In this day and age, it’s popular that people like you (or should that be ‘like’ you), or is it?
Some people have the need to be liked by others, to be adored for their abilities or their personalities, whilst others are content with not being liked so much, but discovering that they do indeed like themselves a little more than they perhaps did. I was certainly not popular at school, I certainly felt awkward and as if I didn’t fit into the little groups that developed between my peers. I didn’t feel as if I fitted in, perhaps I was even destined not to fit in. I went on holidays to weird, far-flung places, played the flute in the school band, wore shoes that were padded out so as I could keep them on my feet, but these were just the superficial things, when I write that perhaps I didn’t fit in, I’m referring to the deeper stuff, such as feelings. I used to take offence very easily and indeed had many tantrums growing up, most of it to do with feelings having been hurt by what someone else said or did towards me. None of this helped my posture at the time. I could feel my body reacting after such a episode, worn out from all the tension and stress and in a total state of heightened anxiety.
If I’m reacting to such emotional stress these days, I can still feel reminders of such stress trying to creep in if I allow it but am able to stop it, to walk away, make a conscious decision not to get embroiled any further. I later learned that what we feel is the most unreliable thing in the world. This applies very much to what we feel is happening in an Alexander Technique lessons. We may begin to feel off balance and indeed wholly ‘wrong’ as our teacher works with us, when in fact we are more ‘right’ than we’ve ever been, more in balance, more upright, more at ease. This is what FM Alexander described as ‘unreliable sensory appreciation’. What we feel is based on how comfortable and secure we are in our habit, as opposed to conscious, reasoned out thinking. The same is equally true of emotional feelings, we may get so wrapped up in something due to how we feel that we may lose sight of the real crux of the issue. Of course learning to stop, inhibition, has a great part of play in this. What we think we’re doing whilst working with a teacher, and indeed in the greater wider outside world, is not actually what we’re doing, it’s quite the opposite, we’re just not aware of it, which is why working with a teacher (much as in front of a mirror) is so beneficial. For instance, you may think that you’re perfectly calm, collected and at ease, but as soon as a teacher places their hand on your neck, you may well become aware of tension there, a tension which you find difficult to shift.
Anyway, back to feeling unpopular, odd, and uncomfortable. Is it so bad? It certainly makes for an interesting individual, in my mind, perhaps one who has something that others don’t. Why be like everyone else? I went on to not necessarily fit in at college, university and yes, even during my previous employment, not because I consciously chose not to fit in, but this was just the way things happened. I wasn’t popular, but with it came an increasing sense that it was ok to be me, leaving everyone else free to be themselves. The difference these days being that I don’t react to it according to my previous habit of beating myself up about it, and beat myself up about it I used to do, to the point where my body suffered greatly, I was reacting based on feelings and didn’t know how to stop this, indeed neither did my mum, who was always the one who consoled me afterwards. It seemed like a problem to which we just didn’t have an answer.
My Alexander Technique teachers have taught me how to do this, how it’s necessary in order to look at things rationally, consciously, without unreliable feeling getting the upper hand. This is, of course, easier said than done in the course of everyday life and takes a lifetime’s practice. We may not always get it right, we may at times even very likely fail, but somewhere within us we will always come back to the ability to stop, to remind ourselves of how prevent the unwanted, that which puts us wrong. Of course we all have feelings, it’s how we’re designed, and not all feelings are feelings that are unreliable, indeed listening to our feelings is something which I would definitely encourage. Some feelings can be reliable, whilst others are wholly unreliable and it’s important to know the difference between the two, something which increases over time the more Alexander work you have.
Rather than focussing on not being popular or ‘liked’, focus on your strengths, your abilities, on your sense of self. Being popular isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, in fact it can, for some, be a very lonely place, possibly even more lonely than being unpopular. Instead of constantly striving to be appeal to others, appealing to your self is just as, if not not more, important, indeed getting the balance right in this respect is, well, balanced. The good news is that I’ve gradually come to like myself more, with all my quirks, faults & failings, indeed idiosyncrasies. Most importantly, don’t always trust those feelings, they could be more about you as opposed to being about someone else and they could turn out to be wholly unreliable.