Living in this beautiful world, being our authentic selves, means not caring what others think about us. For many of us in Western society, our childhood conditioning through our parents, siblings, teachers, books, radio, movies and television shows and advertisements, gave us a frame of mind not to be comfortable in expressing our unique personalities. The conditioning was accomplished through fear of not being accepted, or Heaven forbid, that if we expressed ourselves outside the accepted and expected norm, we would be made fun of, mocked at, or even shunned. So we coped by becoming homogenized and conforming to how others viewed us.
One of the amazing lessons in our life is to have this viewpoint that what others think of us really matters, even to the point where we sacrifice our own comfort and heart desires. To help us break free of the limiting thought that what others think is far more important than ourselves, we go through experiences that take us out of our comfort zone and meet the fears of self expression, face to face. One such experience presented to me during my lessons in Tai Chi:
My Tai Chi instructor, Grandmaster Zaysan, invited us students to go to the Feng Shui Festival at the Chinese Cultural Center (CCC) in Phoenix to perform a Tai Chi demonstration for the public. I told him I didn’t feel I was good enough to demonstrate Tai Chi.
He said, “Most people don’t even know if you are doing Tai Chi correctly or not.”
I added, “And the masters who do will understand this is just where I’m at in my Tai Chi.”
That gave me encouragement to participate with my fellow students, who had studied Tai Chi longer than I had. I felt having the other students with me would be supportive. It wasn’t as though I would be performing before an audience all by myself. That would be frightening.
The morning I went to the CCC, I wore the long-sleeve Tai Chi jacket I had sewn, with black cotton and a middle section of gold tiger-print fabric. I found Grandmaster Zaysan sitting in a chair at a table, selling his books and promoting his Tai Chi classes. A fellow student Yvonne, was participating in the festival as a vendor, selling her aromatherapy essential oils. I didn’t see any other students. I thought that maybe I was early and they would show up later.
While we were sitting at the table, Grandmaster Zaysan told me to perform Tai Chi Form One right there, in front of him in the parking lot.
I asked, “Right here?”
And he nodded and said yes. My bladder was full, so I told him I first had to go to the bathroom.
I walked over to a store that had a public restroom. When I sat down on the toilet seat, I put my head in my hands and asked, What am I doing? I was scared to death to perform all by myself. Why did I come? Why didn’t the other students come? More importantly, where’s all my confidence?
Then someone inside of me said, with all the determination of a football coach directing his player, “Look, you’re the only student who showed up. Now get your butt out there and do your Form One!” I complied.
I walked within ten feet of Grandmaster Zaysan’s table and stood still with my arms at my sides. I took a deep breath and raised my left foot. I could hardly breathe. My body was shaking. Even my fingers were quivering with the nervous energy going through me. With eyes half closed, I could see people stopping their shopping at the festival and turning their heads and watching me. My nervousness was amplified tenfold. I reminded myself, This is my form; this is where I’m at. Take it or leave it. When I ended my form, Grandmaster Zaysan was pleased I had not fallen down. Me too. I felt shell-shocked.
The shell shock feeling is the part of standing up for ourselves, and finding out we are going to be just fine. It’s the other side of the exhilaration of performing in front of other people. This performance could be singing or playing a musical instrument in front of an audience. It could be giving a speech in a debate or classroom. Or, it could be wearing a colorful jacket because it brings you joy to be covered in color.
Not caring is to care. Not caring what others think about us, is a form of Self Love and love for others. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. When we allow others to have their opinion, we are giving loving allowance to them, and to ourselves. Loving ourselves is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give to the world. Feeling free to be our most authentic self, is love.
Blessings and love!
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