About six months ago, our family’s life took kind of an unexpected turn.

Earlier in the fall, Richard and I were hoping to find Adrian an extracurricular activity that would inspire and engage him, help him build some confidence, and make some new friends outside of school.

We landed on Kung Fu, and Adrian eagerly began his martial arts training. Little did I know that I (vicariously) began mine, too.

I came to his classes, watched every move like a hawk, and soaked it all in like a sponge. After a few weeks, I had this minor existential crisis and realized: I think am supposed to be learning Kung Fu, too!!

(Aside: In my discernment process, I asked the Divine for a sign to let me know if this was a good idea, or if I needed to let it go. One day, as I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, subjected to not-entirely-horrible 70s soft-rock, this song came on the radio. I died: message received!)

As I discovered, becoming a martial arts student requires jumping over a ton of hurdles, and ingesting an entire new repertoire of things to learn, memorize, and perfect. (Not to mention navigate the hierarchy, culture, rules of the guan, and the Chinese language!)

I was totally intimidated, and questioned how I could have any more headspace for this undertaking?

I perused the requirements for my “white belt,” inwardly weighing whether or not this was absolutely bonkers ludicrous, or maybe kind of exciting and awesome? The first requirement was to memorize The Eleven Elements.

The first one read:

“Honor yourself.”

Never, in the entirety of my life, from childhood until the present, has any teacher, school, or institution ever encouraged me to “honor myself.” This was like hearing beautiful music!

I realized that it was really my inner little kid who needed to take Kung Fu classes. So I signed her up.

I bought the uniform and figured out our family’s schedule. I schlep to class 4-5 times per week (I even started working as an assistant in Adrian’s classes), and practice Kung Fu—and The Eleven Elements—all the time.

But at the beginning, it was painful and awkward to be such a noob.

During the first few classes, all I wanted to do was cry. My inner kid was excited, but she was also freaking out: it was humiliating to be so ignorant, to keep messing up, and to feel like such an outsider.

(Flashback to, like, all of Hebrew School.)

It helps, of course, to have an enlightened, inspiring, and wholehearted teacher who is radically welcoming and believes that the first principle of your training is “Honor yourself.”

(Click here to check out Laoshi Eliot’s Metrowest Kung Fu school, or visit on Facebook and Instagram.)

But it made me wonder:

What is so novel about this essential truth? And why do so many people (myself included) need to re-learn how to be a person who can honor themselves?

Here’s what I came up with…

To honor oneself means that we believe in (and may one day embody) our inherent worthiness and value. And when are grounded in this kind of radical esteem of the Self, we think, act, and choose differently.

We live in a different way. But there is an important first step.

A Warrior’s Choice

It got easier, of course. I tried to relax, “self-soothe,” practice better listening, practice my moves, practice being a graceful learner, and practice self-honoring. It helped, and I learned faster.

As adult learners, we have an advantage over our younger selves: we are wise observers. We are are well-seasoned with experience. We do not take every little thing quite so seriously.

But I had to take control of this inner kid situation, who was hijacking this learning process (and not having any damn fun) out of fear of screwing up, looking bad, and being punished.

As you can tell, this new venture is not about learning Kung Fu.

It’s about growing up into the person you choose to become. Which meant that I had to become my own parent, and make a real choice to honor myself.

Because worthiness, despite the reflection of our outer circumstances, is an inside job. But it’s a choice.

The inner little kid is not the one who gets to choose. She is interested in keeping you safe and protected, and do what she can to keep it that way.

It is our greater Self, She who is inherently wise, knowing, and trusting, who will guide us through the inevitable challenges of becoming whole.

This is the Self who cannot be separated from a sacred, radical esteem, no matter what the world, or your mind, or even your own (lovable) inner little kid may do to thwart, rupture, or disguise this essential truth.

The excellent news is that we are both the innocent child and the wise, loving parent. (Perhaps a fierce warrior, too?) The choice is no longer being made for us: we must boldly make it for ourselves.

Here is to you, my lovely warrior. May you courageously choose to honor yourself.

I believe in you.


IMAGE: Rockwell Kent, “Forest Pool,” 1927

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