All of us perhaps have experienced that sinking feeling of anxiety & self-doubt many times as we swim against the tide of life.
Most recently, it could have been the first time you led a yoga class after finishing your 200 hr yoga teachers training course.
You may have had butterflies in your stomach or would have been paralysed with self-doubt about your lack of experience as a teacher.
In fact, some of you may have faced a lack of self-esteem during the yoga teacher's training program, the stress of not having adequate knowledge or the lack of self-belief in being able to share yoga with your future students. Sounds relatable? Well, you may already be aware that this form of self-doubt is a classic killjoy and a telltale sign of what is called IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
It is the elephant in the room that we all know yet fail to call out.
The dictionary defines IMPOSTER SYNDROME as – “A frequent feeling of not deserving of one’s success and of being a failure despite sustained records of achievements”.
Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome underplays all your achievements and traps you in the web of self-doubt. This is never a great place to start anywhere in life, let alone beginning your journey as a yoga teacher. It paralyses your potential and everything you are capable of. You feel stuck and are unable to move forward.
Let’s face it: the world around us is evolving by leaps and bounds; keeping up is almost like a mad rush.
It seems like you are always attracting self-doubt by asking yourself - Am I adequate enough? or why would people want to come to my classes? What if they know more than I do? The stress of doubting oneself, comparing one’s self-worth, beating oneself down to the fear of failure & small imperfections all add up to a compelling case of Imposter Syndrome.
Yes, agree it is no doubt very overwhelming as a new yoga teacher to fight your inner battles. The truth is you DO NOT need to KNOW everything under the sun. Yoga is for everybody, and you CANNOT teach everybody and make everybody happy, and that is all OK. So how can you be kind to yourself, detach from this feeling of inadequacy and continue sharing your gifts with the world?
We have compiled ten handy tips to combat IMPOSTER SYNDROME so you can take charge, give yourself credit while it's due, and trust the process of being a student for life.
10 Tips to Tackle Imposter Syndrome as a New Yoga Teacher in 2024
You don’t need to know it all to teach it all – The fact is that we only know how much our students wish to share with us. Yoga teachers are not medical experts. Set your boundaries and share practical tips that you can offer in your capacity as a teacher with the tools you have to share. Respond to questions beyond your preview with an “I don’t know”, or if it's something related to Yoga, you may choose to say, “Let me get back to you”. Lead with truth and authenticity, and the rest will follow.
Meet your students where they are. Making an earnest effort to tailor your classes based on your students' needs mindfully is essential. The ability to be flexible and make impromptu changes by gauging your students makes a big difference. This ability evolves from a space of being a confident teacher and giving yourself the space to acknowledge how much you still have to learn.
Teach what you practice & don’t teach what you don’t know – Don’t fake or beat yourself down to teaching what you don’t know for various reasons. A large part of being a teacher is to hold space for yourself and your students. This implies leading from a space of truth and genuineness.
Be Kind to your mind – mostly undervalued and brushed under the carpet. The mind is as essential as the body and one's personal hygiene. Keep your mind free from negativity and triggers that spike self-doubt. Choose what nourishes your mind and add them to your daily rituals. This could be meditation, journaling, affirmations or a personal prayer.
The Power of Visualization – A famous quote by George Addair: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear”. Acceptance & overcoming fear is key. Use the power of visualising yourself while leading a yoga class; you will notice you feel more confident. This tool of imagination is so useful to conquer & get past your fears & feelings of inadequacy.
Practice what you Preach – be true to yourself and your students. Guide them based on your learning and practical application, not just from textual references. That takes away from your commitment as a teacher. Work on solidifying the foundations of your teaching while upholding the roots & traditions of Yoga.
It's NOT about YOU. Reiterating this statement takes the focus away from YOU and directs it to what you teach. In this context, it's YOGA. Make this approach of redirection habitual. It will align you back to the reason why you chose to pursue this path and help ease the stress while teaching & showing up for your students.
Practice over Perfection – An entire lifetime can be spent in the pursuit of learning, yet we can never be perfect. Accepting this and continuing the journey of yoga by staying true to your practice is what makes you a better student and a better teacher. Perfection is a myth, so don’t beat yourself down to knowing it all and pleasing all your students. Perfection will set you up for failure, while practice will continuously inspire you to discover, learn and allow space for self-growth. There is no perfect teacher, and there is no perfect student. We are all students in our own ways on a quest towards learning.
The grass is greener when you water it – Don’t draw comparisons to other teachers, no matter how easy it is to succumb to the trap of comparison. Know that there will always be someone better than you. They will possibly have other challenges that you may not see at the surface. Your assumption of others and their successes adds up to the feeling of not being worthy enough. Instead, take charge and invest that time in yourself and how you can cultivate the right strategies to make the mindset shift. The “grass” in this context refers to the “mind”. You feed the mind with unwanted thoughts and will always question your self-worth. On the contrary, nurturing the mind with precisely the opposite sets you up for confidence, wisdom and progress.
Defeat the Imposter – Lastly, addressing the most important question; What makes you YOU? And what are you not? By identifying and getting to know yourself better, you are well-poised to appreciate your blessings. This will encourage you to share it with others, both in the role of a teacher and in life too.
As a parting note, always remember that as a yoga teacher, ‘One size fits all’ is convenient but unrealistic, especially when dealing with other human beings. Each of your students is unique and has different backgrounds and varied perceptions, wants and needs. So take one sincere step at a time and commit to nipping ‘Imposter Syndrome” in the bud immediately. You realise your worth so much more once you dispel this fear and welcome an exciting journey that awaits you on the other side.