What is imposter syndrome? Why I suffer, and ask yourself if you do too?
I want to highlight that I am here to talk to you about my experience with this, I will touch on the facts and studies behind this particular phenomenon but as I write this it is from my perspective. I am a white, able bodied female who teaches yoga & pilates. I am aware of many of my privileges living in this body and I am sure it has propelled my career in ways I don’t even realise.
I spent the majority of my life as a dancer, training professionally until I was 21, a skill and a life choice that was consistently about proving yourself to be the best. The constant battle to be ‘perfect’ the aesthetic, the skill, my looks, the training & the mindset. I think I can speak on behalf of many dancer friends alike that it can be a pretty all consuming place to be? Am I right? You do start to lose yourself along the way.
Moving into the yoga world was a huge breath of fresh air for me. I allowed my shoulders to soften and felt a distinct amount of freedom in my own practice. Yet it wasn’t long after I qualified that I felt again this sudden urge to prove my worth. Many studios have policies that you need a certain amount of years experience in order to teach, and don’t get me wrong I totally get it, how do I know fresh off my 200 hour what all bodies need? I could only really vouch for myself, and what my abilities and short comings were and maybe some of the experience I had as a dance teacher. These rules I soon realised didn’t apply to men.
If you are a yoga teacher anywhere, but especially in London you can quite literally smell the hustle. It is almost tangible the effort each of us exudes in order to wedge one foot in the door. Getting that first shot at a cover, your very own permanent class, eeesht it feels like it will never happen. Then gradually you begin to make steps forward… some more gradual than others. I loved my journey into teaching yoga, it wasn’t linear but it certainly felt a lot more nourishing than that of a dancer. Cut to 3 years down the line, I feel pretty established as a yoga teacher, I do it full time and I am really crafting my own unique teaching style. Surprise !! Now I am also Pilates qualified.
Pilates was not love at first sight for me. If I am being totally honest it was that annoying person who keeps asking you out but you’re sure they’re wrong for you. You say no, you say maybe, you say definitely not then suddenly you’re holding hands at an art gallery and you don’t understand how you fell in love this quickly.
I love Pilates now, I could go on longer about my love affair with it but the point is suddenly I had this new discipline that I wanted to share, but yet again I was a ‘newbie’. I felt the need again to ‘prove myself’ and I knew like everything in life I would have to pay my do’s to get into this industry. I do work hard, and I believe in my craft so during the pandemic I started teaching my yogi clients online and I kid you not they all FELL IN LOVE. You know who you are guys. Good times.
Now I know I am really taking my time setting the scene for you here but I want you to understand where I am coming from, it is only NOW 4 years into my journey as a yoga teacher (10 years as a dance teacher) that imposter syndrome has really started to rear its ugly head.
I had worked so hard to become an exceptional pilates coach that suddenly I felt the yoga community were looking down on me, or more-so forgetting me entirely. Was I now irrelevant? Could I do both? Was I letting myself down as a yoga teacher by spreading myself thin and teaching Pilates so much. Some studios don’t even know I teach yoga? My client base are becoming all pilates people, but I run yoga retreats? Would they want to go on my retreats?? WHAT IS MY NICHE!! Why did I work so hard on this because now all the studios seem think I am a JUST a Pilates coach. Does doing both make me worse at each of them. I am yogannie.. but now some people only identify with me as their pilates coach?
You can see how I began to spiral. If you didn’t already know imposter syndrome does affect women and people of colour disproportionately more than white males. Why do you think that is? “We’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don’t see many examples of people who look like us or share our background who are clearly succeeding in our field” Emily Hu.
I can’t speak on behalf of people of colour but I assume it is a challenge in the wellness industry as it has become a heavily saturated white domain. (another blog post entirely)I know for a fact that the yoga industry is female dominated yet some of the male teachers seem to excel in the craft much quicker than us? Isn’t it funny how in the corporate world where men hold 62% of the managerial positions compared to females at just 38% we often say well maybe more men work in that field, that’s why they dominate. Yet in an industry where men are very few they seem to climb to the top first. You’re right its not that funny.
Emily Hu also notes that if you have grown up believing you gained success through beauty, or how you look in comparison to your skills and intelligence you may suffer with imposter syndrome too. I am not here professing I am beautiful, but sometimes I do consider why I am successful and if I looked different would I be in the same spaces as I am now. I am aware of my privilege in that sense. I would love to know if you are reading this you have ever felt the same? Or maybe you have a story to tell, I would love to hear it.
I have battled for weeks with this feeling of not being ‘yogi’ enough. Which is completely mental considering the yogic outlook is rooted in kindness and compassion, but I just couldn’t seem to shake the idea of “a jack of all trades is a master of none.” Was I going to lose all my credibility as a yoga teacher. It was ringing in my ears, the more I walk down this path the more pilates private clients I seemed to be getting, the more I was slipping away from being relevant in the yoga world. Another question I was faced with. Why do I need to be relevant at all?
It wasn’t until I had dinner with a dear friend that they shook some sense into me. He brandished his phone and looked me square in the face, nobody ever references the full quote….
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Maybe I can do both well. What do you think? The first step is to talk about how you feel, to establish some allies and advocates in your field who can support you. As an instructor I spend majority of my time alone. That’s where the thoughts have a chance to breed. Get together with people in your field and take a refreshing breather when you realise you aren’t the only one who feels this way.