Am I a “good enough” yoga teacher?

Have you ever felt like you’re not a “good enough” yoga teacher? Has that feeling kept you from moving forward in your teaching career? Not good enough to lead a yoga retreat? Are you putting off planning a retreat because you think there are better teachers out there leading retreats and how could you measure up?

You are not alone.

Before I became a yoga teacher, I struggled for years wondering if I could ever be “good enough."

I knew deep down in my heart I wanted to teach, but was frozen in the fear of failing. What I didn’t realize was that my fear of failing was actually a form of perfectionism.

Whoa! Really? What does that mean?

The amazing Brene Brown {you probably know this lady too} explains in detail how perfectionism rears its ugly head in many aspects of life - fear of failing, shame of being vulnerable, afraid of being judged. Brown explains:

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: ‘If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

The message really resonated, but I had no idea that I had been doing this!

I was holding myself to these “perfect standards” as a way to avoid being judged. My fear of not being good enough was actually my shame keeping me from being vulnerable, from being seen and accepted with all my imperfections.

My fear of messing up and not measuring up was all rooted in a lack of love and compassion for myself. Where was the ahimsa??? Certainly I was not ready to teach because if I couldn’t accept myself, how could I teach my students self-acceptance?

So what are we supposed to do if we feel this way?

Brown says:

“To overcome perfectionism we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion.”

It all comes down to acknowledgement, acceptance, and compassion.

This is what we learn in yoga. This is what we teach. We first have to do the internal work on ourselves before we can really help others. But HOW do we do that?

By allowing ourselves to feel what we feel, hold space for our full range of emotions, and like a mother nurtures her child, nurture ourselves.  Yeah yeah, but HOW do we do that?

Sometimes we have to fake it till we make it.

Or as we do on the mat, we practice. Practice, practice, practice.

So here’s a little bit about my yoga teaching journey. Ten years into my yoga practice I finally decided to take the leap and do a yoga teacher training (YTT). This was the first big step in facing my fear of teaching.  Even though I still felt terrified of failing, simply signing up for the training was a way for me to practice being vulnerable.

During the training I was still so scared of teaching that, I confess, I even went to hide in the bathroom when it was my turn to practice teach in front of the class!

But somehow I made it through YTT and came out on the other side with a little more confidence to move forward. For the next 9 months after YTT, I was fully immersed in another training - an emotionally intense graduate program in counseling.

Again, another place for me to practice being vulnerable.

I spent 30+ hours each week doing group process with my cohort, seeing clients (while being watched by my professors and fellow students - yikes!) and seeing my own private therapist.

Talk about being vulnerable! There was no place to hide.

I couldn’t go and hide in the bathroom each time it was my turn to speak. This was a place for me to practice really being seen and heard, emotionally raw, willing to make mistakes, and open to acceptance. This was the next big step in preparing me to be a yoga teacher.

After the counseling program, I finally found the courage to teach yoga.  

My first paid teaching gig was at a group home for women with eating disorders. I was hired to teach yoga asana, but quickly learned that the REAL reason for the asana was to help the students practice being okay in their bodies. That’s what we do as yoga teachers: help students to connect more deeply with themselves, their bodies, their breath, and ultimately to feel more “ok” with themselves.

We teach students how to be comfortable in discomfort, how to feel without getting stuck in the stories around the sensation.

In teaching yoga, we provide a space for students learn how to be.

Week after week I showed up to teach at the group home and practiced being vulnerable as a teacher. No, I was not an expert. There was so much more for me to learn (and there still is!). But the more I practiced leaning in to my own fear and shame, allowing myself to feel it and move through it, the more I was able to shed some of the layers of perfectionism that had been holding me back for so long. The more I taught, the less scary it felt, and the more I realized I could just be myself as a teacher. It wasn’t about putting on a show or being someone I’m not.

With time and practice, I’ve learned that teaching is simply sharing what I've learned. In my own voice, with my own story and experiences.

And most importantly, as I teacher it’s my job to hold space for others to move through their own transformation.

Now here I am, eight years into my teaching career, I can now say that moving through all of my inner obstacles has made me a better teacher. I am truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to be vulnerable, to stick my foot in my mouth (figuratively), to fall on my face (literally), and to teach even when I just didn’t feel at my best.

As I often tell my students, showing up to yoga is sometimes the hardest part of practice.

But each time I “show up” as a teacher, with all my uncertainties and insecurities, the more I cultivate resilience and acceptance for myself. I have to say this journey has helped me not only feel way more comfortable as a yoga teacher, but also more comfortable in my life.

Yes, I still get hit with waves of self-doubt.

But just like in yoga, I have to practice each day embracing my fears and doubts, and acknowledging, accepting and having compassion for myself. The more I practice, the more grateful I am for the journey.

So yeah, there will always be other teachers who know more, who have a better voice, and who are better at handstands (or all of the above).

But by embracing the fear of not measuring up, we can develop courage and resilience, and eventually gratitude for the transformation.

And just as we learn to hold space for our own imperfections, we can learn to do so for others - our students, fellow teachers, and even friends and family.

Here's a mediation for you when you need to turn fear into gratitude. Many blessings. 

 

Turn Your Fear into Gratitude Meditation

I hold my heart with loving kindness

With loving kindness I acknowledge my fears and insecurities

With loving kindness I accept that I’m not perfect

With loving kindness I allow myself to be seen and heard, even with all my imperfections

With loving kindness I practice being OK, in my own skin

With loving kindness I allow myself to be

Thank you for this opportunity to grow

Thank you for this opportunity to be

 

Renee + RYYR Team

 

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