Fear · martial arts

Stepping Up To Lead At TKD. Finally!

I am pleased to report that after a mere thirteen years of Taekwondo training*, I am finally virtually unfazed by being asked to lead the warm-up for my class.

a GIF of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants standing in the Krusty Krab restaurant with his arms raised over his head. The text below reads ‘Victory Screech’
Out of consideration for the other students, I only screech internally. Image description: a GIF of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants standing in the Krusty Krab restaurant with his arms raised over his head. The text below reads ‘Victory Screech’

If you recall, my post for International Women’s Day was about my challenges with stepping up to lead in that specific way and how important it is/was to me to get past those challenges.

So, back in March, I had decided that the way to get over my reluctance was to 1) lead the class for several weeks in a row- so I would be able to get used to the feeling and 2) make a lesson plan in advance to reduce the risk of going blank while I was up in front of everyone.**

And it totally worked!

I didn’t even end up leading the class every week that I was planning to – I was sick one week and my instructor led the entire group together another week. It was still enough time to get used to being up in front of everyone, to find my own groove with instructing, and to prepare enough lesson plans and warm-ups that I can use at any time.

a GIF of Moira Rose from the TV show Schitt​‘s Creek. She is wearing a referee’s uniform and she looks as is she is admonishing someone. Text below reads ‘One must prepare for any event.’
Image description: a GIF of Moira Rose from the TV show Schitt‘s Creek. She is wearing a referee’s uniform and her expression (lips pressed together, eyes looking to one side) looks as if she is admonishing someone. Text below reads ‘One must prepare for any event.’

I have to say, I like knowing that I am prepared and that I won’t feel overwhelmed by being asked to take the class. In fact, two weeks ago, I was asked on the spur of the moment to take the class and as I stepped up onto the small stage at the front I realized that I wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

That was exactly what I was hoping for when I made my plan for March.

In June, I am going to be testing for my 4th degree black belt, a rank that means there is a lot lot more teaching in my future. I am grateful to know that the ‘trick’ to making myself more comfortable with that really is to prepare and to practice.

(Yes, this is the same ‘trick’ I apply in every other area but it had never occurred to me to apply it at TKD.)

A GIF from the show Power Rangers Dino Fury that shows an outdoor shot of a woman clapping her hands. She has long brown hair and is wearing jeans and a pink shirt over a darker pink ​tank top. Text below reads ‘Amazing Trick.’
A GIF from the show Power Rangers Dino Fury that shows an outdoor shot of a woman clapping her hands. She has long brown hair and is wearing jeans and a pink shirt over a darker pink tank top. Text below reads ‘Amazing Trick.’

Do you have one area of your life where you can’t quite bring the same oomph that you bring in other areas? Have you found a way around it? Were you able to transfer a skill from somewhere else?

*I’m being funny here, or at least trying to be. My fear of taking charge of the class has only been an issue for the past few years since I wouldn’t have been asked or expected to lead the class for most of the early part of my training. Previous to the past few years, I might have been asked to lead a small group or to lead students who were behind me in my training but my reluctance to step up in front of the whole group – my peers and students with more advanced ranks – was a relatively recent issue.

**Taekwondo is practically the only time I fear going blank on stage. I tell stories, give speeches and presentations, and do workshops regularly and while I might feel a bit nervous, I don’t worry about going blank. I guess that because TKD involves coordinating what I am saying with what I am doing it adds an extra layer of stress for me.

cycling · fitness

Ruby is Riding the Rollers!

Some days I miss rollers. Here’s me eight years ago. I loved that the London house had narrow hallways.

Mostly though I used rollers at the velodrome in the center to warm up. When it was busy, there was no room to warm up on the track.

No photo description available.
Sam on her rollers. The only truly dangerous bit was when a dog dashed by!

I got thinking about rollers the other day when in the same morning the photo above came through my newsfeed–thanks Facebook memories–and I saw Ruby’s Roller Challenge for the first time.

Who is Ruby? She’s a charming confident 12 year old cyclist, who is very popular on YouTube for her roller tricks. Ruby is also a big promoter of riding bikes for people of all ages.

Read more about Ruby here.

Read Riding Bikes with Ruby in Bicycling Magazne.

Here’s an excerpt: “Like most kids, Ruby began riding around age 6. Unlike most kids, she has more than 21,000 followers on Instagram, 6,000 on Twitter, and 3,600 on YouTube. She’s been sponsored by two of the biggest bike companies in the world, first Specialized and now Trek, and was named by a U.K. cycling charity as one of the 100 most inspirational female cyclists in Britain. (She’s also the youngest person ever to make that list.) This past summer, she received a Global Child Prodigy Award, and in October, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson honored her with a Point of Light award, a designation that pays tribute to inspirational volunteers.

Ruby is best known for her astonishing ability to perform tricks no-handed on indoor rollers. She has also interviewed such cycling celebrities as former world champions Peter Sagan and Lizzie Deignan, as well as pop artists like the English singer Natasha Hamilton and the actor Will Mellor.

