It can be intimidating starting a new career and especially the first year of being a certified personal trainer. It may be helpful to take some steps to ensure you embark on your new path with assurance and confidence. You’ve successfully passed the exam and are technically ready to start building your business. However, there’s one thing that doesn’t necessarily come with a certification – confidence. Confidence, like goals, takes time to achieve and build upon. It’s natural to feel a little shaky in your first several months. Here’s how you can get busy building confidence in yourself.

Backlight Of A Woman Raising Arms With Thumbs Up

Why personal trainers can suffer from self-doubt

Everyone can suffer from acute periods of self-doubt – new and seasoned professionals all experience this. Self-doubt is a natural response when we are standing on the precipice of a challenge. Being in unfamiliar territory often accompanies a challenge, which evokes a sense of fear and transient thoughts of, “What if I fail?”

We experience self-doubt and low levels of confidence because we compare ourselves to others around us, we fear being seen or known as an imposter, and we can fixate on a specific outcome instead of the process of the goal. Although self-doubt is an organic component of human existence, it doesn’t have to be permanent.

The confidence-success connection

Success in life and business is intrinsically linked to the confidence factor. Having confidence allows a person to overcome fears, take direct action, say yes to new challenges, seek mentorship, and ask questions – all components of achieving professional success. It’s impossible to achieve success by skipping struggles, experiencing failures, and taking wrong turns. Confidence allows us to face fears and traverse the obstacles ultimately helping us reach goals and build ourselves both personally and professionally.

Confidence-building action steps

Self-confidence, like a business and reputation, takes time to build; it’s a process that requires reflection and nurturing in order to mature and flourish. Be patient with the process and focus on what it’s going to take to get to where you want to be.

Here are five action steps you can take to start your confidence journey:

  1. Banish fear.  Seth Godin, an American author and business man, reminds his audience – being aware of your fear is smart and overcoming it is a trait of a successful person. Godin encourages his readers to acknowledge fear and self-doubt and then make something happen anyway. If it fails, try again.
  2. Stop seeking validation. Critics are everywhere waiting to demean and cut down someone else’s work (largely out of their own fears they’ve yet to address). Don’t seek approval from every person. Seek feedback from those sources you trust and respect. In other words, don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t also take advice from.
  3. Never stop learning. Prioritize furthering your education and knowledge. This doesn’t have to be related to your certification. Try to learn new aspects of business management, bookkeeping, and marketing.
  4. Set action-oriented goals. You already know goal-setting is necessary – you wouldn’t encourage your fitness clients to set goals if it was a meaningless and isolated event. Start small with two or three small goals that will ultimately lead to the bigger picture. Enjoy the process and celebrate the milestones along the way.
  5. Develop a plan and strategy. How do you want to run your business? What will it look like? What won’t it look like? How will you know when you’ve been successful? How will you measure your success? Having a thoughtful and structured strategic plan can help keep you on track towards success. Revisit this plan every three to six months and make updates and adjustments where necessary.

Building confidence is a process. It will take time. You will stumble. You will rise. Respect the process just as you respect the process of change in your fitness clients.

Do you have advice for building confidence?

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at