It’s easy to get discouraged in Jiu Jitsu. I can feel my own potential for discouragement, and I can see it by how people find my blog. Just this past month, at least 5 people found my blog because they felt their jiu jitsu was inferior.

BJJ blue belt, I suck
Is it ok to feel lost when starting bJJ
I’m a blue belt in BJJ and still suck
Struggling BJJ white belt
BJJ getting tapped by lower belts
I can’t seem to remember anything I learned in BJJ!

It’s helpful to know what your triggers are. I’ll often feel that way when I get online and the women in the boards say things like “If a dude came in and thought he could just smash me, I’d triangle him” or “I’d just choke him.” Then I think “Dang, I must suck, because I can’t seem to pull off a single submission,” or “Why aren’t I better? Why do I keep getting smashed by white belts?” And this cycle of self doubt continues.

Negative self talk in jiu jitsu

These are normal feelings, especially when you compare yourself to others. When I compare myself to others, this is how I start feeling, and it sucks. I’m NOT very athletic, I’m 36, inflexible, I have a difficult time making things stick. Honestly, I’m not as bad as I think I am – I DO get some submissions, but when I’m in a cycle of self doubt, I don’t recognize my accomplishments, and instead, just focus on the negatives. The interesting thing – these are the exact same things I hear in language students who are too shy to speak in class. Self doubt is NEVER helpful.

• No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -Eleanor Roosevelt

The Parttime Grappler is Liam, a statistician. He wrote a fantastic article about this very thing – comparing yourself to others, in this article: Comparing Your Skill To Peers. The Danger of Small Samples. He reiterates this fact, and in it he says:

The fact of the matter is that you are learning your chosen skill just fine. There is much danger in comparing yourself to others and, in all honesty, it’s kind of rude. The example above shows that your performance doesn’t change so you are, in essence, simple expressing envy at the success of your peers.

I feel MUCH happier in BJJ when I, instead, compare myself to where I’ve come from. I look at the progress I’m making, I grasp at small positives and rejoice in them. I know that even if I’m sucky, so long as I consistently train jiu jitsu, I WILL improve, and barring major injury, I CAN make it to black belt.

Jiu Jitsu smart talk

If you focus on self-doubt, it’s too easy to feel overwhelmed. If you focus on getting onto the mats consistently, work on your jiu jitsu, it WILL come. To every white belt who has worried: I’ve been doing BJJ for X months and I’m still not good, my answer is OF COURSE YOU AREN’T! Everyone sucks at the beginning. JIU JITSU IS HARD!

So no, sucky white and blue belts, you are not alone. A lot of people are plagued with self doubt about their jiu jitsu skills (or lack thereof). But the key is to stick to it, ESPECIALLY if it’s hard. And as a woman in this sport, I feel even more determined to stick with it. We are so few already – I don’t want to be just another washed out blue belt. If I am the worst in class – does it REALLY matter? Someone’s got to take that roll -and perhaps it’s not because I’m bad, but because they’re better. Them being good does not mean that I suck.

• You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you been suffering from a BJJ inferiority complex? What has been helpful for YOU as you battle with it? And – give some self-love talk!