All my life, I (as does every other woman I have ever met) have dealt with my own personal demons. One of those demons has always been questioning if I can actually achieve what I set out to accomplish or will I somehow find a way to sabotage my success. Another demon is always questioning my mental and physical fortitude, specifically wondering if I can push myself past my point of comfort. And lastly (and the beastliest demon I have) is the one battling my body image issues.
Ah, yes, the one demon that a majority of women all have to deal with. We all cope with the questions wondering if what we see is really there, whenever we look in the mirror or look at pictures of ourselves. It often sounds something like this:
“Omigod, look at my TRIPLE chin!”
“My gut and fat rolls are spewing over my pants!”
“My forearm flab looks like it is still waving even though my hand stopped waving a looooooong time ago!”
Worrying about how I look in pictures has become a fantastic way to take the joy out of any event. Yep, it is like being a perpetual ray-of-effing-sunshine. But not.
After reading a million articles on women and their ability to deal (or not deal) with their self-doubts, second guesses and body image issues, I finally had to ask myself…
“Seriously, Jess, what is it going to take to beat down these demons, if even for a few moments?”
I had absolutely no clue.
I am a (mostly) intelligent and rational human being. I should be able to read an article, analyze how it relates to me, synthesize a solution and implement it. But here is the snag: with these issues, there is absolutely nothing about them that is rational. It is simply irrational emotion that does not have a simple solution.
So, I carried all of these emotions, irrational fears and self-created demons into the Black Belt Test that we attended about a month ago. I didn’t realize I had carried them in with me. I suspect it is because I have been carrying them with me for so long, and I barely feel their weight, anymore. Please, allow me to tell you that now I feel their weight – every stinking ounce of it.
To give you a feel of what the Black Belt Test includes, I will briefly explain it. The Black Belt test spans two days, and is held every other month. It is two days filled with hours of grueling workouts that are meant to test not only your stamina, but your metal strength and your ability to push yourself. A typical black belt test includes circuit training, fitness tests, running two miles, obstacle courses, three (!) hours of sparring and finally, formal testing.
I had heard the stories of how incredibly difficult it was. I absolutely did not think I would make it through until the end. Not even close. My goal was to make it through the first night. There was no way in hell I thought I would make it through mile one during the Saturday morning run. Completing mile two never even crossed my mind.
Hey, guess what? I made it through the first night. On my way home at 10:30 pm, I realized that I might be able to actually DO this. I felt the weight of my self-doubt get slightly less oppressive. However, when I went to sleep, I guess it crept back onto my shoulders because by the time we were prepping for our 7:00 am, 2-mile run, it has returned. In full force.
But guess what? To my own shock and disbelief, I completed the entire 2-mile spirit run. By the time the run was over, I felt unstoppable. The oppressive weight of my self-doubt lifted, again.
An obstacle course, three hours of sparring, an extensive review of our forms and an impromptu performance by my team during the formal test could not bring me down. Not even the last hour of workout brought me down. I just kept pushing myself. I finally felt like I could do this! At that moment, the weight of the You-Are-Not-Strong-Enough Demon vanished. I felt like I could finally breath a bit easier.
Then it was time to find out who has passed the test and who had not. Since Ben and I weren’t officially testing, we did not receive a pass or fail grade. But our team did get plenty of kudos for our hard work, and that was just as important as receiving a passing grade.
Then it got just a little bit better…
A few days later, one of the black belts posted some pictures from the test. There were two of me, and for the first time, the pride of my accomplishment overrode my overly critical instincts. Rather than picking apart my body’s flaws, one by one, I saw an individual who accomplished so much more than she ever thought she could. It was at that moment, the Body-Image-Issues Demon left my shoulders. For a moment, the weight from my shoulders, was gone.
Come to find out, the answer to the question, “What would it take to beat down these demons?” was a Black Belt Test and two pictures.
Now, I am not going to claim that those issues are gone forever. I am guessing they never really will be because since the posting of those pictures, those demons have made unexpected appearances on my shoulders. They snuck up on me like an old high school acquaintance I never had a desire to see again – they snuck up behind me, put their clammy hands over my eyes and made me guess who it is before they released me.
