I just want you to know that every time I stand in front of a studio full of people, I’m scared. I am worried I’m going to forget everything. I feel incredibly self-conscious. I feel confused that people have actually turned up. I have to plant my feet into the ground in a bid not to turn on my heel and peg it into the distance.
Yes, the same me who is standing in front of 20 people in a metallic leotard, looking like the epitome of self-confidence. I am dying inside, almost every time. I can promise you that.
I’m telling you this because I think it’s important to know that YOU. CAN. DO. ANYTHING. YOU. WANT. TO. And I know this because, despite the above confession, I still do what I do – teaching energetic fitness classes in front of groups of people. I’m writing this today to dig into the uncomfortable idea of believing in yourself a bit more.
My own experiences took me on a journey of self-doubt which I’ve learned to manage. I’d attended fitness classes for years, looking at these fit, enthusiastic, motivational instructors who were managing not only to teach but to entertain. I’ve always been in awe at their ability to work a room and make a group of strangers feel energised, connected and alive. I wanted to be able to do this too! I wanted it SO badly. I had this complete urge to bring to others what these motivational magicians had brought to me.
And so, I broke it down and worked hard. Learn. Train. Practice. Qualify. When I got that certificate, I realised the biggest hurdle was yet to come. The absolutely monstrous hurdle of believing in myself enough to get in front of a group of people and actually achieve the thing I had wanted, for so long.
It was a terrifying process, but I hope in sharing what I felt and how I tackled it, you’ll be inspired to chase what you want and go for it, too.
FEAR, RELIEF & SELF-BELIEF OR ANGER? – YOUR CHOICE
For my first maybe, three months of classes, I went through that pit-of-the-stomach churning feeling of imposter-syndrome. Who had given me permission to think I could stand up here and do this? Who was I to do this?! I could barely sleep the night before a class. I eventually realised that I had two choices – either feeling terrified but then completely relieved and almost giddy with with positive self-belief that I had faced my fears and done it anyway…. or really angry with myself for giving into those feelings, and giving up.
I chose the former.
I implore you to always, always choose the former when you feel like this.
Remember, that choice belongs entirely to you. In my experience, a feeling of fear that becomes relief and pride in your abilities is way better for the soul than a feeling of anger at yourself. The same anger which fuels to those stupid voices of self-doubt, rattling around in your head (and making them even louder and more obnoxious!)
THE CONFIDENCE CYCLE – INSPIRE OTHERS
About three months into teaching in a slightly reserved and cautious manner, I had this lightbulb go off in my head: If I was going to stand up there and charge people their hard earned money for my time, I owed it to them to be completely all-encompassing with the motivation and energy I gave them. This was a real turning point for me, because it gave me a good reason to hurry up and damn well believe in myself, or just pack it all in and try something else. For so long, I’d been chasing this for myself. Now, I had people looking at me expectantly, and I totally owed it to them, too. It was scary and I felt the pressure. But it changed how I behaved quite quickly, and definitely for the better. It made me force myself to be louder, more confident and more animated – and I very quickly saw the way this would positively affect the energy of the people in front of me.
What REALLY helped in this situation was reversing things in my head. I remembered what it was like, to be expectantly looking at a trainer, waiting for them to work their magic. These trainers were just people! Yet they had acted in a way that given me the confidence to chase my dreams and qualify. What if I could do that same thing for someone in front of me?! That would feel amazing – ESPECIALLY if inside I was secretly shitting myself with fear and STILL managing to inspire someone else to push out of their comfort zones and realise amazing new things about themselves.
This is what I’ve now called the confidence cycle. It goes like this:
- You act confidently and in a self-assured way.
- Others watch.
- They are inspired by you.
- They act more confidently and in a more self-assured way.
- They inspire you.
- Everyone stands that little bit taller together, feeling that little bit better about themselves.
- YAY! GO YOU!
It’s compelling and it is really quite magic when it happens. The best bit – it starts with you and you are TOTALLY IN CONTROL OF IT. It is completely your choice!
And this confidence cycle works in so many situations! Presentations at work, speaking to children, cracking out that GCSE Spanish when you’re on holiday with your family. Trust me, just do it.
THE VOICE OF SELF-DOUBT IS YOURS TO SILENCE
So I had made my choice to experience fear then relief over anger and regret. I had decided to enjoy the two-way benefits of giving the ultimate gift – the confidence cycle. Yet the niggling voice of self-doubt was the final thing I had to work on. And I tell you, that voice was LOUD in my head. Anyone relate? This one is the one I am still working on. I think beating this particular gremlin comes from realising it’s happening and choosing how to respond to it.
When I realised the negative things about myself in my head were NOT BEING SAID BY OTHER PEOPLE but by me – silently – by my own brain, I was confused.
Yes, my friends, I was standing there in front of a class and thinking “they’re probably all thinking this is rubbish”. No one was actually standing there, heckling from the group “this is rubbish”. So – Wait a minute. Am I standing here, fabricating negative things that other people are thinking about me – when they’re actually silent? I’m shit-talking myself? For no reason?
Why oh why oh why am I spending precious seconds of my one and only life on planet earth, doing this?
WHAT A WASTE OF MY TIME. I am literally standing there, imagining a room full of people are shit-talking about me, and these poor people are just STANDING THERE, smiling and being really quite lovely, waiting patiently for me to stop staring at them weirdly and get on with teaching the class.
Yep, you and I and EVERYONE who is going through a period of self-doubt, is saying this pointlessly negative stuff in their own head, to their own self. Which means we all have the COMPLETE ability to stop saying this stuff to ourselves. We can choose to stop ruminating over this imagined negativity. To stop torturing ourselves with the repeated words of some non-entity at school 15 years ago, or of an unsupportive parent when we were 10.
It’s you. Your brain. Your thoughts. You own them. They are yours. You can turn that negativity tap right off. You can catch yourself and go “hey! Why am I saying that? Just stop! Thanks!” and stop it, just like that.
It was weirdly quiet in my brain when I managed to get a handle on these words of self-doubt, stop them in their tracks, and just think about neutral things like dinner (or, shock, POSITIVE THINGS) about myself. But don’t be tempted to fill that silence back with a slop of negativity. Oh no. You fill it with wonder. Wonder at exactly what is going on, right in that very second. Notice stuff around you. Experience that very moment you are living in. Be present and open your mind up to glorious life. That self-doubt will slink away under a rock where it belongs eventually, I promise.
So that’s it! It might not solve the world but it will hopefully make you push on with your head held high. Hell it might even make you buy a metallic leotard and join me in my march to happy self-confidence (please send me evidence if so).
I just hope it has made you realise that you are not alone if you feel like this. And that things can be done to feel better.
You are great.
There is no one else quite like you.
Celebrate having this wonderful opportunity to experience the life you deserve.