Do you “have to” promote yourself on Instagram?

How to consider the complicated task of showing your work, your body, and your face online.

Do you “have to” promote yourself on Instagram?

Today I’ll be responding to a submission I received from the anonymous “Ask Andrea Anything” online form.

Here’s the question:

"I’m a personal trainer who’s tired of having to be an example all the time. I love my clients when we’re training in person and I know I do a good job with them. But I also hate feeling like I have to promote myself on Instagram to keep up. I don’t really even need more clients. Most of my clients come from new people that sign up at our gym or word of mouth. A lot of other trainers at my work promote themselves so I feel like I have to do that too. But I don’t look like a fitness model. I’m strong and in shape but I don’t want to put my body online like that. What would you do?"

If you don’t need to be on Instagram for your paycheck or your clients, and you also don’t want to be on Instagram, then the logical answer would be to simply not do it.

Spending time on something you don’t need or enjoy is a super hard NO in my book.

That said, it’s worth examining why you’re being pulled to do what the other trainers are doing by promoting themselves on Instagram.

Do you feel like you’re missing out on something in any way?

Even if it’s just some clout or recognition they’ll have that you (maybe) won’t?

And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. Acknowledging that you care about how you’re perceived at work is totally normal.

Humans are status-chasing creatures, and maybe if your paycheck doesn’t depend on Instagram posting, your sense of self does.

In which case, maybe you DO give it a go — and go about it in your own way that aligns with your values of “not wanting to put myself online like that”.

Maybe you could say...

“I’m going to post on Instagram every other day for 3 months. I’ll make sure the posts are purely educational with a focus on the value of what I’m saying, not what my body looks like. In fact, I’ll only include my face or body once every 3 to 5 posts, and the rest will be text-based. At the end of 3 months I’ll decide if I’d like to continue or not.”

There have been so many times in life where I thought I would hate something, only to give it a try and see that it’s actually quite fun or quite useful. And of course, with every job I’ve ever had in the past, it’s been the opposite — I started out thinking it would be great (and sometimes it is for a long while) only to find that I either immediately hate it or after sometime I grew to learn it wasn’t a settling place for me.

I guess I’m saying that you’ll never know unless you try.

We can spend time resenting people for putting themselves out there and for “playing the game”, but we can’t really write it off unless we’ve tried playing the game ourselves.

And even then, there’s infinite ways to play almost every game.

Of course there are cringe fitness influencers with highly edited pics and no depth in their messaging. But there are also really helpful and thoughtful educational accounts, some of which never even show a person’s face or body at all.

I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and can tell you they both have their benefits and deficits — you just have to “try on” what you think fits and see if you want to tweak it or just quit it altogether.

You may find that you hate being online in any way.

You may find that you prefer some other social media platform.

You may find that being an online educator is better fit for you than training people in person (like I did for a few years in my late 20’s).

The whole point is that you get rid of your uncertainty and can arrive at some helpful conclusion or outcome by doing the thing and getting in your reps.

When you consider all the mental clarity you’ll gain, there really is no downside to running the experiment and building upon the results, whatever they may be.

And address your very first sentence...

“I’m a personal trainer who’s tired of being the example all the time.”

Unfortunately, this is one of the non-negotiables of that particular job.

You can’t be a rude, lazy, piece of shit while trying to help your clients be the opposite of that.

However, if you can expand what you need to “be an example” of, it seems like you have a handle on that quite well.

You even asking this question means you think about your job and your clients when you’re not even at work…which is a hallmark of someone who cares.

And isn’t that the first and most-important thing you’d want from your clients?

To care?

It sounds like you’re already such a great example for them based on how you live your life, and how you leave your sessions knowing you helped your client make some small amount of progress that day.

You don’t also need to carry the emotional burden of being a physical example body on Instagram when that wasn’t even asked of you in the first place.

While that’s the common example many entry-level personal trainers think they need to start with, it’s not the example most clients actually need to get the results they came to the gym for in the first place.

(And if you can’t tell, this is exactly the kind of advice I’ve needed to hear at various points in my career and I can’t thank you enough for bringing this all up 🤗)