Let’s hope I can shake the demons the same way I shake the old high school acquaintances… “Hey, nice to see you, but I have got to go…”
Today, I am dedicating the blog post to all six of the characteristics of black belt. The reason is tonight is the Black Belt Extravaganza, celebrating all of our students who have achieved an additional black belt rank. They are all a living reminder that modesty, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit can help you to achieve your goals. And that a black belt is simply a white belt that never quit…
Like all things, parenting has evolved. However, I didn’t realize how much until I saw the Sex in the City episode where Charlotte is firing parenting theories at Miranda like a toddler hurling the word ‘No!’ during a tantrum. It was fast, furious and made my head spin.
Come to find out, there is a lot about parenting that makes my head spin, and here is the latest tilt-o-whirl of parenting: the great debate regarding kids’ sports.
I am betting that a majority of the parents reading that either a.) sighed; b.) rolled their eyes; or c.) silently retched. I know this because every time the discussion about competitive vs. participatory sports comes up, so do involuntary noises, my defenses and my lunch.
As someone who has placed her child in both types of sports, let me share with you my un-clinical and unprofessional definitions:
Participatory Sports teams do not have tryouts and everyone gets on a team. Everyone gets to play and there are no strikes, no outs, and no official score keeping. Parents and coaches are told that chastising is forbidden, and that play is inclusive of all abilities, all in fun and to stress learning the rules and techniques of the game. Most importantly, at the end of the season every player gets a trophy (hence, it’s the Oprah Show of kids’ sports… “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! And you get a car!” Just substitute the word ‘trophy’ instead of ‘car’). Everyone walks away a winner.
Competitive Sports are the sports we have all known and include tryouts, the amount of time in the game is based on performance, and the score (as well as who did the scoring) is kept. Coaches are trained to reward good performance and redirect performance not up to ‘standard.’ Just like The Amazing Race, those that successfully complete the tasks are handsomely rewarded, and those that don’t aren’t given much time to play, as there is no such thing as an “A for Effort.”
I am not going to advocate either one because I think they both have their benefits and their downfalls. Benefits such as making every player feel included and part of the team, teaching kids that the best way to achieve their goals is through hard work, and the merits of working as a team.
However, the downfalls include the parents at the competitive sporting event that end up on the 10 o’clock news because they incited a brawl at their 5 year-old’s ice hockey game. Or the parents at the ‘participatory sports’ games that keep score with piles of rocks, twigs or anything else they can get their hands on. (I say that because I am pretty sure I watched a dad keep score with what he thought were rocks, but I am pretty sure they were actually petrified dog poop nuggets. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that rocks don’t usually come in clumps. Or it was because I was too busy giggling to myself. Quit judging me.)
Either situation happens, and is contraindicative of what is was intended to accomplish.
My eight year old has participated in and benefited from both types, and I truly believe there are merits to each type. So here is my question:
What do you do when the expectations of competitive sports clashes with the spirit of participatory sports? The reason why I ask is because we have been struggling with this exact principle, and I am afraid we are about to enter into an epic clash of “High Expectations” versus “Way to show up, Kid.”
Next weekend, we will voluntarily participate in our first black belt test. I say, ‘voluntarily’ because once you achieve a certain level of brown, it becomes mandatory that you must test with the black belts every two months, and we are not there. Yet.
We are getting close and in order to help us prepare, we are going to participate in the black belt test next weekend. To begin the conditioning process. Because did I mention, it spans two days? This is the real deal. You must excel or you do not earn your next belt. There is no, “A for effort, kid, and here is your new belt.” Nope, you could receive a, “Better luck next time,” and they mean it.
So, I guess with taekwondo, we have chosen The Amazing Race version of kid sports. Here’s hoping we aren’t the team that cries and pukes during the first challenge.
Okay, at this point, I will just be happy if we aren’t eliminated after the first week…
Today, I would like to highlight the black belt characteristic of integrity to all those martial artists that hold their martial art in high regard and because of that they work tirelessly to do they best they can, all the time. For those that demonstrate “perfect practice makes perfect,” and they do it to be a good example for those with belts lower than theirs. Thank you for being great examples of what a person can achieve, when he/she really tries…