About a year ago I realized that all the toxic people had disappeared from my life. Grumpy or conniving coworkers, bullying friends, disinterested love interests. I never had the “break up” talk that’s often suggested to women who are agonizing over cutting ties with someone. I just removed myself from the situation and severed communication. Passive aggressive, but it worked. Once I realized that they were gone I noticed how much lighter and more free I felt.
The weird thing was for a very long time I NEEDED these people. For some reason I looked up to them, as if their absolute negativity gave them some kind of authority. They were so strong in their convictions of hating something or someone (sometimes that someone was me) that they seemed unshakeable. By commiserating with them or tolerating their abuse I was getting the approval I so desperately craved. When they rejected me or insulted me or criticized me I was absolutely crushed but crawled back for more.
I’ve heard the saying that every person in your life is a blessing or a lesson. I have had a PhD’s worth of lessons. That being said I’m not going to climb up on my enlightenment high horse and say I forgive these people or are so appreciative of what I learned from them. F*ck them. There are some that I would be happy never to hear from or see again. I wouldn’t get all Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” on them and let them drown, but I would laugh at them for a little while before I threw them a rope. Luckily the dwelling period has passed, and I no longer allow them to rent precious real estate in my head and heart (except for the occasional revenge fantasy).
What does this have to do with taekwondo? Everything. TKD was one of the major factors that helped change who I am both inside and out. It touched the very core of my being and helped my real self break through the protective but restrictive shell I had built around myself many years ago. I was fortunate enough to find something that got me out of my obsessed tunnel-visioned brain and shifted my perspective about myself and about life. I don’t have the easy answer for everyone. Find whatever that joyful thing is that doesn’t measure your self-worth by the approval (or disproval) of others.
If I ran into one of these toxic people today I’m not sure they would recognize me. They’d recognize the external physical features, but the person they knew and were so easily able to abuse died under their weight so the real me could emerge. They no longer have power over me, and their approval no longer interests me. As my boyfriend says, “I don’t sweat fools.” The confidence and self-assurance I now have is a better self-defense tool than any block or strike. As martial artists we begin to fine tune our intuition and strengthen our ability to anticipate our opponent’s next move. My gut screamed “get out of here!” when a few of these toxic people entered my life, but I didn’t always heed my own advice. Hopefully by now my mind has been honed to listen to those gut feelings and let those fools pass me by.