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.
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.