How to Avoid Getting Schooled (by Nancy Ohlin)

Do you guys do that thing where you avoid criticism by using weird mental tricks?

Yesterday I went to a hot yoga class, which was my first real exercise in over a year. I used to be a regular, but a couple of serious injuries kept me on the bench until April. 

By April, I was out of shape and grumpy. But instead of doing anything about it … instead of jumping back into the game and feeling okay about not being fit … I stubbornly stayed on the sidelines. I so didn’t want to be a failure. I so didn’t want to be schooled by anyone about how I could have, should have, found a way to exercise around those injuries.

I’m kind of like this in the rest of my life. I want to be above reproach because, well, criticism hurts. This means I need to use those weird mental tricks I mentioned, namely:

*Refuse to participate so no one can judge me.

*Be perfect all the time.

*Tell myself that all critics are clueless.

Needless to say, these are all really bad ideas, especially for a writer. Writers are judged constantly—by agents, editors, readers, reviewers, etc., etc.—and if we want to be published, not participating is not an option. Ditto being perfect all the time. Ditto criticizing the critics. 

Oh, it was so hard to show up to that hot yoga class! I'd spent weeks checking out the studio’s website and then talking myself out of going. But yesterday, I’d finally had it with my excuses. I put on my workout clothes, dusted off my yoga mat, and dragged myself to the studio.

Once I got there, checked in, and set my mat down, everything was fine. Easy, even. In fact, for the first few minutes of class, I chastised myself about how stupid I’d been to stay away for so long. (I could have lost ten pounds by now! I could be doing headstands!)

But then the very awesome yoga instructor told us mid-Sun Salutation to stop judging ourselves (because he could read my mind, obviously). He told us to stop watching the other people in the room. He told us to stop feeling like failures.

He said all that mattered was to show up and do the yoga—our yoga, whatever it happened to be that day—and to leave our inner chatter, our self-schooling, in our shoes outside the door.

There are a lot of lessons here, including some stuff about how you can be your own worst critic. But for now, my takeaways—for yoga, for writing, for life—are:

*Don’t try to avoid getting schooled.

*Just show up.


  1. Thanks for a simple, but extremely important reminder that really does apply to every aspect of our lives.

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad it was helpful. I need to remind myself, too, every day.

  2. This is so, so fantastic, Nancy. I love that--don't try to avoid getting schooled.

  3. I really needed to hear this, Nancy, thank you!


Post a Comment