Athleta Ambassador Jane Bahneman, MS has taught yoga for nearly two decades. She says she’s drawn to the yoga mat because “It is like a little self-investigative research every time I take a deep breath or step into down dog!” Her time on the mat and life lessons have taught her a few strategies to manage her anxieties, confront the pursuit of perfection, and train herself to listen to her inner sense of knowing as she continues to create a life she adores. Read on to share in her advice.
“If you feel something calling you to dance or to write or to paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift that no one else can offer: yourself.” – from Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
I own Blue Nectar yoga studio outside of Washington DC. It has provided me with more blessings than I can count, one of them being a big beautiful tribe of women I call friends and colleagues. It is a space full of honesty – a place where it seems most of us feel safe enough to let it all down and be seen. We are moms figuring out how to manage a career, moms staying at home figuring out how to not go mad, we are single career women, we are world travelers, adventurers, homebodies, and everything in between. We are all navigators of our messy lives, and working overtime to maintain the appearance that things are just as they should be.
You’ve surely seen the onslaught of mantras shouting out to us “Strong is the new skinny,” “You never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice,” or even “If you want to learn how to be strong, learn how to fight alone.” Women needing to identify with “strong” is the biggest thing going, and I certainly am not going to argue that mustering up deep strength during challenging times is a significant part of what got me to where I am today. My journey has been one of pressured corporate leadership roles, one of daring entrepreneurship and business ownership, and one of single “mom-dom.”
But my journey has taught me something better, something I have grown to cherish dearly: that strong is not necessarily the special, secret weapon we have glamorized it to be. Maybe it is not even the best tool to call upon in every situation.
Maybe, just maybe, “soft” is the new strong. Hear me out.
A branch weathers storms flawlessly because it is both strong and flexible. It bends, and it takes a lot to break. After a few years of turmoil, I felt a deep pull that I needed to learn how to create better balance if I was ever going to survive. I had to finally allow myself to feel it all. I found that allowing the world to see me owning my softness, my vulnerabilities, and my fears was just as necessary as owning my strength if I am to endure life’s inevitable storms. In fact, it was non-negotiable.
This is what saved me: finally allowing myself to bend softly, as the storms blew through. When I let go of my rigid thought processes about the stigma of a life unraveling, when I stopped stressing about keeping it all together all the time for the ‘show,’ when I dropped the enormous pressure I’d placed on myself in the pursuit of perfection in my life, I found contentment – even bliss.
The jewels of my journey, of a soul at peace, rest not always in being strong, but so often present themselves in patiently stepping back and softly listening to what my heart truly feels and wants. And then, using my strength to answer the call, I find the balance. In creating this alignment, my entire life experience has changed as I’ve known it.
Accepting all of myself is the secret to my success and happiness now at age forty – falling in love with the strong parts, the soft parts, the good traits, and the ugly traits. I allowed myself to pay attention to – and maybe even learn to like – my quirky shortcomings and imperfections. It is a daily commitment, a lifelong process.
Today I share with you some steps I take to find balance in my life. This is how I manage my anxieties, confront the pursuit of perfection, and train myself listen to my inner sense of knowing as I custom design a life I adore.
1. Be present so that you can listen.
Answers come in stillness, so we must allow ourselves time to pause amid a busy, noisy world. It is difficult to make the time, but it is necessary and nourishing. Run/walk without music and listen only to the sound of your breath and feet on the road. Meditate in silence. Sit on a bench and pray. Figure out what fits for you, when and where your answers come.
2. Feeling fear is not scary.
It is a powerful tool if you allow it to be. Pay attention to and acknowledge fear when you feel it. Our deeper consciousness holds all sorts of old programming and hard wiring that is triggered at the most inconvenient times. Sometimes our first reaction in any uncomfortable situation feels scary for reasons we might not even be able to explain. We want to run, hide and do anything just not to feel. So, patiently go inside and investigate the deeper layers as you embark on your new life habits. Rinse and repeat and be grateful for the feelings you have, all of them.
3. Figure out what grounds you, and make it your non-negotiable go-to.
Does a daily workout feed your soul? Does a long weekend with your best friend allow you to hit the reset button? Do it, without guilt. By nature, women tend to be nurturers. But too much giving without a little give-back leads to resentment and depletion. Contrary to much of today’s messaging, self-care is not selfish; it is selfless.
4. Uncover your very own unique “Why?”
We all have a purpose on this planet. I believe it is the work of a lifetime to dig through the muddiness to uncover our jewels that are buried deep within. We have a personal responsibility to use our talents for the greater good. Marianne Williamson says it best, “Your being small does not serve the world.” She is right on the mark. Living authentically requires giving yourself the time and space to figure out your “Why?” regardless of anyone else’s opinions or expectations.
5. Figure out what makes you feel strongest.
But also willingly embrace your soft, vulnerable spots physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Honor all these beautiful aspects of your being. They create the balance and round out who you truly are.
6. Remember there are many types of currency: money, love, and energy, just to name a few.
If you are feeling drained in any of these areas, step back and evaluate. Trust your gut and work to actively re-align in any area that feels off and is sapping your spirit. It may require a deep dive into your beliefs to really get to the core of what is lacking alignment in your life. Once you identify what is off, create an action plan to create better alignment in the future.
7. Lean on your tribe, no smoke and mirrors required.
Vulnerability creates a necessary connection. If the folks in your current tribe are no longer ideal fits as you grow, don’t be afraid to move along. Open up space for more fitting relationships. We are not strongest when we fight alone. We are bonded when we show our scars. We are best when we elevate each other. Celebrate the #PowerofShe.
“Life is for living,” I remind myself every morning and night. I am confident that I will never regret listening to my deep sense of knowing, taking risks, changing course, and honoring my imperfections on the journey.
Life is built in chapters. Create just one at a time, be present, and build from there. Get excited about the storyline. I have my moments when I catch myself reverting to old belief systems and bad habits or wandering off the path completely. But, with a little compassion for self and a great sense of humor, I am now available to accept my humanness, at last. So just try to trust the often messy, imperfect process of life while you have the awesome gift to be fully in it.