When I first started boxing, I knew that I would get ripped arms, extreme cardio conditioning, and fierce, lightning-fast speed. I understood that lacing up those gloves daily would teach me discipline, courage, dedication, and perseverance. But what I didn’t realize was that I would gain something much greater than all of this, something that transcended the physical nature of the sport and—still now—influences my life even after years of being out of the ring.
Confidence. Despite my outward positive demeanor and warm smile, growing up I experienced a deep-rooted insecurity. I had been badly bullied through much of my childhood, and that left me feeling inadequate, weighed down by the burden of low self-esteem. I didn’t have any sense of confidence. I never stood up for myself or used my voice, and I most certainly never fought back.
Thankfully, in high school I had an easier time, feeling more secure in who I was. But still, it wasn’t enough. I lacked self-assurance and I envied those who embodied it. All that changed the first time I hit a heavy bag.
To be honest, when I first started boxing, I had no intention of competing. All I wanted was a workout that was challenging, pushing my limits and inducing massive amounts of sweat. But almost immediately, I fell in love with the sport itself. I was intrigued at the prospect of getting into a ring and facing an opponent who was trying to inflict as much damage as possible. After two years of training, my coach finally told me I was ready to compete.
The very first time I stepped into a competition ring, my heart was pounding so hard I worried it might burst out of my chest. But I felt ready. I felt confident. I knew I had trained for this moment, and I was prepared to show my parents, my family, and all my supporters and doubters that I could do this. I mustered as much courage as possible and gave it my best shot. Win, lose or draw, in that moment I realized I didn’t care. I felt indestructible.
Luckily, I did win, and that one victory led me onto a path of full commitment to this sport. Sure, I craved the intense rush of dancing around a ring, but I also felt I was building myself up to a place of greater confidence, a level of conviction in myself that was totally unshakeable. I wanted to be secure enough to know that whether or not I got punched in the face, lost a bout by unanimous decision or knocked my opponent out, my sense of self-worth would remain intact.
With each subsequent fight, I drew closer to this goal, and it wasn’t coming just from the immeasurable amount of training I did, with an incessant number of punches, drills, and conditioning exercises. It was happening because I was (slowly) I learning how to trust myself. With each fight, I gave every ounce of my being and competed with my full heart. When I was exhausted and ready to quit, I dug a little deeper and often came out victorious therefore. If I lost a match, I reflected on what needed to improve and how I could fight better next time. When I was hit so hard in the face I thought my nose had broken, I drew on my reserves of sheer will and threw as many punches as my arms allowed—right up until the bell rang.
No matter how much I trained, each time I stepped into the ring, it was all on me. No one could save me. No one could fight my battle. I had an opportunity to face an opponent and use the confines of the ring to be raw, vulnerable, and exposed. To be animalistic, powerful, and aggressive. Also, to be confident enough to show all these sides of myself to everyone watching and not be fearful of judgment. Love it or hate it, this was me. No apologies.
Boxing competitively woke up an inner strength I didn’t know existed. Now, whenever I take a risk or venture onto an unknown path, I draw upon this reservoir. I feel grounded to the earth, walking with chest up and shoulders back. My gaze is forward, calm yet strong. I know that I can take care of myself and handle any situation life gives me. I trust myself no matter what. This is me, no apologies.
If you want a small taste of this empowering, confidence-boosting sport, try these simple moves:
Take a staggered stance with your dominant leg behind you. Bend your knees gently and lift your back heel up.
Make two fists with your hands and place them by your cheeks, elbows pointing down.
Start to throw straight punches forward, making sure to turn your knuckles over.
With every punch thrown, forcefully exhale. Keep the navel in.
Allow your whole body to be loose and avoid locking any joint, especially arms and shoulders.
Try throwing 20 punches first, then 50 then 100. Feel the thrill, intensity and, of course, the heart-pounding sweat that boxing creates. And if you get a chance, lace up a pair of gloves and unleash on a heavy bag. Feel your confidence build. Enjoy and have fun!
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Rose Walsh