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Post Fight Shame - Overcoming a Loss


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Hi!

 

I need some advice on how to handle my shame after losing my first fight. 

 

So, the fight was yesterday. I’ve had the date to work towards maybe six or seven weeks and I’ve trained like a freakin’ mothereffer. I’ve sparred at least four days a week with a lot of hard sparring with guys much better and bigger. My gym is quite big with several pros and national champs so I’ve really had the best possible chance to get good at this. Or at least good enough for a first fight. 

 

Leading up the fight I’ve been reading up on mental training and Sylvie and Kevin’s discussions on shame and fear and all of that. I haven’t been afraid and I’m tough physically. I’m tall and heavy and the guys go pretty hard at me so I’m pretty conditioned like that. The nerves have been manageable, every other day wondering if I’ve lost my mind for doing this and the next feeling like yeay this will be fun!! The goal was to breath have fun (and then of course win). Not to stand there with the shame. 

 

Anyhow, the bell rang and I leaved the room. Not really, my body was still in the ring and the other woman was punching and kicking and kneeing but I heard nothing and felt nothing. I vaguely heard kick and I kicked. Like in slow motion and without power. I so totally lost control of myself and my body and the whole situation. None of the sparring, NONE, has been anything near this experience. The closest situation I’ve been in where I’ve so totally lost control of my body was delivering my two children. But by the end of that I had a baby in my arms. And I did not have an audience seeing me lose my head. 

 

I picked up in the third and final round with a fuck it attitude since I’d already lost but it wasn’t enough. She didn’t totally dominate me. I’m not at all bruised today apart from my shins from kicking. Today I’m just leaved with such shame! I’m so ashamed. Not really for losing the fight but for not being in control of myself and the situation in front of all those people. I’m used to being super in control of things and myself and I can’t see how one ever could do anything rational or conscious in the state I was in. The fight was filmed but I can’t bare to watch it. 

 

Sorry about the essay. What are your experiences of your first fights and adrenaline rushes and losing your head? Thank you!

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Lisa... this never goes away. It changes, like you have only a moment of shame, or glimpses of shame, or rounds of shame, or you feel it like an echo... but it never fully goes away. And there are times you don't have it, when fights go great and you feel awesome, and then it appears again and your thoughts are "what the f***, I thought I was over this." It's okay. 

Firstly, the fact that you fought yesterday and are already trying to get over your shame is a really good sign. The thoughts and emotions are still fresh, so it's a bit raw feeling, but lots of folks try to hold on to those shitty feelings for a long, long time because they feel like they SHOULD be ashamed, even when it's time to let those feelings go. It's good to feel them for a short time, I think. They have meaning. But the feelings and the fight are not necessarily a 1+1 equation. Consider this: when you're sparring in your gym, you know everybody. You know the space. You know that you're training, even really hard sparring has a slightly different intention and emotion to it. "Doing well," or whatever you tell yourself in training is under conditions that are not as similar to a fight as we think they are. We think creating the physical conditions, like getting hit a lot, will prepare us. But the emotional unknowns are a big deal. It's incredibly hard to recreate those in familiar spaces. So the fact that you blanked in your fight is not unusual at all. 

The way I see it, if you hadn't put in the work and then blanked in the fight, that's shameful. Folks who don't put in the work, that's a shame. But you get to keep all the hard work you put in in the gym beforehand. Losing a fight doesn't change any of that. Kevin and I call it "shitting the bed," when a fight just goes totally the wrong direction from what you know you're capable of. If you wake up and you've shit the bed, you're embarrassed and ashamed, don't want anyone to see it are afraid they will, etc. But it doesn't mean you don't know how to control yourself. It means the conditions for that situation to take place were all in line. There's nothing wrong with you to have performed the way you did. There's nothing wrong with you to feel the way you do. But don't hold either of those as permanent states. Just wash the sheets and move on.

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Hi and thanks for your reply and encourageing words! (And also sorry for the enormous font of my text. At least that’s what it looks like on my phone. Not sure how that happened. Don’t mean to be screaming at you:))

Two days later I’ve calmed down. I’ve been agonising and hiding and trying to put it in perspective. Last night I managed to watch the fight and it wasn’t at all bad. Well it wasn’t what I know I can do in training and I can se how my waiting for openings looks like I’m passive etc etc but it wasn’t at all in relation to the shame I felt. She did not humiliate me. I was just too passive at times. As you say ones feelings about something doesn’t make that something true. And my feelings said that I hadn’t landed anything, that going blank had leaved me with absolutely no skills or weapons what so ever. But seeing the fight showed that that wasn’t true. And I can almost feel a bit proud of fighting my first fight.

