How to Improve a Low Self Esteem with BJJ: 11 Ways of Overcoming Low Self Esteem with Jiu Jitsu

This is a really important article how to improve a low self esteem with BJJ, and I think it can help a lot of people who are on the fence of trying Jiu Jitsu or not trying BJJ. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu completely changed my life, most importantly by changing my own self image. At first glance before I tried bjj I may have been considered to be “cocky” to some or a “debby downer” to others, and to most just a very regular dude.

In contrast the way I felt inside before I started jiu jitsu was very dark and lonely. I never felt like I was a very capable person. At the time I worked as a carpet cleaning technician and I hated the job more than you could imagine. Believe it or not, I truly thought that’s all the universe had ever intended to give me was the ability to clean dog and cat urine out of carpet in exchange for a barely liveable wage. The only real compliment I got from other people was “dang that guy works.”

This may have been a great compliment but I felt terrible about myself. At the time I worked 60+ hours a week. I had a very young baby to be responsible for, and I was failing.

Before I even knew BJJ was an option I used to smoke well over a pack of cigarrettes a day. I also spent a lot of time drinking during the hours after I got out of work. This made me feel better just for a short period of time and I would feel even worse in the long run. I needed help. I needed just something else to do. Atleast some people to hang out with who didn’t drink and smoke so much. I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel healthy. My age was 22. There I was at the “prime” of my life and I felt just so miserable.

How to improve a low self esteem? BJJ might be the answer

Before you knew it I stumbled my way into a BJJ gym in the area. I tied on a white belt, having absolutely no clue the new life that had just begun.

From my experience, there are 11 ways of Overcoming low self esteem with Jiu Jitsu that I have found in my journey thusfar.

1.) Exercise

The obvious benefit will come first. Exercise makes your blood flow. Its good for you. It makes your muscles hurt later, and makes you hungry. We all know this, its common sense. If you’re somebody who can just up and go lift/run then props to you. I am not one of those people. I go to jiu jitsu because it’s fun. Exercise happens to be a part of it that comes with showing up to practice.

Not only will you get more exercise but you will vastly improve the way you move your body. You’ll learn to move in ways you never thought you could. There’s a ton of hard work involved with jiu jitsu but on the deep end of bjj it’s a lot of fun. People show up to jiu jitsu because they want to. Once you start learning about the art you just want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes, and exercise just comes along the way as you tunnel through the awesome martial art.

2.) You Start Relationships With The Right Type of Friends

Jiu Jitsu gyms are filled with people who will help you improve and grow while they improve and grow themselves. In fact, a lot of times people need you to get better in order for themselves to improve. As you spend more and more time with jiu jitsu you’ll remember feeling inspired by those around you and you end up inspiring other people along the way.

When you practice jiu jitsu and you spar with one another you’re engaging in a form of lethal combat. The only thing stopping you and your friend from killing each other is the “tap.” You have to trust that your friend is going to let go. I’ll give my personal guarantee that your friend at jiu jitsu will let go when you tap. I can’t guarantee your buddy at the bar will bid you the same kindness. Don’t forget. Chokes can be fatal.

I’ve trained for about 4 years now in BJJ. From my experience the vast majority of people who train want the best for everybody. When you struggle you have a room full of people who want to help. When you do well you get even more people trying to improve you even further.

If you’ve ever heard sayings like “if you want to be a lion. surround yourself with lions” or “if you want to be happy surround yourself with happy people.” It’s exactly that. Whether you want to believe it or not you do start to become like what you surround yourself. Everybody at some level is a product of their environment. Don’t hang out with friends who make you feel like crap.

3.) BJJ Teaches You to Not Expect Immediate Results

Nobody is born a blackbelt in BJJ. In fact, you’re going to put in way more work than you expected at first to even get your blue belt. If you’re not holding back a tear when you earn a stripe you didn’t get trained right.

It’s a common blue belt saying to say “it took my blood, sweat, and tears to earn that belt.” I’ll concur with that statement because my white belt has some blood stains on it. White belt is just the beginning. As you rank higher and higher in your bellts you’ll learn to make your movements more fluid and achieve wins with less effort.

The truth, on the other hand is that you will learn how to go to war. Lose. Show up the next day. Lose again. Next day. Lose, but lose a little better and so on.

People expect immediate results in everything they try. Once you learn that nothing will come easily in Jiu Jitsu your mindset will be much better and much more set for reality. Which brings me to my next point.

4.) You Discover Skills You Never Knew You Had

Everybody who sticks with jiu jitsu for a long enough time will find something in it that they are naturally really good at. You might have the worst open guard in the world, but really know how to squeeze somebody hard enough in closed guard that they become desperate and make mistakes.

