You’ve heard it before: “Leave your ego at the door”. Or maybe it was “Your ego is not your amigo”. We’re told again and again that there’s no place for ego in jiu jitsu, or in life. We all nod knowingly and say things like “Of course, I know that my ego has no place on the mat” or “oss!”. We want to fit in. Belonging is a human need, it’s only natural. But do we really know our ego, or how it fits in to our training and our lives?
The ego is the view we have of ourselves. The ego also loves (adores, really) feeling special and fights like hell at any suggestion that you may not be that special or that people might see what’s underneath the fear: insecurities, doubts, trauma, the humanity we each possess. It constantly beats the drum of what if I’m not _____ enough (fill in the blank: good, strong, smart, skilled etc) in an effort to prevent you from feeling brave enough to step into the growth zone. Taken a step further, it turns into “What if no one accepts me and I don’t belong?” I have felt this way and I bet you have too. It’s not a very nice feeling, but how does it show up on the mats?
On the mats, we see ego in action every time we practice. How many of these are you guilty of? Spazzing just a little when you feel you’re losing control in roll, only doing the moves you feel you’re good at, using strength on partners you feel are outpacing or otherwise beating you, refusing to tap when you really should or otherwise putting “victory” ahead of learning. I am or have been guilty of every single of one these because my ego was driving the bus. When we stay in our egoic state and deny vulnerability, we block growth in our games and ourselves. The aforementioned behaviours seem almost ubiquitous in jiu jitsu, and even in life, but if they’re not good for us, what is the antidote?
The good news is that there is indeed a way out and jiu jitsu has known the answer for years. You have undoubtedly heard your Professor say “There is no losing in jiu jitsu, you only win or learn”. And it’s 100% true. By showing up, by stepping on the mats and being willing to be terrible or even just new at something, by tapping (rather than snapping or napping), we are submitting our egos. It’s not easy and it takes practice to say to ourselves “I am willing to try to get better at this” rather than “I am terrible at this and give up.” Our ego will roar back to life and say everything possible to remain the loudest voice but we must stay vigilant against this.
I let all of this go mostly unnoticed as a newbie white belt. It probably affects all of us when we’re new at anything. Lately, by focusing on growth over victory and the ol’ comfort zone, I have been having the time of my life. I’m getting smashed more, failing more and still having a great time. By allowing myself to savour the process over the results, I am having fun with experimentation, with knowing that every training session is a drop in the bucket that is adding up to the desired results and seeing my motivation soar off the charts. Who knew? I’ll leave you with this: What would happen this week if you consciously took steps to put your ego to the side and stepped out of your comfort zone in a way you might not have before? Looking forward to hearing the results!