Recently, I have been reading, “The Courage to Teach” by Parker Palmer. Within the text, Parker discusses the inner life of a teacher as well as some of the difficulties that face teachers. While I highly encourage you to read the book, even if you are not a teacher, I have found myself particularly struck by this idea that as a teacher it is my job to be vulnerable and transparent with my students. According to Palmer, an effective teacher – one who is able to connect with and inspire one’s students – is a teacher who’s deeply connected to one’s subject and able to model that relationship for one’s students.
This modeling according to Palmer is not one of perfection or showmanship, but instead one of honest vulnerability. By this he means that some times some of our biggest struggles or set backs can become our best teaching moments because they enable our students to be able to see a bit of themselves within us and us within them.
I have found myself thinking about this idea quite a bit lately because I have received some feedback that as a teacher I might be more effective if I allowed a bit of visibility behind the wall I have created between myself and my students. For like Palmer discusses, there are some times when I feel that my teaching is a mini performance. I am aware I work diligently to smooth over my rough edges so I can present a clean image of the well-prepared and “put together” yoga teacher.
I do all this, as Palmer eloquently discusses, because there is a deep inherent fear that if I show up as I am, I will be rejected as irrelevant, unworthy, unlikeable, and unloveable. In such instances, it feels like I am trying to prove my worth in some high school popularity contest.
The irony – as pointed out by Palmer (as well as others like Brene Brown) – is that without revealing ourselves as we are, we don’t present others with the opportunity to really connect with us or the aspects of themselves that we mirror for them.
The question I have for you, the one I am working to answer for myself this week is, In what ways do you hide aspects of who you are out of a fear that certain aspects of who you are are not good enough? Maybe this question is applicable within your interpersonal relationships where you either keep silent or physically, mentally, or emotionally distance your self from others? Maybe this question is applicable within your working life where you attempt to hide your mistakes, struggles, and setbacks out of some banal attempt to seem competent and reliable? Or maybe within your physical body and asana practice, you may hide both your strengths as well as limitations?
Whatever it is for you, can you imagine for a moment that the very thing you may be attempting to hide out of an attempt to keep a connection, maybe the very thing you need to reveal in order to deepen a connection?
Please take a few moments to sit quietly with your thoughts and notice what comes up.