So the thing that I thought was the worst case scenario happened this weekend. I flew to Las Vegas to compete in Masters Worlds. It was the culmination of my tournament prep season, all was riding on a good performance. I trained hard, did mental work, cut weight, made the financial commitment, and developed a positive belief system. I met dozens of new women who train over the past 9 months, and learned new styles and had deep conversations about training and life. Ive never been in a better place mentally or physically for competition, I was 100% ready.
Despite all of this I lost my first and only match. And I lost it hard. Armbared in 54 seconds level of hard. I was able to keep my composure, congratulate and even joke with my opponent that she took my game plan and executed it flawlessly on me, grabbed my ID and headed out of the bullpen and to an unoccupied space in the venue. And I cried. I cried as hard as I lost. All that preparation, all the drilling, all the work with a positive mental attitude, over in less than a minute with nothing I could do about it.
I was able to talk on the phone with two teammates, one conversation focused on how did you do etc., and I talked on losing and my devastated state. While my teammate was well meaning, I felt worse focusing on the effect – I forgot in that moment why I was there. I forgot my cause. I didn’t go to become purple belt master 1 world champion – I went because I love competing in the sense of it’s the best pressure test of growth for me personally.
My next conversation was focused on the journey not the outcome. Who had I become in the last 9 months since committing myself back to competition? Did I grow as a person? Where am I headed? Yes all people fall hard from time to time. Yes it was a painful moment and be ok with living in it. Cry it out, mourn and take responsibility. Build on the experience and look to the future. Reflect on what happened and what I could take from it. While the sting of defeat still was sharp, I entered into the frame of mind I needed to pull out of the mystery and get on with it.
I talked more throughout the day with my friends with whom I made the trip, and through these conversations I found these learning points:
-My personal mantra of “not dead, don’t quit” still applies. I am not dead, so therefore there is no quit.
-There is a difference between positive mental attitude and focusing before a fight. While my mind was positive I did not prep it by filling it with specific thoughts. Talking with another competitor I admire after my match, it was suggested to listen to motivational speakers that fire me up while waiting to step out on the mat, as a different level of focus and drive needs to be there when competing.
-While thinking of mental connections during training is beneficial, thoughts need to be directed during the fight as well. As I was being stretched and extended off my base I thought to myself, “xx gets me like this a lot.” “I think my arm is still safe” while pausing to reflect on it. While a true fact, a wasted thought like these took me out of the needed recovery time. The past-connection commentary brain was running throughout my match and as such I was not in the present and as such did not respond to the threat in a timely manner.
-I can lose and it doesn’t make me a loser. This took a long time for me to realize, as I put so much into being perfect and anything less than was devastating. That I could be found out as not worthy, not good enough, or an embarrassment has cycled through my life (maladaptive perfectionism is a real thing). I’ve avoided challenges in the past for this reason. One of the greatest accomplishments I have achieved so far through my therapy is unattaching from fear based belief systems such as this, which allows me to do big tournaments and be unaffected in my desire to do another again in the near future.
-When I have finished submissions on people fast in tournaments I don’t think negatively about their skill; I think that my plan went flawlessly and I appreciate them competing with me that day. I choose to mentally treat myself with the same respect this time as I would an opponent.
-This quote: “ To succeed in life, one must have determination and must be prepared to suffer during the process. If one isn’t prepared to suffer during adversities, I don’t really see how he can be successful.” – Gary Player, professional golfer.
I love training. And each time I compete, it pushes me to be more excited about the next one. The joy of the unknown unrealized possibilities. The ability to push myself further, dig deeper, learn from my mistakes, and push forward. I’m unapologetic nor embarrassed about the weekend. Like Jean Grey in her ability to rise as the Phoenix, I know that rising up is all in the way we process these experiences, continue to walk forward, and not be fearful of the next challenge. If I was unwilling to put myself out there, to be afraid of how I might be perceived, or judged, I would miss out on so many wonderful opportunities.
What could we possibly ever accomplish greater than what we currently do if we only glorify the wins and stay silent when its painful? To ignore this less attractive side is to say winning is everything and the journey ultimately doesn’t matter. I want the kids I teach and the people I coach to know that I fall on my face too. A lot. And its all going to work out.