Newsflash: When I started BJJ, I never expected to be good. I never expected even to be okay. I fully believed that I would stay a white belt, eating paste in the corner, making everyone feel better about themselves because “Well, at least I’m better than Jiu Jiu!” I was happy and satisfied with this lot in life.
Then something weird happened. I gradually lost weight, I gradually started moving better, and I gradually went up the ranks. One day I looked around and realized I was literally the best person in class that day. By “best person” I mean I knew the most about jiu jitsu on that given day. That day, my instructor asked me to teach a class. I was absolutely not prepared. I panicked and taught some of the Gracie Games that I learned on Bullyproof. The next day, I went back to being happy being one of the worst students.
When people would say “oooh you’re a blue belt, you must be good” I’d respond by saying “Nah, I’ve just been in it for a long time.” I was very good at putting myself down so that I felt a-okay with not progressing fast, about not tapping folks out, etc.
What was the biggest mind f*ck of all, though, was when I started teaching beginners. I could no longer just respond with “What the hell do I know – I suck!” or “I’ve been happily sucking at jiu jitsu for five years. I had to stop demeaning myself, and I had to reevaluate myself.
I’m now just over six years into jiu jitsu. I no longer think I suck. I don’t believe I’m good, but that’s still very different than believing you are terrible. I’m in the not-sucking range, and sometimes I’m in the okay range. I still have the unfortunate habit of putting myself down, but the insults have gotten better and more mature. Here are my two recent:
- The secret to my guard: it’s made of butter. You can slice right through it.
- I’m like the first level boss – the ones the white belts are first pitted against. Once they figure me out, they realize – not a real challenge.
Why do I put myself down? I’m deeply insecure about my physical abilities, and when I make the first joke, I make sure folks are laughing with me, not at me. It’s like Fat Amy’s tactic from Pitch Perfect.
In many ways, improving in jiu jitsu was a lot like losing weight – it took me YEARS for my brain to catch up to my body. My brain kept thinking I was XXL even though my body was Medium, and I’d look at folks who were much larger than me and think “Oh yeah, we’re around the same size.” Fast forward 4 years, and my brain has finally caught up. I recognize the gal in the mirror, and I no longer think of myself as the “Big Girl.”
If I’m being really honest with myself, I think I probably put myself and my abilities down because I’m afraid I’m not good enough, and I am afraid I will should all over myself. I’m afraid I will try and fail. I’m afraid of being mentally discouraged. If I joke around, though, and I don’t take myself seriously, I can mentally survive being beaten again and again and again. It’s my next mental hurdle to overcome.
Jiu Jiu’s Question: I can’t be the only person who puts myself down for something I don’t totally suck at. How have you helped defeat your verbal demons? For those of you who started out dead last, how have you dealt with the mindf*ckery of actually improving?