I have never been one for the gifts in the material. My sentimental cannot be wrapped in the perfected gift basket or thoughtful transaction. Maybe I’ve become jaded, or perhaps that holding something in my hand has far less meaning than the emotional connection of such transmission.

Some of the biggest “gifts” came from distorted relationships, absent family roles, and excused behavior or showered “love.” I had a grandparent, one whom I barely knew, that offered gifts wrapped in exchange for affection. Maybe this is one reason I am not much of a hugger. Forced affection in respect to another. Such duty we play into, submission. Games of respect come bearing gifts to replace an “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” I suppose such exchanges look great on paper or check-off list of deed. Such motivations bleeds into politeness. It is far better to be polite than it is to be real. This is conditioning that I have known. I’ve been thinking a lot about politeness and how little value it holds; I am not saying that we become straight-up assholes, but I am saying we become real-holes. I think of my friend, Jen Pastiloff (and fellow oneOeight guide), and her loving crusade of “don’t be an asshole DBAA!”

There are people that will smile at your face and turn around to frown behind your back. Why is that? That’s not polite, it’s not even real. Like kissing ass, there’s nothing polite about it! There’s a kind of fake love that shows up on-screen in typed messages to calling me “babe” and that pretend, fakery bullshit. Ones that fawn and in the same breath talk ill about others. Knowing someone deeply is far different than knowing some things about someone, it doesn’t happen on-screen or in mannered greeting exchanges. I feel like it happens a lot in this yoga industry (any industry, really). Some like to pretend that this yoga business is all love and compassion, it is not. Some of my harshest critics have come from yoga teachers I’ve looked up to (and I take responsibility by putting said teachers up high). Some will toss the book of traditions in my face and ask me to excuse their hurtful ways because this is a “practice.” Some friendships in this business haven’t lasted because some people are more interested in “stephynow” than plain Stephanie. While some of that shit really hurts, it’s made me stronger and every time I feel pinned against a wall in this business/life, I make great use for such pain. I am not saying I am perfect. I am a real asshole sometimes. I say asshole things because, like you, I have my biases and values. And fake politeness is not one of them.

I value a lot in this world. Honesty is one of them and it is quite tied into self awareness and esteem. I value my worth, not by how the world views me but by how I view myself. When I say, “I love you.” I mean it. I won’t say it otherwise. If I am forcing it, my body reacts. I feel ill when I have to pretend and push some one else’s agenda or value that is outside of my own. My life is moved in such a way that without my heart, I am simply not in it. My hope is to raise my son with his heart courage forward and open in this world. I value him growing through life to being fiercely loving and to speak his truth. In his 5 years, he has certainly taught me more about getting real than most people in my life. When he doesn’t like something, I am not here to change his mind or coax him into liking. Some people will reach for his affection by gift giving and if he’s not into hugging someone, I am not going to force it. I wish for him to make meaningful connections, have deep and genuine conversations, focus on big ideas, express emotions, encourage each other to grow, and get creative in life. I hope to raise him to say, “I love you” to people and mean it. Or when he needs to apologize, that it comes from his heart. I don’t want to confuse forgiveness with transactions or that accomplishment is valued by what you can get as a return.

Maybe what knots us up is neediness to be polite (liked), as if to not hurt someone’s feelings. And I get that. I’d like to think that we are not aiming to hurt others, but putting up a front is far more destructive than it is purposeful. When we uncover our pains, what has conditioned us, made us tick, or fall unto beliefs of not being enough — we live a life through a warped reality. Literally dressing ourselves up to play our part in a show. That kind of lead will leave you feeling depleted, creating cycled relationships that feed into the trap that you are not worthy. Life is not a show. Life is the one you’ve got to live. Staying true to your great self and love of your life, that is you. Worthiness does not come wrapped in a box with ribbon. It comes from your heart, my dear.

Let’s be real-holes that are real-loving.

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