It felt great to be able to just show up and succeed. but it also often made me lazy.
It wasn't until I was a young adult that I started to strengthen the muscle of self-discipline, and it's still something I am working hard on.
Something that I've learned about myself is that, as an extrovert, I am motivated by my relationships and being engaged in an activity with others. This is why I am a very motivated community organizer.
I enjoy spending time with people, meeting new people, and creating something for all of us to enjoy.
The problematic part of creating self-discipline has been when I need to do things explicitly for myself. Especially diet and exercise.
I have always struggled a bit with my weight, but in my 20s I could scoot by fairly healthfully without much fanfare. However, last year due to some stressful situations as well as getting older, I packed on quite a bit of weight. It felt really bad and I was trying to go to exercise classes, but felt very isolated there.
When I would go into a class as an anonymous and out-of-shape individual, I felt embarrassed. I would come alone and I would leave alone, always feeling ashamed.
I am also very sensitive about my body, so even having an encouraging teacher could be very touchy. If a person pushed too hard or said anything unkind or aggressive, I would want to cry.
I did not feel like I was a natural fit in the exercising community. Despite the fact that so many people were in the same situation I was, we weren't connecting or talking to each other.
Instead, we just trudged along side by side, but distant. Maybe we were experiencing the same struggle, but we weren't acknowledging or sharing it. It felt very much like practicing the piano back in the day.
That was until my friend Lydia invited me to go to her martial arts class at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was all the way in Cobble Hill, so I was skeptical. If i wasn't motivated to go to the gym on the corner, why would I go that far away?
However, what I discovered was something I loved. The martial arts dojo there is built on a foundation of positive community support.
After my first class, everyone applauded my effort and I was given a belt. My teachers learned my name and use it. Every time I attend a class, I receive a stripe on the belt, to symbolize the journey that showing up again and again creates; overcoming the odds, impulses, difficulties and complications that arise.
The teachers are kind and inspiring, and the classmates are positive, supportive and diverse.
In any class you may have a teenager partnered with someone in their 60s, supporting each other and practicing respectfully and equally together. No one is an outsider. We work together and are encouraged to support and compliment each other, as well as offer constructive criticism to help land our moves.
We learn self-defense skills and we build muscle. Last week I missed a class, and I received a text message from my teacher saying that I was missed. I feel so supported and so focused in this class, on developing my martial arts skills at my own pace and my own level.
The emphasis is on personal growth, discipline and positivity, and a funny thing is happening: I am getting stronger, I am losing weight, and I don't have to force myself to show up.
In all things, I have discovered that the right community is key, and it is something that we can only offer to each other in every situation. I am finally getting my discipline muscle to grow and it is because of friends and kindness that I can.