I had a major epiphany last week. Are you ready for it?
It’s not you.
It’s not me.
I am actually not necessarily the cause of all of my problems.
Some of you probably just read that and thought “duh,” but this was an earth-shattering, ground-breaking revelation for me.
I know I wrote about something similar in a recent post, but I felt like I had to reiterate it again. I think it bears repeating.
It’s not you. And it’s actually not me.
I can be very hard on myself. When I look the great, pervasive (read: utterly baffling to the point that they keep me up at night and have me crying in my journal) questions of my life (Why am I single? Why don’t I lose weight? Why aren’t my Zumba classes growing? Why did I fail the bar? Why? Why? Why?!!!!), the answers I come up with have historically been rooted in finding something deeply and desperately wrong with me (You’re not pretty enough. You’re too picky. You’re too religious. You’re too self-sufficient. You’re not interesting enough. You’re not fit enough. You need to eat better. You’re not doing enough strength training. You’re slow. You’re too fat. You sometimes act like a know-it-all. You lack discipline. You didn’t study hard enough. You didn’t pray hard enough. You didn’t trust God enough. You didn’t have enough faith. You trusted God too much and didn’t work hard enough. You misunderstood or misapplied some sort of discrete, obscure Biblical teaching. Your class is too hard. Your teaching style sucks. You’re hard to follow. You’re not fun. They don’t like your music.).
(Side note: I realize that
half all of these are “lies!” *Tamar voice*)
(God I miss having Tamar on “The Real”. Oh the lies we tell ourselves. But I digress…)
“Yourself to Blame”
If things go bad for you
And make you a bit ashamed
Often you will find out that
You have yourself to blame
Swiftly we ran to mischief
And then the bad luck came
Why do we fault others?
We have ourselves to blame
Whatever happens to us,
Here is what we say
“Had it not been for so-and-so
Things wouldn’t have gone that way.”
And if you are short of friends,
I’ll tell you what to do
Make an examination,
You’ll find the faults in you…
You’re the captain of your ship,
So agree with the same
If you travel downward
You have yourself to blame.
Mayme White Miller
We are taught in our culture that we are solely responsible for our own successes… and failures. That if there is something that is wrong in our life, it is up to us to fix it. After all, we need to pick up ourselves by the bootstraps. God only helps those who help themselves (which is not written anywhere in the sixty-six books of the Bible, by the way). We are taught to analyze our role in our disappointments. We are taught to take responsibility for our actions — and the outcomes. Sara Eckel writes in her book It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single (this book has become my saving grace/bible), “We’re a nation that believes strongly in personal efficacy — if there’s something in your life that isn’t working quite the way you’d like, then the problem must begin and end with you. Even people diagnosed with serious illnesses are instructed to maintain a positive attitude, as if that will make the cancer go away.” This entire message of responsibility and taking action was meant to be empowering, to teach us not to live life passively, to take charge of our lives, and to be active in creating the change we want to see.
What has happened, however, is many of us have taken these messages to heart, and when things don’t work out the way we planned or despite our best efforts, we take it out on ourselves because we have learned that there is no one else to blame, and it is childish and immature to blame our misfortunes on others.
Where these cultural messages fail and fall short, however, is they leave no room for fate, circumstance or situations beyond our control. My life is teaching me that sometimes it’s not my fault, and that while I own my actions, I don’t control the outcome (Proverbs 16:33). I’m learning that sometimes — many times — it’s not me. It’s just the circumstance in which I find myself.
In case this all seems abstract, let me explain.
Last week Sunday, I went to Movati Trainyards to teach Aqua Zumba only to see that my class had doubled in size from the week prior. If you read my last post in my Chronicles of a Plus-Sized Zumba Instructor series, ever since I started out as a group fitness instructor, I’ve had small class sizes. Perhaps I am not as popular as I had expected/wanted to be (Side bar: Sooooo… you should know that I have a slight preoccupation with class sizes that I need to get over). My Aqua Zumba class at Carlingwood, on the other hand, has now dwindled to about 2 or 4 people on a Monday and Wednesday. But lo and behold — here I was that Sunday at Trainyards and I was greeted by 20 smiling women in the shallow end. I was so taken aback I began thinking about what would happen if this class grows anymore. It was a pleasant surprise. 🙂
So what changed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. At least, I didn’t change. I had the same choreography as the week prior. I teach the same choreo at Carlingwood and Trainyards. I didn’t really change my songs. I’m the same person and I teach the same way at all of the facilities where I teach. The only change I could think of was that we turned the page from the month of April to May. Similarly, my “land” Zumba classes are also growing.
