Peechaya Burroughs for TIME
October 24, 2016 11:54 AM EDT

Let me start by saying that embracing one’s true self is not easy. I saw on my trainer’s Instagram a quote that really summed it up for me: “Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” I believe that this is true for every human being, but in this case let me use my own experience to solidify the theory.

When I began teaching fitness classes in 1996, I was a mess. You would have never guessed it because I was very good at hiding it. I had my own style, I had my own version of what self-confidence was, and I had a fitness fan base to pump up my ego so hard that I actually didn’t give a sh-t about anything but myself.

Every class I taught didn’t seem like it was for anyone else but me. I played the music for me, I wore clothes that I thought would make me look super desirable and I had every intention of meeting someone in entertainment by the end of class that would offer me a modeling gig or a reality show spot. I partied hard, I was young and I was crazy fit. I was off into some ego-centered crescendo that had NOTHING to do with anything but my own display of abnormal athleticism and a “ you can’t even keep up with me” attitude.

As I aged, that began to change, especially after several failed relationships and some tragedies in my family. The way I was living, and how I was approaching interactions with others didn’t feel satisfying to me. I started to make my classes more about deep meaning. Something inside of me clicked. I was beginning to plant the seed of the flower that was me.

When I moved to NYC in 2006, the beginning of my SOULCYCLE career began. Teaching now from a place of sobriety, I gave up all drugs and alcohol in April of 2007. I embraced myself as the person I knew was always in there: a genuine tomboy chic instructor who loves people, life and helping people become their better selves. And that became possible once I truly embraced who I was. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore.

How can you do this for yourself? It’s definitely not a one-sentence answer, and it’s for sure an ongoing lifelong “exercise.” But whatever age you are now, whatever decade you are discovering in your life today, ask yourself this question: What’s at your core, what makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning or stay up super late working on? THAT is most likely the thread of your true self. It is with that thread you will begin to weave into the patterns of your life and have a complete picture of your true self. And you may find, as I did, that it’s with that authentic self that you can find true, fulfilling success.

Stacey Griffith is a senior master instructor at SoulCycle and the author of the upcoming book Two Turns From Zero. Stacey’s motivational coaching style combines a passion for dance, athleticism and mind-blowing music—all set to the beat of her voice. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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