And all this is because of another thing you should know about riding bikes with Ruby Isaac: She adores it. At a time when the grownups in cycling are busy bickering over blood doping and sock height, Ruby Isaac is out there raising money for charity, getting more people on bikes, picking up litter during her rides—and having a blast along the way.”

Ruby has been up to this for awhile. Here’s Ruby two years ago doing tricks at age 9!

competition · motivation · training · Uncategorized

Confidence Is a Feminist Issue

I had a great post all written on why confidence is a feminist issue, and then I did one of those things where I deleted the entire flipping thing and couldn’t get it back. I am afraid that I don’t have it in me to write the same again, so I’ll just give some of the highlights.

I’ve been reading and thinking about confidence lately in relation to my sport performance. Especially I’m aware that I convince myself of all sorts of negative things — I’m slow, I’ll always be last on the bike, I’ll never get any better…etc.

Confidence is a feminist issue because, as it turns out, there is a confidence gap.  Men are way more confident than women in all sorts of ways, and in a world where confidence takes people further than competence, that cashes out into all sorts of systemic advantages for men.

An article, “The Confidence Gap,” appeared in The Atlantic Monthly back in April. The authors point out that:

there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.

A growing body of evidence shows just how devastating this lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels. All of that is the bad news. The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired. Which means that the confidence gap, in turn, can be closed.

So the bad news is, women haven’t got as much confidence as men and that has a negative impact on where women get to in life. The good news is that there are things that can change this.

But it’s not so simple as it might seem. Men gain status by being overconfident. But women who are overconfident aren’t perceived in as positive a light. They are more likely to be thought badly of:

Which is why any discussion of this subject requires a major caveat. Yes, women suffer consequences for their lack of confidence—but when they do behave assertively, they may suffer a whole other set of consequences, ones that men don’t typically experience. Attitudes toward women are changing, and for the better, but a host of troubling research shows that they can still pay a heavier social and even professional penalty than men do for acting in a way that’s seen as aggressive. If a woman walks into her boss’s office with unsolicited opinions, speaks up first at meetings, or gives business advice above her pay grade, she risks being disliked or even—let’s be blunt—being labeled a bitch. The more a woman succeeds, the worse the vitriol seems to get. It’s not just her competence that’s called into question; it’s her very character.

But what about in sport performance? And what about confidence as that internal resource, not necessarily external bravado, that says, “I can do this”?

The Atlantic article says that participation in sport alone has a positive impact on confidence.  But girls tend to drop out of sports in high school:

Studies evaluating the impact of the 1972 Title IX legislation, which made it illegal for public schools to spend more on boys’ athletics than on girls’, have found that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. Learning to own victory and survive defeat in sports is apparently good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work. And yet, despite Title IX, fewer girls than boys participate in athletics, and many who do quit early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, girls are still six times as likely as boys to drop off sports teams, with the steepest decline in participation coming during adolescence. This is probably because girls suffer a larger decrease in self-esteem during that time than do boys.

What a vicious circle: girls lose confidence, so they quit competing, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it.

It makes me wonder whether, had I had a different experience in sports as a girl, I might just be a more confident athlete today (and more confident in general, but right now my self-perception as a slow poke is the thing that is holding me back the most).

According to this article, confidence is one of the four Cs of good sport performance. The others are commitment, control, and concentration.  The author says of confidence:

Confidence is a positive state of mind and a belief that you can meet the challenge ahead – a feeling of being in control. It is not the situation that directly affects confidence; thoughts, assumptions and expectations can build or destroy confidence.

High self confidence

  • Thoughts – positive thoughts of success
  • Feelings – excited, anticipation, calm, elation, prepared
  • Focus – on self, on the task
  • Behaviour – give maximum effort and commitment, willing to take chances, positive reaction to set backs, open to learning, take responsibility for outcomes

Low self confidence

  • Thoughts – negative, defeat or failure, doubt
  • Feelings – tense, dread, fear. not wanting to take part
  • Focus – on others, on less relevant factors (coach, umpire, conditions)
  • Behaviour – lack of effort, likely to give up, unwilling to take risks (rather play safe), blame others or conditions for outcome

So it’s something I can work on. Meanwhile, I’m encouraged by Amy Cuddy’s research on power-posing, discussed by Sam on the blog way back in 2012.  See her post “Power Poses, Feminism, and Taking Up Space.”  There she talks about the results of Cuddy’s research that show that you can develop and exude confidence with a few minutes of power posing when you most need it. I myself find the wonder woman pose really helps when I’m feeling insecure about how I’m about to perform. But I haven’t yet applied it much with respect to sports performance.

That is something for this summer. I’ll report back about how it’s going. If you hear me complaining that I’m too slow or whining that I’m never going to get faster, feel free to call me out on it.

Meanwhile, for those who missed it the first time, here’s Amy Cuddy on power-posing.