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Bicycles, Beaches, Bumps and Bruises

Bicycles, Beaches, Bumps and Bruises

I vividly remember waking up my parents on my 5th birthday. I’d been begging them to get me a bike and they decided the 5th birthday milestone was an appropriate age. I couldn’t wait to wake up and see a shiny new bike! It was a pink, banana seat bike. The name “Candlelight” was on the front wheel fork and I decided it was the perfect name for her.

My dad attached training wheels and off I went! I don’t remember how long it took me to gain balance on 2 wheels, but I’m sure I didn’t master it the first time I tried to take Candlelight down the sidewalk.

We’ve all been new at something. There isn’t a single thing that people decide to try and they’re instantly great at. Everything takes trial and error and regular practice.

Kids are great at this. Everything is new to them and they want to try to do it all. That’s why parenthood is exhausting. You take your eyes off them for 1 second only to find them climbing on furniture or sticking fingers in outlets. It seems you are repeating safety warnings daily, hoping someday they’ll remember them on their own.

At some point in our lives, our “things we want to learn” list gets short and we stop adding to it. There are many reasons why this happens, busy schedules, budgets or perhaps complacency. It’s different for everyone and yet the same. As adults, we get to a place where we are comfortable with our life. We reach a place we’ve been dreaming about for years. Maybe it’s a full-time dream job or finding a partner and having kids, a dog and a cat. We carve out our cozy little corner of the world and finally feel like we can relax and be content with our life. The new challenges we face are created by outside forces and out of our control. Changing procedures at work, new child development stages in our kids, moving to a new city for a job, and other curve balls life throws at us.

Before all the self-help gurus jump down my throat, I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, I’m saying it’s the way it is. I believe our life path is pre-determined and the only thing in our control is how we respond to it. We can choose to have a good attitude and take these changes in stride. I think that’s the best way to deal with unforeseen disruptions to our regularly scheduled life. That’s not the point of my writing. My point is we stop choosing the new things we want to try because we’re trying to handle the unplanned life events. You’ve probably heard, “Things happen in 3’s.”

It’s like finding out you’re pregnant, while going through a job change that requires you to sell your house and move. 

Those examples might not apply to you, but I’m willing to bet you can look back on your life and find situations where everything seemed to change all at once.

When those events happen, we feel close to mental overload. So many new things to think about! So many unknown changes that we don’t know what’s around the next corner. As the time passes, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re thankful we made it through, and swear we’re never going to go through it again.

Is it any wonder why, as adults, the thought of purposely trying something new, with so many unknowns, is a no-go? We swore we would never put ourselves purposely through the mental anguish of uncertainty again. No one likes to stumble around like an idiot, not knowing the correct next move. Especially in front of everyone who seems to have their shit together.

No one wants to be the class dunce.

When I look at the world of self-defense, I see instructors talking about their years and even decades of studying martial arts. I see retired military or law enforcement individuals talking fluently in a tactical language that is foreign to anyone outside that world. Is it any wonder why women look at self-defense as this insurmountable skill? If it took those instructors DECADES to be proficient in their personal safety, when the hell are they going to find time to dedicate to learning? Not to mention the cost. Or the seemingly great physical shape you need to be in in order to be proficient. (I’m talking about the muscle bulging, tight shirt wearing, I lift heavy, picture taking and post to social media people).

Most women are trying to survive the women’s empowerment movement, telling us we can have fulfilling careers, be June Cleaver-esqe moms, with weekly Sex in the City lunches with our besties, homes that look like we’re channeling Joanna Gaines, and rock our wonder woman bodies.

All without breaking a nail.

Consumer insights tell us women control approximately 85% of purchasing decisions in the household. I believe it. But the study I want to see is how much of that 85% is ACTUALLY SPENT ON THEMSELVES. I’m not a gambler, but I’d wager the percentage to hover between 1-2%.

