & vulnerable. I totally relate. Most of all thank you for being YOU.
So honest, generous and thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. The quote I often remind myself and my students of is “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Please know your work is important and appreciated. xx Kristy
Great article!! Thank you for being real. I can relate on so many levels in getting caught in the trap. I was avoiding recording myself because of comparisons and then the pandemic hit and I said, Girl!! Get off your butt and get your space set up and put yourself out there. And now months later it’s just as comfortable as live. I thought, this is crazy!! You have taught live to 50 people and you’re afraid of recording?!? And every time I hear a persons reason for not practicing, “I can’t touch my toes, I have bad knees, I can’t be still…I think to myself…you’re on. This person needs me. I’m speaking to the 90% of the population that would benefit from what I teach. Gentle, mindful, slow yoga. Thank you for what you bring!! It’s so needed! ❤️
EXACTLY!!! 90 percent of the population needs your teaching so there has to be an audience for it! Congrats Vanessa – clearly you’re doing great work!!
Absolutely perfect! Having had the negative nancy sat on my shoulder for most of my life, I love that I can use tools from yoga – yet again – to help & guide me to a more content life. Thank you!
yes they certainly do. Thanks for chiming in Lucy and speaking your truth. xoxo
Great article! I am asking your same questions…What do my students really need? How can I better serve them? What do I really want to create? What do I want to offer?..as I work on my YTT 200-hr. I’m excited for the uniqueness that I have and the connections God is bringing to me to help heal others. It’s an honor to hear your words and insight. Thank you. Namaste 🙂
Great to hear Lancey! Thank you for connecting!
I love that many of you feel comfortable teaching online. I have a more unique situation in that I live out in the country and internet data is limited. I don’t have the ability to be online for extended periods for “live” events. I think that many people are of the thought that everyone has access to tele-whatever but we definitely do not, so don’t make us feel left out because it’s not something we can do or want to do. I would rather do what I am starting–teaching outside in a park for my yoga-hungry students. Let them find other teachers online if they wish and can. I am not jumping on the Zoomwagon.
Lovely Karen – I’m so glad you have found a way forward that works for YOU!
As I was cleaning out my inbox this morning I accidentally clicked on this one. Luckily I caught myself before sending it to the trash. The Universe always has my back and knew I needed to read this post. I have been struggling with the comparison trap forever! I am teaching a zoom class later this morning and my theme is focused on Mudita (Sympathetic Joy). Your post drove the theme home for me. Finding the ability to be happy for others success and joy is key. Thank you for sharing your gifts and your insights.
Thank you Kristine! I know this trap all too well!!! I’ve landed on my butt in the dark hole of “I’m not ___________ enough” that I should have permanent bruising tattoos there! It has taken a lot of time, self study, maturity (and therapy) to help me see and appreciate my own gifts. If I teach what I believe is needed in the world then the students will come, or an opportunity will present itself if I keep my eyes and heart open.
It sure felt to me that everyone wanted Adrienne as a teacher … until a few of my students told me that the only reason they do her classes is because I’m not online yet! I’m announcing my offering next week. Thank you for the confidence boost!