It got me thinking… “Hmm… So maybe the size of my classes is not directly correlative to my teaching after all.” Yes Simone. Maybe it’s the weather.
In my earlier days of teaching Zumba, there was a lady in my class who would hardly acknowledge my existence when I said “hi” or “bye” to her. Months went by. I wondered why she was so shy and why she would never make eye contact with me. One night, after class, after everyone had left, she came back into the studio and we chatted a bit (much to my great surprise!). I learned that one of my songs — “YMCA” by the Village People — reminded her of her ex-husband…. Hmm… It got me thinking, “Maybe it’s not your teaching after all. Maybe people don’t make eye contact with you because they are hurting.” Basically, maybe it’s not you.
I have finally swallowed my pride and I’m seeing a therapist. We talked about the bar exam (among other things). She said, “It makes no sense — to have all of these good grades and then fail the exam over and over?” I nodded. We determined that it wasn’t necessarily my studying strategy — it was how the law societies test students, how they give feedback (or not, depending on the law society) and the fact that I don’t typically do well on multiple choice exams (I already knew that though). There are systemic issues to be taken into account as well. Bar exams, especially the Ontario bar, don’t test knowledge; they test a student’s ability to test well. They test how well one can conform to testing mechanisms and how well one can perform under manufactured stressful circumstances.
Basically, it’s not completely my fault. It’s not me (or, at least, it’s not just me).
Every once in a while, I’ve been having “coffee” with this guy I used to work with. Ok yes — he’s cute, but it’s nothing serious — just someone to talk to and touch base with once in a while. He’s currently finishing up his dissertation, and he shared with me the challenges of trying to date while writing a thesis, and the difficulty in and inevitability of breaking off these budding relationships due to competing obligations.
Let’s pretend this was actually going somewhere (because who knows — the jury’s still out on this one. God I hope he is not reading this post!!!). If he hadn’t shared that tidbit of information with me, and if he had suddenly stopped all communication, I would definitely have personalized it (“Another one bites the dust.” “Maybe I’m not interesting enough?!” “Maybe I’m not attractive.” “What is it about me that make men run?”).
But now I know that if I don’t hear from him for some time — it wasn’t necessarily my fault. It’s not me. He has a thesis to finish. That’s important, and I can’t blame him. He may not have intended it as such, but I’ve been forewarned.
Knowing all of this background information helps me put my many insecurities at rest, keeps me from beating myself up, allows me to cut myself some slack and permits me to extend myself some grace.
What I am trying to say is that so many of us blame ourselves for our failed love lives (or lives in general). Our friends and our relatives often join in too (hurray!). The thing is, often times there is more going on behind the scenes to which we are not privy. There are other factors and challenges unbeknownst to us and having absolutely nothing to do with us. Sometimes it’s as simple as the right person but wrong time. You can’t change that. It’s not a matter of will or effort. It’s a matter of fate and faith. And so when something seemingly promising doesn’t work out, sometimes — many times — it’s not you. It really isn’t.
So I sigh with a deep sigh of relief. Knowing it’s not me is a comforting thought. It relieves me of guilt. It keeps me from holding a magnifying glass to my flaws. I rest in peace. It allows me to move on and go forward.
It helps me exercise more self-compassion. And by exercising more self-compassion, it helps me be more compassionate and empathetic in general, which I think is important.
I wrote in my “Sometimes It’s Not You” post:
Sometimes it’s not you. Sometimes you can be doing all of the right things but not seeing the desired outcome. You can be eating well and having sex and still not get pregnant. You can be exercising and eating well and still not lose weight. You can be dating a whole bunch of people, “putting yourself out there” as they say, and still be hopelessly single. You can study hard for an exam and still fail. You can be giving your all as a group fitness instructor, and still have a small class. Sometimes it’s not you. Sometimes it’s just the circumstance. Part of life is learning how to live with the discomfort and yet still move forward. Not that you need to be a victim of circumstance, but each disappointment gives us an opportunity to address the unrelenting question, “Now what?” and our answer will determine the scope and depth of our disappointment. Sometimes the answer is, “I’ve given all that I got. Imma just do me and enjoy the ride.” And that’s ok too.
Sara Eckel writes in her book, responding to the reception and acclaim of her New York Times article, “Sometimes It’s Not You”, “I think I reconnected them with a small kernel of wisdom they already had, one that said, I don’t think I need to change. I think I’m perfectly lovable, exactly as I am.”
I am perfectly lovable, exactly as I am.
I am perfectly lovable, exactly as I am. It’s not me. *Sighs deep sigh of relief*
In closing, to quote Sara Eckel again (God I love her), “What’s wrong with me? Plenty. But that was never the point.”
Featured Photo Credit: Brian Rea