“What would you do if I held on too tightly for you to escape?” the instructor asked, grabbing me from behind in a bear hug.
Uh…..the index cards in my mind were flashing blanks. I shrugged my trapped shoulders and bent down low, doing little other than lifting my instructor an inch off the ground and eliciting giggles from everyone.
“Remember?? Kick the knee!” Oh yeah…
Looks like my instincts haven’t quite kicked in. Taekwondo is always a humbling experience, and not just the obvious things like a left foot spin kick that couldn’t knock over a dandelion and a flying side kick that is more of an apologetic hop. (But you should see me break a board with my elbow–see, I’m not a perfectionist about everything. It is glorious and is right up there with yoga and massage as an infinitely relaxing acitivty).
TKD always provides some insight into my personality, my psyche, how I react to the world around me and within me. All the confidence in the world doesn’t matter if your gut doesn’t buy into it. I’m pretty good about checking my ego at the door, but when it tries to lead the way, it gets caught with its white, cotton-poly blend loose-fitting pants down.
I have this persona in the dojang that still doesn’t quite feel like me. To my instructors and classmates I come across as this polished, put-together, cheerful, scrappy, successful although a tad self-deprecating yuppie. Nothing gets me down, even when I’m thrown on the floor or kicked in the head by a 14-year-old. I actually became more interested in fashion and makeup during my career as a librarian partially because I was gaining more confidence and facing some demons but more so to stick it to societal stereotypes. (I “look” like a librarian? Oh, and by that do you mean size 4 and pretty? Go F yourself!)
People who see my Sasha Fierce don’t see the doubt, the fear, the worry and can’t appreciate the years of hard work that helped me to finally love and accept myself after living in a fog of depression for…oh…you know…EVER. I’m more proud of my awesomeness on the inside than my outward attractiveness. Sometimes doubt is still the gut instinct rather than trust and confidence. I think that is somewhere in the Being Human manual.
Maybe I AM that scrappy, funny, professional sometimes dorky always cute girl. After years of faking it, I’ve finally made it.
But that brings us back to the fact that seconds after learning it, I didn’t think to kick my attacker in the knee when my arms and body weight were useless. What the hell?? I was trying too hard, trying to play by the book and do what was “right.” I didn’t trust that everything was going to be OK. Ironically, when I needed to think clearly I was thinking too much.
Disclaimer for anyone who thinks I’m being hard on myself and smacking myself in the head like Chris Farley did on his SNL interview sketches: It’s all good. I’m cool with it. I’m fascinated by the mechanics and the intricacies of TKD and figuring out what I did wrong is just part of my learning process. Besides, I don’t hit myself in the head when there are perfectly good people in the room I can hit instead.
My gut instinct is pretty sharp, and when I don’t listen to it I get into trouble. We’re told to “trust our guts,” but how often do we really do it? Why trust a blob of chemicals and impulses when you have perfectly nice diplomas hanging on the wall and a few zeros in your bank account? Guess what? If your confidence is led by your ego you are eventually going to get knocked on the floor, figuratively or literally. Gut confidence shows your true self, how you are and who you are without trying to impress someone or be who others expect you to be. Gut confidence happens in the moment and without question.
So try to chill when you don’t know the answer. Trust your gut and let it do the thinking for your poor tired workaholic brain. Sometimes the answer is “I don’t know, please tell me.” Sometimes it’s “Don’t worry, I got this.” Be kind to your gut and listen to it…or do what I did and feed it a chocolate chip cookie after lunch.