At Least I'm Here...

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

This mantra came to me when I was in the process of earning my first black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Our dojang (training hall) had a gallery where parents, friends, and visitors could freely watch classes. Usually, those watching appreciated the effort we put forth in our training and offered a lot of encouragement along the way.

However, occasionally, those who weren't acclimated to the etiquette of the school would see this as an opportunity for comedic entertainment. On one particular evening, a guest in the gallery set his sights on my stiff, clumsy movements as I was learning a new technique. The more I failed, the harder this guy laughed, and the more pointed his barbs became. With my concentration now centered on his comments, the frustration grew until I literally couldn't do anything right. I was awash in self-doubt and I knelt to catch my breath, fully contemplating throwing in the towel right then and there.

Then it happened.    

"At least I'm here."

It was a voice that filled my thoughts and calmed my nerves. 

"At least I'm here."

The more I heard it, the louder it became, and even though it was a big class with a lot of onlookers, I was alone. I was calm. I was confident. Strength filled my spirit, my mind, and my body.

I stood to look into the gallery and made eye-contact with the heckler, and though he may have still been there, both he and his words were rendered powerless.  

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

It takes a lot of courage to do something new, especially when you are in a public forum. Regardless the activity, it's easy to become super self-conscious being the newbie among more experienced people. You can sense that you don't look or move or act like anyone else; it's frightening to be a learner on the path of self-improvement. And that is why most aren't there, content to sit in the crowd and cast their own self-doubt on those of us who are.