I read your reply Sunday, still so sore I couldn’t really take it to heart. Reading it again today it all rings true. My hard work hasn’t been in vain and this doesn’t mean I can’t ever control myself. The whole situation also makes me think of something you’ve written about that failures aren’t necessarily your true self. Which it feels like when they happen. Thank you!!

So, good news! I can go back to my gym haha!

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I had my first sparring tournament a little over a week ago and lost. She was a good bit smaller than me so I’ve taken a bit of ribbing from my coaches. I’m not sure if I feel shame but I do feel a little bit of frustration and maybe some embarrassment for not using the tools I know I have. 

Im chalking it up to first time jitters and hoping next time my nerves calm down a bit. I’ve only been training for a year so I guess I can hardly expect my first experience with someone outside my gym to be a stellar performance. Lol

I’m any case, I’m telling myself that many people who train Muay Thai or other combat sports never step in to any sort of competition. I won a different kind of battle by being incredibly nervous and doing it anyway. 

Good on you for doing the same. The hardest one is behind you and now you know what to expect a bit more. 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I think the shame you feel comes from your expectation of how you would perform, given that you had been able to perform well sparring with the guys at your gym. 

You know, I felt shame even when I won. Because there were things that I thought I should be able to do but couldn't. When I told that to my coach, he said that you will always feel that (having things you should be able to do/do better) unless you have a 1 second KO.

In contrast, I had lost in an open tournament against an opponent with 10 fights when I had only 1 fight at the time. I was outmatched and got dominated the whole time. It was a tough beating to take. But I didn't feel shame. While I didn't go in expecting to lose, I didn't actually hold any expectation to win OR lose.

It might be rare situation to never have expectations of yourself. What makes fighting beautiful is perhaps that dignity is on the line. But maybe while you feel shame, you may also remember pride at the same time.

A CBT technique I have used is that I save screenshots of the fight of moments that made me feel proud, and whenever that feeling of shame rises up, I look at those screenshots to teach myself to recognize pride as well. Not to override shame, but to have both shame and pride at the same time (if you've watched cartoon movie "inside out", it's kinda at the end when Joy and Sadness both touch the memory ball).

Kudos for having your first fight ♥️

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Hi and thanks @Matty. Think you hit a spot with your thoughts on my expectations. I must admit to myself that I expected to win (cringe!:)). I had seen her previously. People at my gym were boasting me saying it would be an easy win. I thought that my fear of the shame somehow would carry me through and make me win. (?!? I know this sounds ridiculous!!!) I thought that all my training would overpower the stage fright and adrenaline. So yeah I think that part of the shame also was that I and people around me expected me to win. I wasn’t better than the woman they had been down talking. 

I’m up for a second fight in a few weeks. I’ve been off and on whether I wanted to risk the shame again. But wtf! I don’t want to leave it like this. Having my first fight, not being happy with my performance, losing and hiding under the covers. I want to try it again and see if I can improve on not completely checking out mentally. And also this time around my expectations are different. 

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21 hours ago, Lisa said:

So yeah I think that part of the shame also was that I and people around me expected me to win. I wasn’t better than the woman they had been down talking. 

This is a poison of western fight culture. I've learned to never underestimate anybody. There's no such thing as an easy fight, really and truly. I was listening to Kru Nu tell me about how this opponent couldn't fight me, which is a Thai phrase that is often used to imply that skill levels are just crazy different. But even after telling me this, he paused and then told me never to underestimate anybody. He said anything can happen in a fight, it depends on how important it is to the other person, etc. I've felt that in my opponents. And I think that when your opponent is talked down - and people mean well when they do that, even though it's so shitty - it takes something from your own heart. It makes it seem less important. It allows you, even for a moment, even if you know better, to let your guard down a little. You SHOULD have an appropriate level of fear, or awareness, for every single person you will ever get in the ring with. Even if on paper it looks like there's no way you could lose. It's a fight. You've prepared for it. It's your preparation that will let you win, not your expectations about your opponent.

You can fight anyone, Lisa. Literally anyone. You can be the one who everyone is down-talking and you can win in those conditions. Your opponent has the same possibilities. But don't doubt yourself or believe in yourself based on who or what your opponent is. Believe in yourself for what you've done, for who you are, for the work you've put in. None of that guarantees a win. But you can't disappoint yourself if you know you've done the work. Just do the work. The fight is part of it, not the result of it.

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On 6/22/2019 at 1:10 AM, Lisa said:

I must admit to myself that I expected to win (cringe!:)). I had seen her previously. People at my gym were boasting me saying it would be an easy win. I thought that my fear of the shame somehow would carry me through and make me win. (?!? I know this sounds ridiculous!!!) I thought that all my training would overpower the stage fright and adrenaline. So yeah I think that part of the shame also was that I and people around me expected me to win. I wasn’t better than the woman they had been down talking. 

I don't think there is anything wrong with believing that you would win. You should believe it. 

All the best on your next fight ♥️

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