As for me, I’m much more comfortable on top. I don’t like being stuck on bottom, but I often practice escaping.Out of all the skills that I can think of that I had an extra step on was takedowns because of my wrestling experience. Before I get into my next point of how bjj takes your weaknesses and strengths to force you to challenge yourself, I need to highlight the fact that most schools will have a warm up at the beginning of class.

You’ll quickly see there will be many movements that are completely foreign to you while others come naturally. When I first started I had no idea what shrimping even meant but I knew how to do a cartwheel. I couldn’t pull guard, but I could tree top a leg easily.

5.) You Will Be Challenged

You and everybody arround you will be facing challenges. You will also learn to fail, and get up and try again. In Jiu Jitsu you can’t dwell on how you screwed up too long. You will fail 1000 times before you succeed once. It wasn’t until more recently I discovered the reason my self esteem was so low before I started BJJ.  I didn’t have anything in my life to be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, I had my son to be proud of but there weren’t many true accomplishments I had achieved in my life. Instead of dwelling on it BJJ taught me to challenge myself, and to not give up.

Your coach will challenge you and sharpen the skills you’re already good at by making things harder for you there. At the same time you’ll be forced to learn to improve your weaknesses as well. The constant challenges and compression your body and mind get in Jiu Jitsu will turn you into an entirely new and better person. Inside, and out. Period.

6.) You Learn Positive Self Talk

There’s a lot of people in BJJ who study and practice the law of attraction. We all know and understand that believing in yourself will help you achieve more. You will only go as far as you believe you can go.

My biggest flaw still to this day is beating myself up and starting to speak negatively about myself and my own achievements. I have spent years now forcing myself to conciously speak to myself positively. Over time it’s gotten a lot better and more natural to do. The art of believing in yourself and believing positive outcomes are on their way is an extremely important part of achieving greatness within yourself. Nobody has ever gotten to the top by telling themselves they belong on the bottom.

7.) You Get Beaten Down and Built Back Up. Rinsed. And Repeated.

By now there are probably some people thinking “man these constant challenges, and getting the crap kicked out of me doesn’t sound like it’s going to make me feel better.” The truth is you just gotta try it. There will be successful days on the mat, challenging days, and many where you just get your butt whooped.

At some point you’ll probably spend a month working on what your best and favorite BJJ skill is and you’ll start to feel a little bit unstoppable. Then before you know it you start working on the aspect that you’re absolutely horrible at. If you have an ego it will be ripped up and torn to shreds in this martial art. It’s hard learning to live with no ego, less of an ego, or with a healthier ego but its a process that will continually reward you in life. You will have an ability to take harsh feedback and not completely lose your mind over it.

8.) Everybody Feels More Badass in a Rashguard or a Gi

As immature as it might sound to somebody who doesn’t practice a martial art. The second someone who does train puts on a Gi or a rashguard we feel complete. It’s like being a freaking mighty morphin power ranger. It’s a hilarious concept but it’s true. The truth is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a type of superpower. If you think you have “street fighting ability” and think that martial arts are B.S. I would strongly reccommend not picking a fight with a jiujiteiro. Don’t go getting your neck broken.

The best part about rashguards today is there are so many cool images you can pick from. Gi’s are getting cooler and cooler by the day too. As somebody who trains jiu jitsu I love rashguards. They make us look like the badasses we are. With all the training and hard work we go through it’s nice having some clothes to train in that make us feel like we have a little recognition for our badassedrous lifestyle.

9.) The BJJ Process Turns You Into a Monster in Order to Defeat your Internal Demons.

When you start to get pretty good at bjj your coach will start saying things like “you have no idea how dangerous you are.” This is the truth because back when I was a white belt with 4 stripes I unfortunately got into an altercation. Luckily the person did not have a weapon and I submitted him easily, needless to say another attacker may not have gone down so easily.

The people at BJJ are typically super friendly. Possibly at first might even seem weirdly friendly. This, in turn makes you a really friendly person. When you get deep in that process it is extremely easy to forget that you’ve spent hours and hours learning how to break someones bones, or kill them with a choke. We forget the fact that we’ve spent hours engaging and fighting each other at 100%. We forget what “regular” people do day to day.

Seriously, if you’re a blue belt or higher you probably have no freaking clue how easily you would kick your old drunk friend’s rear end in sideways. You my friend, have become like many of us. You, my amigo, are a freaking monster.

Once you achieve this monstorous nature you realize that when you talk about BJJ to somebody it sounds silly to you that they are afraid to try a class. Then, suddenly you realize that not attacking certain dreams in your life in the past out of fear was silly. Maybe you used to sew back in the day and some dude called you “weird” for it so you stopped. BJJ offers a complete mindset overlap that will change your life forever. You will remember to do the things you love doing. Today I’m a self published writer after not putting a thing on paper for seven years from me believing somebody who told me it would never happen. #humblebrag lol.

