Not so many years ago, I was a struggling single mom - I had no credit, no college degree, no job, and no money. I’d by lying if I said I didn’t feel hopeless on a regular basis, comparing my life to what I saw around me.
Each day, after my 7-year old son caught the bus to school outside of our tiny apartment, I would push my 1-year old daughter’s stroller down the sidewalks of a town that seemed picture-perfect, and full of picture-perfect people on their way to important meetings, coffee dates and social engagements that filled their comfortable lives.
I walked to a studio where I was trying something new – with excitement, but so, SO fearfully. I was training to be a barre teacher. I loved barre classes, I knew that. But I wasn’t a "good" teacher trainee. I fumbled over my words and feared the sound of my own voice. I was undoubtedly my own worst critic, at a time when the last thing I needed was self-criticism holding me back.
“Practice getting your words out,” my trainer would say. “Count aloud when you’re alone in the car to get used to it.” But even then, with no one around to hear me, the second I opened my mouth, a voice inside my head would insist: Just shut up, just shut up, just shut up!
It's not unusual to be intimidated by public speaking, I'm sure you've heard before that most people fear it more than death! Maybe it's something you'd like to get more comfortable with too. For me, it was especially hard because my life was at rock bottom.
Learn more about our Barre & Soul® Method Barre Teacher Training here.
To say I felt unworthy doesn’t even begin to explain it. It felt like every cell in my body was made of unworthiness. Who was I to teach these women anything about fitness, or well-being? I was still working on getting back to my pre-baby body, going through a long and wretched divorce, feeling unaccomplished no matter what angle I looked at my life from.
What did I have to teach these wealthy, successful, happy women, who seemed to have J.Crew catalog families and perfect marriages? How could they take me seriously when I was a failure at marriage, could barely support my children, relied on assistance to buy groceries, and on the Salvation Army for my kids' Christmas gifts in that terrible first year of my divorce. I wanted so badly to create major change in my life and be an example of better things – inspiring even – for my kids and for myself.
Determined to overcome my circumstances, I took baby steps forward. I used the word “confidence” in my computer passwords, hoping to invoke blessings and begin to establish a sort of mantra to move towards embodying this quality. I craved confidence like a dry field craves a drenching rain.
Find your voice and become a barre teacher! Find how here.
I had to type the word each time I checked my (tiny) bank balance, an incantation of power even in the face of my nearly empty account. Little by little, hour by hour, month by month, I did find my voice. I collected scraps of confidence in the moments when I could at last do a set of push-ups on straight legs - when I could teach a class to a few friends without losing my nerve - when I won a small victory in family court and started receiving the support I needed.
“Where do you get your confidence?” people often ask me now. "You seem so sure of yourself."
When I reflect on this, I call to mind the countless hard-won increments, gathered over many years.
There were no shortcuts. No celestial signs. No surprise inheritance or lottery ticket came to my rescue. And I certainly didn’t wake up one day and start a thriving business with multiple locations.
I simply persevered. Kept on. Pushup by pushup, password by password. I did one mildly terrifying thing at a time. I forced myself to keep practicing my teaching. I watched my classes improve, little by little. And one day, when I opened my mouth to speak, it was no longer scary. Soon, it was even fun.
The look of fear and shame in my eyes was replaced by shyness at first, then finally by passion and enthusiasm. Believe it or not I ACTUALLY LOOK FORWARD to public speaking opportunities these days. Teaching barre and yoga classes gave me the opportunity to embody the quality I had so longed for. By facing my fears and showing up again and again, in time, I found my confidence.