How I Learned to Start Putting Myself First

Photo:

Jeremiah Bostwick

Alexis Novak is a yoga instructor, mobility enthusiast, and certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT). As a contributor for THE/THIRTY, Alexis will be sharing her knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and meditation to help you find your own personal balance between strength and serenity. Her approach to wellness is to simplify and keep a sense of humor. This month, she opens up about how she learned to stop apologizing for merely existing—and how it's led her to go after what she truly wants.

Something shifted for me in the past year. Obviously, the political climate and rampant outbreak of sexual abusers brought to light (making my Facebook timeline an ongoing nightmare every day) have changed my emotions a bit, but it's also something else.

You see, I have lived in constant fear (for my entire life) that I am not good enough. That I am in everyone's way and that people innately do not like me. It has stemmed from my biological mother leaving me in a parking lot as a baby and never really showing any interest in me. Because of this core rejection, I never felt that good things were meant for me. I could never audition for the school play, because such fun and adoration were saved for those who "deserved" it. Instead, I took the job as stage manager and watched those who I had deemed "deserving" from backstage. This theory I had contrived in my head stuck with me through a portion of my life. I wouldn't apply for jobs I wanted and was always too afraid to show people the real me. I once was so sure I had wronged someone while driving that I rolled down my window at a stoplight and apologized for cutting them off. (Yes, that really happened.)

I moved to Los Angeles five years ago with the intention of taking a crack at comedy writing. I was quickly told by many that it's a "tough world to get into," especially for women. As usual, I recoiled and remained at a safe distance while my friends and my boyfriend actively pursued their dreams in the industry.

I have been a yoga instructor for nearly 10 years now, and it's something I love to do. I am grateful and fortunate enough to be able to sustain myself on teaching private lessons, promoting wellness brands, and modeling activewear. It is something I know I can do—it's safe and steady. But over time, I developed an urge to write funny social media captions instead of the ethereal ones I would see other self-professed online yogis posting. While they're beautiful sentiments, they don't really connect with me. In fact, I used to post sunset photos with Rumi quotes while crying in my car because I couldn't pay my rent or because my mom missed my birthday again. It didn't feel right to post uplifting captions when I live on earth, and earth is sometimes hard as shit.

So, slowly, I started writing jokes and putting them as captions for my yoga modeling photos, in hopes that people would laugh and relate to them. To my pleasant surprise, they resonated, and people started responding to them. At this point, I was set on the idea that comedy writing alone (without the safety net of being a yoga instructor) wasn't enough to support me. After all, I'm just a yoga instructor—I'm not supposed to be funny.

 

When my boiling tea pot starts screaming... I’m like, “me too girl”

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Until one day, I went on a hike with a friend who's a working, hilarious female comedy writer. She asked, "Hey, if you're honest with yourself—what do you really want to do? I see what you post online. Do you want to be a comedy writer?" I immediately burst into tears, "I do, but I don't know where to start. I have always felt wanting to do something that lofty was not meant for someone like me. Trying to do something so tough is for other people. And who am I to want to do that?"

She responded in a very matter-of-fact way, "You totally can. It's really hard, but you can do it." That was the first time I had gotten a nod of approval. After that day, a shift slowly began in me. I thought, That's what it took for me to admit what I really want to do? The truth was that I had been waiting for someone else's approval of what I really wanted to do. Although, I was sorely mistaken to think anyone aside from myself should have the power to do so. I have always been so worried about what other people would think of me. I thought of the things they would say, all of which were imaginary conversations. Ultimately, I painted myself into a picture that ever existed.

Recently, I was added to an app that allows new comedy writers to pitch and sell jokes. I sold my very first one last week. It was the most rewarding $10 I have ever made.

 

When the bottom half of your body wants to teach yoga and top half wants to sell someone a house.

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So although I am not able to sit here and write that I am booming with confidence and walking around the world with my head held high, I am happy to tell you that I am no longer apologizing for simply existing or for wanting good (and big) things for myself. I am not sure where this will lead me, but I am so relieved to have let go of the belief that I don't deserve what I see others working toward. I may have been left unwanted in a parking lot as a baby, but I am now an adult that has the choice of wanting myself. I can't wait to see what else I'm capable of.

Next up: One writer asked herself why she kept apologizing—and learned much more than she bargained for.