How to Eliminate Pilates Teacher Insecurities

I’ve been teaching Pilates since 2002 but still remember what it felt like to be brand new to this profession. I had just finished my first Comprehensive Teacher Training Program and nervously entered the trenches of private lessons and group classes. As a young Black woman that commuted from “The Valley”, I didn’t exactly fit into the Beverly Hills demographic where I started my teaching career. I was the only one that looked like me and was acutely aware of our racial, socio-economic and age differences. Decades of subconscious conditioning made me feel like I had to prove myself. So while dodging the inevitable micro-aggressions, I challenged myself to be an “exceptional” neophyte. This was a familiar pattern for me; trying to convince others that I was worthy. I wanted them to know that I was worth the time and money they’d invested into their Pilates practice. 

We all start our Pilates careers with our own unique fears and insecurities based on personal life experiences. Added to that is the anxiety around:

Will I remember…

  • what to teach & how to teach it correctly?
  • the spring settings?
  • safety precautions?
  • exercise contraindications for specific conditions?
  • the number of repetitions for each exercise?
  • exercise modifications?
  • appropriate exercise progressions?

… all while maintaining a confident exterior as nerves buzz relentlessly throughout our bodies. Being a new Pilates teacher is absolutely overwhelming. 

Now that I’ve been teaching for a couple of decades, hindsight has taught me that fear is to be expected whenever you’re new – to any skill. And inexperience is fertile ground for self-doubt. I remember emerging from that first Comprehensive Teacher Training Program with ridiculously high expectations of myself. I somehow thought that I should be as insightful, confident, creative, and effective as those with years of teaching experience behind them. As much as I tried to exude confidence, comparison syndrome set in. 

Another thing that fuels self-doubt is how the fitness industry feeds us these preconceived ideas about what Pilates teachers are supposed to look like, move like, or sound like. Many of us don’t fit into that box and become plagued by imposter syndrome. Every time I would announce “I’m a Pilates teacher”, I could feel eyeballs scanning me as if to assess whether or not I had a “Pilates body”. And even when I was booked and busy, I still felt insecure about my teaching skills and my ability to connect authentically with my clients.

Exercising “patience and persistence” as both a Pilates teacher and ongoing Pilates student (personal practice vs. countless certifications) has helped rid of me of comparison and imposter syndromes. Mostly. I’m still a work in progress. But the wisdom that comes from age and experience has certainly been the fertile ground that continues to grow my confidence as a Pilates teacher. So while I think it’s helpful to recognize our fears and where they stem from, it’s equally important to honor wherever we currently are on our teaching journey and extend ourselves some grace. It takes bravery, vulnerability, and patience to do what we do and to become the Pilates teacher we envision. But when I finally realized that being a Pilates student requires the same, it leveled the playing field for me. 

So instead of dwelling on our own insecurities, we get to focus on the experiences we’re creating for our students so that they feel seen, heard, valued and respected. That outward focus allows us to get out of our own heads and serve our clients better. We get to design the workouts and curate the welcoming and supportive environment in which all of our students can thrive. More important than body image, remembering “the order” or how perfectly our cues flow, is developing strong interpersonal skills such as active listening, empathy, positivity, motivation and problem solving. Student loyalty comes from how you make them feel; even if you forgot Elephant and skipped straight to Knee Stretch Series in their beginner Reformer workout. Consider it a goal that your students finish each workout feeling better than they did when they walked into your studio; physically, mentally, and emotionally. After all, Joseph Pilates said that “Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit”.

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