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A look at the implications of Imposter Syndrome for group exercise instructors. Do I belong at the front of the room?

What is Imposter Syndrome?

It was first identified as Imposter Phenomenon by phycologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s as a syndrome among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success.* They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

How to identify if you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome

A great question to ask yourself is, “Why do I feel like I don’t belong in this position?” Determining if your feelings are from being brand new and still learning to be okay in a new situation versus having a fear of being “found out” is the main difference. If you are still having self-doubts after years of experience and acquiring the necessary education and certifications necessary, there’s a high probability you are suffering from the Imposter Syndrome.

How to overcome the Imposter Syndrome

Find your value/worth/niche.

Creating your own unique universe you can completely own will empower you to recognize your self-worth and value. Perhaps you are a Barre instructor with a hip hop background. Establishing your unique blend of skills and attributes will foster a foundation from which you can continue to grow. If you’re not able to self-identify those things, talk with trusted colleagues to share with you what they see in you.

Recognize how much you know.

You have done the homework, you have passed the exams, you’ve put in the hours of practice to make sure your class goes smooth – you have earned your spot in the front of the room. Remind yourself what life was like prior to absorbing and learning all you now know about teaching, I bet you’ll be surprised if you actually itemize and list all the information you do know.

Remember what a new comer feels like.

Challenge yourself to remember what it was like prior to your education or even experience in taking classes. What did it feel like to walk into a group exercise class for the first time? Were you fearful? Nervous? Know you are now the leader in that situation and members are looking to you for leadership and comfort.

Know it’s okay to make a mistake.

Oh no, you forgot to do that last set of lunges on the left side. Guess what? 95% of your participants didn’t notice. For those 5% that did – it’s okay – they’ll survive. Make a joke and bring in that exercise if possible or just move on. Members will appreciate your sense of adaptability and comfort with making the mistake.

Be OK with the fact that you won’t be everyone’s favorite instructor.

Not everyone will vibe with your style of teaching and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean your style of teaching is wrong or inadequate – it’s just different. What’s always great is to get feedback from other instructors. Invite other instructors who you feel comfortable with to take your class and ask for their feedback. Recognizing you can always learn and improve is important.

A person’s struggle with Imposter Syndrome may never fully leave them. But establishing tools and steps to take on each day to become a believer in yourself and recognize the fact you do belong in the front of the room is what counts and matters in the end – overcome Imposter Syndrome for group exercise instructors.


*Imposter Syndrome: The Truth About Feeling Like a Fake


Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson has been a part of the wellness industry for over a decade. Working both in corporate wellness and non-profit organizations, she has experience with large community impact programming and leading large teams. Sarah brings her passion for inclusivity, equity and body positivity into every aspect of her work.

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