I woke up last Monday to a jokingly stern admonition from my husband. “You’ve created quite the drama on Facebook today. You need to learn to be more politically correct.”
Those may not have been his exact words, but then again, I was still half asleep, and frankly a little confused. What on earth had I done this time? And in my sleep?
The answer? I had posted this photo of myself before I went to bed the night before. It’s one of my favorite photos ever.
The photo wasn’t the problem. The comment I posted with it was. “I don’t look as fat as yesterday. Tasha looks as beautiful as ever.”
That comment referred to this photo, which I had posted the day before.
My slouched position, the shirt tied around me, and my not-so-gravity-defying breasts had all conspired to make me feel like the model for one of my most popular blog articles, Can Yoga Reduce Belly Fat? Important to note is that I didn’t compare myself to anyone else, nor did I intend to. I could have posted “I look a lot sexier than I did yesterday.” That would undoubtedly have been better received, though it would have invited Facebook comments of an entirely different variety.
But I’m still confused as to why my saying that I looked large in a picture seems to have personally affronted some people. One person (who is a friend that I adore) told me that as a person of influence, I needed to be more aware of the impact of my words. I don’t even disagree with that, in principle. But at some point I’ll become so worried about not offending anyone that I’ll become frozen, unable to say (or write) anything at all. Was I the one out of line saying I looked larger than I’d like in a photo, or were the people turning that phrase into a personal insult being overly sensitive?
The smart part of me tells me that I should let this whole conversation die a (hopefully quiet) death. The yoga teacher in me can’t. There’s an important lesson here that bears thinking about.
The yoga teachings say that we don’t have any control over what happens to us or around us; we only control how we react to it. Sometimes yogis use that as a copout. If I walk around pointing at people and telling them they look like an extra on The Walking Dead, surely I have some responsibility if they run home and slather on extra concealer. But if I look in a mirror and say those words to myself, am I equally responsible if someone else feels insulted?
I think not.
Why have I reacted so strongly to this?
Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t “thin” until my mid 20s. I grew up significantly overweight, and I was teased about my body throughout all of my formative years. Being told that I have no right to feel the way I do about my body or that I don’t have empathy for weight issues is hurtful on so many levels.
Perhaps it’s because I speak publicly about being a sexual assault survivor. My message is one of hope. Survival is, indeed, possible. You can thrive after trauma, even when that trauma is personally horrific. I’ve been criticized for that message, too. It’s not fair, some people tell me, to publicly say that I’m doing okay, because that insinuates that there’s something wrong with other survivors if they’re not.
That may not be it either. Perhaps I react because an occasional reader says that if my yoga teacher protagonist Kate were a real yoga teacher, she’d have a perfect body and even more perfect self-esteem.
Yogis, including myself, are more nuanced than that.
Here’s the yoga lesson in this. The Sutras say that when we speak, we should do so with compassion, trying not to harm others. I have, and I will continue to do so, to the best of my capability. On the other hand, they also say that when we read or hear something and have a negative reaction, it says more about us than the speaker.
Last Monday’s Facebook fiasco is a minor example of a much bigger problem. I worry about our culture these days. A lot. We’ve become overly sensitized, quick to judge, and ready to lash out with minimal-to-no provocation. Maybe it’s time we all cut each other some slack.
PS –Those of you who were expecting tips on partner yoga in today’s blog, my apologies. I wrote the post below on Tuesday of last week and felt that it was important for it to post today. The partner yoga tips will post the first Monday of July.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere!