Watching sports has never really been an interest of mine. But every 2 years, I turn on the TV and watch the Winter and Summer Olympics in awe. It's amazing to watch what human beings are physically capable of. And it's the one thing that brings the entire world together at one time. During the Olympics or any competition, I become really present to success vs failure and the pressure these athletes are under. Every move they do or don't make is watched ever so closely, and one minor mistake can cost someone a medal.
When I was in high school, I was actively involved in Forensics (speech, acting and debate...not dead bodies). I was always practicing for the next competition. I poured myself into it and practically lived at school. I was always a leader in Forensics. I was the first Freshman to be an officer (I think I was treasurer?) and the first one to be President for 3 consecutive years. I loved leading my team to success and would cheer them on and support them in whatever way I could. But when it came to my performance, I was so overly critical. I felt immense pressure to succeed and do well. After all, I was the leader of our team, so I should do well and always place in finals. And I did do well for the most part. I placed high in many tournaments and competitions. But when it came down to the bigger tournaments that would determine whether or not I’d go to State or Nationals, I would fall apart. I let the pressure overtake me.
The past several months I have been under a lot of pressure - pressure to finish, perform, succeed. And with that pressure I’ve felt like I’ve been under the microscope. I’ve been pursuing many things that have put me in a position of constant learning, improving and performing. And those are all good things! However, my approach to them has not been so good.
After Yoga Teacher Training, I participated in a 5-week (50-hour) Extensions program with CorePower Yoga. It was a very full program - 3 hours on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. On Saturdays my fellow yogis and I would teach a free community class. Each week we would be assigned a different section to teach and after would receive feedback. The feedback was good. Without it, how can one grow and learn? Yet some weeks I would add so much pressure to my performance and take the feedback so personally.
It wasn’t until the end that I really got that it wasn’t personal and that most of the pressure I was under was self-induced. The feedback was to help me become my best self and to realize that I am more capable than I give myself credit for.
After our Extensions programs, we had the opportunity to audition for a teaching internship. I was quite a mess the week of auditions. I’ve had a really full plate for several months and really started to feel the weight of taking on so much. I was working a lot and going full-throttle with yoga and other things I've been pursuing. I was not sleeping. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my mind racing and had difficulty going back to bed. As my audition neared, I knew something had to change. I was putting too much pressure on myself. And what did I have to prove? Everything I needed was already within me.
I had a Cleaning call with a friend. If you’ve never done this exercise, I highly recommend it. Basically you pick an area of life, and for 5 minutes say everything that’s there for you in that area. The other person authentically listens and offers no feedback—just their generous listening. I was sharing about pressure, the feeling of being constantly under the microscope, and self-sabotaging myself anytime I would go after something I wanted. This was a recurring pattern I could see in many areas of my life.
When you go through this exercise, you often reach a point where what you're saying sounds absolutely rubbish. But in your head, it feels so damn real. I realized that I waste so much energy trying to prove myself. And when I'm being my true, authentic self, I have nothing to prove. Who I am is enough.
On the day of my audition, I woke up feeling powerful. I bought a new outfit (because let's face it, a new outfit just feels so good!) and set an intention to be myself and have fun. I had been practicing this sequence for several months, so I already knew it; I just had to trust myself to deliver it. And no matter what happened, I would be proud of myself for putting myself out there, having fun, and trying.
I still have a lot of areas where I see I'm putting too much pressure on myself - pressure to say the right things, be a certain way or prove myself to others. And pressure may never go away; it's how I react to it that will set the tone.
Do you find yourself under the microscope and are there areas of your life where you're adding too much pressure? Just remember, you have nothing to prove. Everything you need is already within you. Just trust yourself to take a chance and be your true, authentic self.
5 Tips for Dealing with Pressure
- Take a chance. Do you ever let pressure lead you so much that you end up quitting before you try? Let that go. Take a chance. See what happens.
- Take a deep breath. So much of the stress and anxiety and pressure that we feel can be controlled by pausing and taking a few deeps breaths.
- Trust yourself. Everything you need is already within you.
- Be your true, authentic self. When you're being your true self, you have nothing to prove.
- Have Fun! If nothing else, let your inner child come out and just have fun. You'll be amazed at how freeing it is to let go and just enjoy the process.
**And in case you’re wondering, I did get the yoga teaching internship and will be starting in mid-March! I’m still a little stunned that I’m going to teach!