I’m still slashing at internal demons everyday, but because of bjj I have another one down. Truly grateful for having jiu jitsu in my life. Speaking of slaying at your demons like an underworld samurai warrior:

10.) Taught Me To Go For it and Commit

Today I’m at a year and a half cigarrette and all form of nicotine free. Dude. I did it. I’ll have to remember to update this article with my length of time quit. Nothing gets done with just trying a little bit. Just trying a little bit will lead to failure. Trying again will make you comfortable with failure. Becomming comfortable with failure will teach you what not to do. Commit to what you shoot for. And succeed.

I wrestled in Jr. High and High School. I was a mediocre wrestler. I was on exhibition when I first started wrestling. In high school I never even made the varsity team. Not once. Not even for a match. I had this problem: I couldn’t take anyone down. The only time I ever pulled off a takedown was to be defensive enough, long enough, for my opponent to tire himself out.

If I shot before my opponent got tired I would always get sprawled on. Have my face shoved down and I would yet again be eating mat sweat. Never felt too great on my nose either.

It wasn’t until I trained on my feet in BJJ where I learned my mistake. I didn’t commit. My takedown shots had beautiful entry points, but I would stop which would give my opponent time to sprawl and smash my head into the mat. When you’re learning a takedown in class you break it down into steps. I just had kept my steps broken and never put the whole thing together fluidly.

As hilarious and non-instructive this may sound the process for me learning to put it all together was simply putting in my mind “once I friggin’ grab that leg he’s going down. I’m not going to waste my energy on a takedown that doesn’t bring him down”

This led to a lot of mistakes, but you know what it also led to? A lot of takedowns. I learned to commit first. Then after learning to commit I dealt with higher belts teaching me what “not to do” in my takedowns again. I had to latch on and commit.

This is a life lesson: If you’re playing volley ball and you see a ball going off in the distance and you yell “got it.” If you only take a step or two you’re not going to get it. You gotta run, duck, roll. You gotta move around. When you say you got something you gotta freaking do it. Stay going at it with everything until you fail or succeed. Learn. Try again. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu taught me this. It’s my most favorite and valuable life lesson I’ve learned and instilled in my brain from jits. I hope it helps you.

11.) BJJ Taught Me to Be Assertive

Back when I was younger I was always a tall scrawny dude (I’m still a tall scrawny dude). This means that everyone can see me. I also used to get cut in line and stuff. Man that used to make me so freakin’ angry you have no clue. Luckily for most of the other guys I never got aggressive about it. In BJJ, on the other hand. I learned to be assertive. We live in the year 2018. 20 years ago Assertive would have been “Excuse me sir. Your cut in line is causing me an inconvenience” Today it’s as simple as blurting out “hey wtf dude?” I’m actually pretty grateful for that. In real life most people will just stop and say “oh I’m sorry I didn’t see you.”

Haha. Yeah. You didn’t see this overly ugly 6 foot tall guy towering over you.

In plain words. You will learn to say something when you get screwed without starting a fight about it. It takes some guts at first but it’s a valuable skill. If you get short changed at a hotdog stand, the ability to get behind yourself and correct the mistake will help you with two bucks at the time. As a life skill it gives constant rewards.

How/Why This Makes Me Carry a Higher Self Esteem

So how does all of this add up to me feeling better about myself? I suppose I didn’t have many reasons to feel good about myself beforehand. A guy like me wants to appeal to people who need help. I think there are a ton of people who are like me who really weren’t doing much, when they know they should have been doing more. This causes a tremendous amount of self guilt for many people. I know you’re tired. I know you’re stressed out. I know it feels like you’re putting in everything possible and your soul is getting ripped out of your chest.

I’m here to tell you that you can be just that much better. You can’t waste time on the couch eating cheeze ballz. The 8000 items you foraged in your video game isn’t going to make you feel better about yourself. Actually having real life accomplishments will give you a healthier self esteem. You need to deal with the regular pains of life and move forward. BJJ puts us on an entirely new level of dealing with stressors of that sort.

Still to this day I am too hard on myself. However I look back on my life and I saw “wow” sometimes. When you have something that doesn’t show on the outside. Something that is only on the inside like jiu jitsu. You will have a real reason to carry a higher self esteem.

Hope This Post Helps Someone.

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Jonathan Schalberg

I'm Jonathan. I've trained BJJ for 4 years and I wrestled for 5. I want to share my passion for this martial art and also help you guys sift through the crap and avoid the jiu jitsu junk and get the good bjj gear you desire. I will be doing reviews on products that I think are good and companies who are trustworthy so you guys don't get ripped off again.

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