Just recently I subbed a class for a very experienced teacher. The class was full and the majority of students were regular attendees. As class ended that morning I found myself feeling self-conscious and berating my teaching, rather than experiencing the calm, lovely energy I usually do after teaching. I had gotten mixed up directing what side to move on at one point, and I felt as though I was stumbling with my words a lot. As the students filed out , some were vocal about enjoying the class. In fact, I had many lovely compliments and a few students who couldn't seem to say enough, but the nagging feeling that I had somehow not done a ''good enough'' job pervaded. It seemed punctuated by those students who scarcely muttered a goodbye as they headed out the door.
After teaching the next day, I called the studio manager to check whether I had entered a purchase into the computer correctly. She asked how class had gone and I blurted out ''Good, I think. Much better than yesterday!'' She responded by saying how I'd had a lot of nice compliments the morning before and that she had gotten the impression that class had gone really well. I relayed my thoughts about getting mixed up on sides and feeling tongue tied. I also mentioned that I noticed some people leaving without saying much. ''That stuff happens to everybody,'' she responded, ''and there are some people who do just leave after a yoga class.'' There it was, laid out simply and matter-of-factly. As I hung up the phone I realized that my ego was the problem the day before, not my class.
I'd come to rely on those students who breeze out of class aglow and softly smiling with thank yous and compliments galore being purred in my direction to gauge how a class went, or rather to allow me to feel good about myself as a teacher. Rather than listening to my inner voice and letting my confidence come from within, I'd fallen into the trap of seeking outside validation. When I first started teaching I was surprised and flattered at the way most people would come out of the class and say so many nice things, but somewhere along the way I stopped being surprised and flattered and started to expect that wonderful feedback. When it didn't come, or I was worried that it wasn't coming as much as it should be, I started to take it personally. My ego had bamboozled me.
I subbed that class again this weekend and though I caught myself checking the registration a few times to see if anyone from the week before was coming back, I was AWARE that I was searching for outside validation by doing so, and I decided to approach the class in a way that would cultivate my teaching confidence from within rather than perpetuate the behaviour. I taught the class without a lesson plan. I had an idea about the peak pose and where the class was heading, and I had a theme to go along with it, but I had nothing but my intuition and knowledge as a teacher and a student of yoga to guide me through the class. When class ended I floated out of the room without a worry in the world. Some students came out smiling out thank yous and other compliments, some rushed off to their day barely looking up on their way out, but none of that mattered this week. This week I too was glowing from within, and no outside validation was needed to get me there.