It’s no secret that if you want to do jiu-jitsu you have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Often. It’s pretty much a slogan of sorts for the sport.
Jiu-jitsu – learning to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.
The first few times I heard that, I thought it meant solely about learning how to deal with pain and that suffocating feeling of pressure and the physical uncomfortable-ness of…everything. But, obviously, it means so much more than that. It’s not just relating to the physical uncomfortable, it’s the mental uncomfortable too (and for me there’s plenty of that!) At least that’s what I think when I hear that statement.
For the last year and half I have ventured out of my comfort zone in so many different ways. In the beginning it was simply walking out on the mat and participating. Sure, I say “simply” but it didn’t feel so simple at the time. It never does when you first start to jump over that line of your comfort into the uncomfortable. After getting over the first hurdle of just doing class, it was saying goodbye to my personal space and getting over the extra close nature of jiu-jitsu. Then it was rolling with people other than my husband. Eventually it lead all the way to competing and then competing again after I lost horribly. I could probably give you a thousand ways I’ve crossed the line of my comfort zone in the last year and half. Some big, some small, all worth it.
In something like jiu-jitsu, getting out of your comfort zone is a constant requirement if you want to find success. Just when you think you are comfortable with it all, something new comes along to test you. I have found that I would venture out in the unknown layers outside of my comfort zone to conquer one fear and find another waiting for me just a little further out. It’s like that quote, “Every next level of your life will demand a different you.” Well, every next level of jiu-jitsu will demand a different you. A stronger you. A tougher you. A smarter you. And, the only way to find those versions of you is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
So lately, over the last few weeks, one of my “outside my comfort” challenges has been deliberately putting myself on my back, more specifically working from guard. Being on my back has been an area I have avoided both because I usually end up getting passed and smashed which really sucks, but also because I really, really am lacking in skills from there. I would get someone in my guard and freeze. I knew that if I wanted to get better the best option was to put myself in that situation and learn as much as I could. Last night I found myself constantly regaining guard, going for sweeps, attacking, and chaining attacks and transitioning from one to the other quickly. It felt great and those victories never could have happened if I hadn’t put myself in an uncomfortable situation.
I’ve grown to love these trips outside of my comfort zone. They always lead to growth, to finding out what you are capable of, and even when it leads to an epic failure, you always learn something from it.
Enter the birthday gauntlet.
The birthday gauntlet has been one of my biggest fears. And I’m not even talking about my own gauntlet. My stomach always does a little flip flop when I find out it’s someone’s birthday and we have to do a gauntlet.
Pause for a second to explain what this is for the non-jiu-jitsu-ers: On your birthday you roll with each person in the class for 30-60 seconds. No breaks. No resting. Just constant attacks as you try to not die. Nothing says “Happy Birthday” quite like a room full of people trying to attack you.
Each time we do these gauntlets I stand there in the line, waiting for my 30 second turn, and get so nervous. Use to I was so afraid of looking stupid and making mistakes, but really that’s not so much what bothers me now. I’ve learned to own my white belt stupidity and accept that I suck and I try to hold onto the hope that no one is going to judge me beyond my white belt ignorance. Now that I’ve gotten over so many birthday gauntlet fears, it’s all striped down to the very last one. The biggest one:
I am terrified of situations that put me as the center of attention, more specifically when everyone is watching me.
This has been one of my biggest setbacks throughout life. I do not like the spotlight. I do not like everyone looking at me. Even just walking into a room full of people and those few seconds when everyone turns to look at you, that has always been so uncomfortable for me. This probably explains why I always arrive 15 minutes early to every event I go to.
A week ago my husband asked me if I was going to do my birthday gauntlet. “I don’t know,” I said. “I struggle to get out there in front of everyone for just 30 seconds. How am I ever going to be able to do it as the center of attention for all the seconds? That thought just terrifies me.”
“Well, that’s exactly why you should do it,” he told me.
Dammit, I hate it when he’s right.
The second he said it, I knew I had to do. I had to push myself to that next level and conquer the super uncomfortable yet again. In a way I had gotten so comfortable with venturing out of my comfort zone for smaller challenges because I was doing it so often. It had been awhile since I had found something big, something really big to reach for, to challenge myself with.
The birthday gauntlet was the next big step I was going to have to take.
Even just sitting there on the mat before the gauntlet started with everyone lined up on the wall, I was so uncomfortable. Sitting there with everyone looking at me was so weird. My nerves were a mess, my stomach was full of butterflies. No longer was I afraid to lose, to get dominated, to get submitted in front of everyone. It came down to the real fears…
What if someone did a gnarly knee on belly and I farted in front of everyone?
What if my shirt gathered up and exposed my soft, pudgy belly?
What if a boob popped out of my sports bra?
What if I threw up on the mat from the heat and exhaustion?
What if ANYTHING embarrassing happened!?
What if, what if, what if…
What ifs are a real downer.
Obviously, since I am here today writing this, I survived. Nothing embarrassing happened. It was brutal. It was exhausting. But, I survived it and it was even kind of fun. I always love the aftermath, the “I did it, I put myself out there and survived,” high. Today I am in the mindset that if I can get out there and have my ass kicked over and over as everyone watches, that I can conquer any other fears I might have and do anything I set my mind to.
If anyone can learn something from me, from what I share here, I hope it’s from posts like this. My life has changed in such a huge way because of these constant adventures outside of my comfort zone. It’s amazing what happens there. It’s scary and it’s unknown and unsure and there’s no guarantee that everything will go as you want it to, but what you learn about yourself in the process is worth every single shudder of fear and butterfly in your stomach. It’s amazing the growth we experience when we are willing to put ourselves to the test. So, I hope if you are reading this, that you do something today, tomorrow, next week that pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll win, maybe you’ll fail, but you will quickly learn that those two things are not what it is all about.
Do it. Get out of your comfort zone. You will not regret it.