Hey!  She took my ball!

By Jenna Zaffino

August 23, 2017

It’s a moment of innocence.  You’re scrolling through posts, liking pictures of your friends, checking out the latest Pilates happenings, and catching up on the news of the world through your online community.  Then everything screeches to a violent halt.  Someone has taken possession of the thing you most desire.  Maybe it’s the body type that you dream of, an article in the publication you’ve been working so hard to be recognized by, the variation of an exercise that you believe was an original from your personal brain space, or a similar product to the one you’ve been working on tirelessly behind closed doors.  It stings like a poison dart, hitting you in the center of your chest.  Then, like a wave of hot, prickly electricity, it covers your body.  You begin to question “How did HE/SHE get that?” or “What am I doing wrong?”, or worse, “I’ll never be able to do what he/she does.”

I am fortunate enough to work with many Pilates professionals, helping them step into their purpose and create the confidence to put their great work forward. Often, they have a good idea of where they want to go, but many share a belief that if someone else is doing it, then that “creative real estate” is officially off the market. It’s my job to facilitate a new way of seeing the situation that they believe is holding them back.  When they begin their work with me, they are much like a child learning a new skill. They feel uncertain and self-conscious and it’s typically right around this time that one of those “poison dart” scenarios happens.

As adults, we can handle these scenarios in more “mature” ways that often manifest in internal turmoil and self-doubt.  As a mom to a three-year-old, I can’t help but notice the similarity between the adult’s internal conflict and the conflicts that my son encounters during playdates.  It begins innocently enough.  There is excitement surrounding the connection between him and his playdate.  The dynamic is easy and they thrive on the interaction with each other.  Then, in an unexpected shift, the playmate picks up something that holds value to my son – something that he has identified with and sees as an extension of himself.  For him, the item is usually a truck or a ball.  For an adult, it can be their belief system, their professional work or their body image.  In both scenarios, when these things are threatened, and the “ball” is snatched out of their hands, chaotic thoughts and behaviors ensue.

The issue is that when we succumb to the belief that our identity is being threatened, we contract into scarcity as if that “ball” was the only one that will ever be available.  Much like a child, we believe that we have been attacked and slip into a defensive mentality.  Clearly, tantrums manifest differently in adults than they do in children.  But, there are similarities too — we get small and we are not the best representation of our true selves. (Read this as: We post things on the internet that we wouldn’t say to the face of the person we are posting about.)  Our gifts retract, our confidence suffers and we can find ourselves in a state of anger and hopelessness before we even know what happened.

So, what’s the remedy to this state of chaos?  Like all things Pilates, the first step is awareness.  Recognizing that we are in a state of mind that is fear-based and scarcity-infused can be a positive trigger in catching the “crazy thought train” before it leaves the station.

Once we are aware of where our mind is taking us, the next step is to allow ourselves to experience the feeling, almost as an audience member to our life.  Much like when we teach our clients an exercise that is out of their comfort zone, we can see signs that we are in fear or self-doubt and gauge the severity of these feelings in that moment.

Next, we need a strategy to shift the mindset from “me” to “we.”  One of my first Pilates teachers told me that “Jealousy is simply the fear that you cannot have it too.”  In the moments of feeling like someone has stolen our proverbial ball, it’s important to look beyond just that “ball” and expand our vision to the entire playground of options that exist.  When we expand our perspective, we can see another strategy outside of reactivity as well as another vision that is in alignment with who we actually are as opposed to who we think we need to be.

The last step is to turn inward and remember the feeling of being in the flow with our desires.  Allowing yourself to truly feel what it would be like to move in the body you desire, be published in that magazine, be recognized for your teaching skills or even be acknowledged as an innovator will crush the self-doubt that seeing another’s success may bring up.  By letting yourself feel the possibilities, you are giving your brain a direct message to follow that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment instead of following the “lack” mentality.

Why is this important for Pilates teachers? Because we have work to do, friends.  We have ideas to share, creativity to cultivate and a message of returning to life through whole body health to share.  If we let the small parts of our ego gain power, we will never reach our potential.  So, the next time you feel that prickly heat rising in your body, remember:

  1. Time Out: Pause and recognize what’s happening.
  1. Feel It & Name It: Watch yourself as if you were watching a client. Feel the feelings and then name them for yourself.
  1. Create a Diversion: Shift your mindset from how the situation is affecting you, to how this situation may be expanding the possibilities for a larger conversation in the world.
  1. Provide Comfort: Turn inward and remember the feeling of being aligned with your purpose as a Pilates professional. Feel the possibilities of achieving the thing(s) you are working towards. Don’t hold back.

A little self-care in these situations can go a long way towards providing clarity about your path within this work.  The Pilates world and beyond needs you, but to support your clients, your business and your profession, you must support yourself first.  There is more than enough room for all of us in the “sandbox” of the Pilates world.  How will you support yourself so that you may show up and share your great work with the world

jenna_059Jenna is an expert Pilates teacher with over 15 years of experience in movement education.  Drawing from her background of professional dance, comprehensive Pilates trainings, movement studies and professional speaking, Jenna offers an experience that celebrates each individual while challenging them to expand the perceptions of what’s possible in the studio and beyond.  Jenna has served as Senior Faculty for Fletcher Pilates® International, presents Arcus Education for McEntire Pilates® and also hosts a series of her own online teacher development courses.  Her latest project is Pilates Unfiltered!, the industry’s newest, community-building podcast.  Find out more about Jenna’s adventures in Pilates at