May, Myself, and I: A Self-Love Experiment
DAY TEN: Give yourself permission to be bad at something.
When I was around 8 years old, I went to a martial arts class for the first time. I had this romanticized idea of immediately being a black belt. Y’know, without all the awkward learning.
We had to do this thing called “kiyap” which is where one makes a guttural noise when doing a certain move. (I’ve since learned that it assists with abdominal breathing, adds power to a move, and – in a fight – can catch the opponent off-guard.) I WOULD/COULD NOT KIYAP. I was mortified. Terrified. Embarrassed. What if I did it wrong? What if I sounded dumb? I stayed silent while all the other kids kiyap-ed and flailed and let themselves be, y’know, kids.
I never went back.
My whole life I’ve wanted to learn to fight. I’d watch The Matrix and be like, “I wish I could fight like Trinity.” And then go back to reading books or doodling. For decades I longed to get back into martial arts but was too afraid of the awkward learning phase.
Finally, at the age of 31, I decided to give it a try. I committed to a full month to be sure I’d force myself to go more than once.
I almost walked out of my first class. There I was, older than most students but far less experienced, flailing my body parts in the air. I hadn’t even earned a white belt yet. I felt lame, embarrassed, stupid. Out of place.
I tried to walk out, and Master Nzamba snagged me just before I left. (This was not the last time he had to do that.) I was terrified to do the kiyap, terrified to not know what I was doing.
Trust me, I logically recognize that everyone is too focused on themselves to care about how I look or sound. Also, they’re like family there, super supportive.
Alas, I stayed. I got my white belt. A month later, my white belt senior. Then my yellow, yellow belt senior, and then my gold belt. Yesterday, I tested for my orange belt. I passed, and I want to scream it from the rooftops.
There’s still a long way to go before getting my black belt. But… I’m closer than I’ve ever been. Also? I kiyap my ass off now. I still have moments where I implode in on myself due to perfectionism or not understanding what an instructor says. I have gotten frustrated and left a class before. But… I came back.
I kept showing up, even when I was insecure or embarrassed. Even when I was jealous of those who were more experienced. Even when I didn’t think I could master a new move. Even if I was tired.
And now, nine months after that first class, I’ve received my orange belt and am in the best shape of my life. I didn’t get fit through “trying” to lose weight or through extreme dieting. The fat naturally fell off me due to my focusing on my fitness and my form through martial arts.
I’m no pro yet. I’m still very much a beginner, moving toward intermediate. And I’m learning to be okay with that. As Master Nzamba says: “A black belt is a white belt who never quit.”
Continuing to show up for myself (even when it is challenging or scary) is one of the most loving things I can do for myself.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but have been scared to try? What if you let yourself be bad at it first?
The time is going to pass anyway… So why not allow ourselves to do something we really enjoy, even if we look silly? It’s way better than looking back and thinking, “Man… I wish I had…”