In the process of becoming a black belt in taekwondo, I am reflecting on what that process means.Here is part two of my rough-ish draft of the essay I need to write as part of my qualifications to qualify for my black belt with the World Taekwondo Federation (yes, the other WTF) What are musings about taekwondo doing on a yoga blog? Read on, maybe you’ll find out…
The second tenet: Integrity
The simple definition of Integrity that I share with my students is “doing the right thing even when no one is there to see it.” That is a good start for young people to understand, but I would like to think of it beyond being honest and law-abiding, whether or not there are witnesses. When what you believe about yourself, and what others believe about you, and what you say you will do all overlap, that is integrity- the image matches the reality. You are a whole, integral, integrated person, without the cognitive dissonance that comes from saying one thing and doing another, or feeling like a fraud.
Doing what is right, even if there are no witnesses. At first this seems like it is part of being a role model; as a teacher, I should show integrity. However, there is a lot to say about the sanity of being who I say I am. My outer self should match my inner self. There’s that word “should” again.
I have struggled, as many do, with body dysmorphia and impostor syndrome. From my teen years onward, I have had a poor understanding of what my body really looks like, and what my body can accomplish.Witness even the disconnect between “me” and “my body.” Why is there a separation?
However, week after week of coming to the dojang, practicing in front of a mirror, seeing how strong I can be has built up my sense of self. I can feel like more of a whole person physically and emotionally. I can be more accepting of how I look, and how it is only a small part of my identity. I’m not perfect- there is still a lot of programming of how a woman is supposed to look and act, but on the whole, I am more whole. If you know what I mean.
Impostor syndrome is the feeling as though I am unqualified for the life I am living, and will be caught eventually. This has also been eased the more I practice Taekwondo. Without false humility on the one hand or bragging on the other, simply being who I am. At each class I attend, I affirm my growing strength. At each quarterly test I see where I fall short and need to put in more effort. Without posing or pretending, I can see how much stronger I am getting, again, on and off the mat.
.I still have occasional doubts about myself, moments of cognitive dissonance where I look in the mirror and see a big old faker. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I continue to work toward becoming a person that other people can count on. This also has spread into my personal and professional life.
I have become better at not over-committing my time, since part of integrity is keeping my promises, even the promises I make to myself. In the past, I would join committees, stay late at work, stretch myself too thin and lose control. I was juggling far too many things, and I couldn’t keep track of all the balls I had in the air. I always had a feeling of impending doom- something was going to fall apart. In my journey to black belt, I have become better at saying “no” to committees and additional responsibilities. What initially felt like a weakness, admitting I could not do everything, has instead become a strength. My colleagues know that I am credible, and that they can count on me to do what I say I will. It isn’t just a matter of doing what is expected, but a matter of doing what is right for me and my family
Last winter, I carefully considered the balls I had in the air, including work, family, taekwondo, and taking care of our house, and I added yoga teacher training to the mix. I did a 200 hour training in a module format. It was wonderful, and taught me many things about balance, (both literal and figurative) and integrity. I initially thought it would be good for taekwondo- we keep urging students to become more flexible, without telling them how. It was.
It was also very good for me spiritually and mentally. In adding the modality of yoga, I became a better person, which, presumably, will make me a better martial artist. The overlapping circles of who I am inside, who people see, and the promises I make to others are lining up, like the loops of a belt.
Join me next week for a stroll through perseverance and self control. I welcome your comments about the intersection of mind, body and community, and what integrity means to you. Fun fact: in Spanish, whole wheat bread is called pan integral. Yup- integrity bread.