Women have been trying to be the best version of themselves, according to what society tells them that version looks like. They’ve been focusing on self-love and self-care by carving out 5-minutes of uninterrupted peace and that feels AMAZING. Sure, they’d love to have hours and maybe even an entire day (or 5) to relax and do what they want, when they want, without someone needing them every waking moment of the day. A few years ago, a good friend and I had the opportunity to travel to Australia to represent a charity at a gala function. It was 24-hours of planes, trains, and automobiles to get there. We were exhausted. But when we arrived at our accommodations near the beach, we dropped our bags in our room, changed into beachwear, and headed for the sun and sand. I think we sat there for maybe 10-minutes before we realized it was as close to a heavenly retreat as we could’ve ever imagined. It was mid-day in Australia, which meant it was midnight back home in the states. No one needed us. We didn’t have anywhere we needed to be for a few hours.

We could just be.

Sounds amazing right? That was 2-years ago. I can’t say I’ve truly felt that relaxed since. I literally had to travel halfway around the globe to separate mentally and physically from my daily tasks. It’s not exactly something I can do spur of the moment. The memories of that trip are forever encased in a special place in my soul. I visit that place every now and again when I need to reset and remember who I am.

Me.

Not any of the labels I proudly carry like wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, entrepreneur-me.

Little ol’ me.

Take the everyday woman I am and juxtapose that with the woman I was on the beach in Australia. It doesn’t feel like there’s a middle ground to me. I’m either 100% everyday life or 100% beach bum. I guess if I lived near an ocean, it would be easier to go between the 2. But like the saying goes, “No one needs you until you finally sit down to relax.”

When I talk to women about personal safety and learning how to be more situationally aware, I can see the everyday woman voice in their head saying, “When would I have time to take a class? How would I justify the cost? I can’t do that-I haven’t worked out in ages!” The beach bum voice says, “If you start investing time and money into that, you’ll NEVER have time to yourself. That will become your ME time.”

I don’t know about you, but if you want me to choose either sand between my toes, sun on my face, salt in the air, waves crashing on shore or the image of a stereotypical male ex-military/law enforcement/martial arts expert teaching me women’s self-defense by gouging eyeballs and crushing throats, I’ll pick beach bum every time.

I had a phone conversation with a guy (who I shall not callout publicly because that’s not how I roll) who wrote a self-defense book for women. The first 20 minutes of the call involved him telling me it was nearly impossible to get women to make their personal safety a priority. That his very famous friend, who encouraged him to write the book and even wrote the forward, was not able to help the book reach women like he’d hoped (It probably doesn’t help that this friend has had numerous accusations of sexual misconduct from women, but I digress.). His belief is that women needed to learn how to physically fight, and situational awareness is a by-product. When I look at his marketing, all I see bulging muscles in too-tight shirts and an angry scowl.

I’d call that a misfire.

I’m the first to say that it takes all types of people with all different backgrounds to make the world go ‘round. How I like to learn things may be different than the person sitting next to me. I’m not saying that guy was completely wrong in his approach. I’m saying if your current approach of marketing to women is not working, maybe try something different.

Or not.

I don’t care. You do you.

I truly don’t believe he should try to be anything other than himself. Women want authenticity. Women want honesty and vulnerability. Brene Brown is beloved by so many women because she promotes these traits. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

So, where does that leave us? How do we change the conversation, the marketing, the look, the feel of self-defense- so women see it and feel like the training is absolutely worth the time, cost, and effort? Remember, you’re asking them to give up their version of beach bum to learn something new. You’re asking them to trade those precious moments of uninterrupted bliss to feel like a 5-year-old on her first bike. Bumps, scrapes, and bruises included.

Is learning self-defense worth it? Definitely. Should every woman have a resource and place where she feels comfortable learning these life-saving skills? Of course. Has the self-defense industry done a good job marketing to women? Nope. Before you think I’m all doom and gloom, I think the industry has started to do some self-reflection. I think the industry as a whole, truly wants to help women learn how to be safer in their daily life. I know lots of self-defense instructors who are open to suggestions on how to change their marketing approach to appeal to women.

They are also determined 5-year-olds, getting their first bike with training wheels, wanting to learn how to do something new.

“Be brave enough to be bad at something new.”

Jon Acuff