In August 2015, Ronda Rousey garnered worldwide attention when she knocked out Bethe Correia in UFC 190 in a mere 34 seconds.
After her impressive win against Correia, three of my male friends confessed to me that they could probably last at least a minute in the cage against Rousey. I simply smirked with an air of superiority knowing that men tend to underestimate female fighters while vastly overestimating their own fighting abilities, among many other things.
They’d probably have better luck getting in the cage and trying to verbally negotiate a draw and dinner date with Rousey than lasting any more than thirty seconds against her.
Ronda Rousey is the first and current female UFC bantamweight champion. She is also an Olympic medalist in judo.
In her New York Times bestselling book titled My Fight/Your Fight, Ronda Rousey tells about her childhood struggles, her father’s suicide, living as a homeless Olympic medalist, and the arduous years she spent forging a path for women to fight in the UFC.
I was enthralled with Rousey’s story and found it packed with inspiration and insight.
But one of my biggest takeaways was the remarkable self-confidence that had gotten Rousey through her struggles and eventually earned her a spot as one of the top athletes in the history of the UFC.
Here are five lessons we can all learn from Ronda Rousey on the subject of self-confidence.
Don’t give someone else control over your self-confidence.
Before her MMA career, Ronda Rousey started training at an all-male gym. No one took her seriously and the coach refused to train her. For months, Rousey pandered for his approval, trying desperately to show that she was hardworking and worth his time, but to no avail.
One day, when Ronda asked to be trained and the coach refused once more, Ronda yelled a few profanities and stormed out of the gym.
Although the trainer was insulted at first, that got his attention and actually gained his respect. He asked Rousey to return and started training her.
All because Rousey stood up for herself and didn’t let someone else control her self-confidence.
People who are unconfident have an over-active self-monitoring system that is always gauging how they sound, how they look, and how others react to them. They look for reasons why people don’t approve of them and they try to correct their “bad behavior” based on the feedback they perceive.
When we do this, it shows that we don’t feel important or worthy of their respect, and ultimately it shows that we don’t respect ourselves. It invites others to walk over us.
If disrespected, the unconfident person will try to be nicer and more agreeable, thinking that pandering to the other person will make the person like them.
They commonly think things like, “If I get angry, I’m being rude and unprofessional,” or “If I’m assertive, I’ll offend someone.”
But these are all false beliefs.
Continuing to be passive just reinforces your reputation as being subservient and weak. If you are pushed, you need to push back.
So whether it is a friend downplaying your successes, a coworker taking credit for your work, or a boss delivering personal attacks against you, stand up for yourself.
Don’t worry about offending someone or seeming arrogant or rude by speaking your mind and showing that you deserve respect; there is such a thing as righteous anger.
Most of all, don’t give someone else control over your self-confidence.
Once you give someone the power to tell you that you’re great, you’ve also given them the power to tell you you’re not worthy. Once you start caring about others’ opinions, you lose control.
— Ronda Rousey
Don’t set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
In school, we’re taught to set goals that are Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
But in setting personal goals, we should abandon the S.M.A.R.T. system because what is smart, achievable, or realistic for us may not be realistic to a someone else.
When Rousey wanted to go into the UFC, her mom, friends, coaches, and even the UFC itself told her this wasn’t realistic – that the UFC would never adopt a women’s fighting league.
But instead of letting everyone convince her of her limitations, Rousey chose to convince everyone of her capabilities.
She literally fought her way into the UFC, becoming the first female professional fighter ever and remaining the undisputed bantamweight champion today.
If Rousey had set S.M.A.R.T. goals, she would probably still be working as a bartender or at the local 24 hour fitness. Instead, her courage and ability to set and pursue “unrealistic” goals opened up new paths of opportunity paved the way for more women to follow.
This stoicism in the face of ridicule takes a lot of self-confidence, but Rousey set bodacious goals and kept moving toward them and reminding herself, “Someone has to be the best in the world. Why not me?”
If you can’t dream big, ridiculous dreams, what’s the point in dreaming at all? Don’t be realistic in your goals.
— Ronda Rousey
Don’t be a social chameleon.
When Rousey first got into acting, she received some wise advice from Sylvester Stallone.
He told her that the best actors are not the ones who can be someone else in every movie. Instead, the best actors are those who are themselves in every role.
For example, in Al Pacino’s movies, we don’t see a lawyer, a gangster, a Marine – we see Al Pacino as a lawyer; Al Pacino as a gangster; Al Pacino as a Marine. We see him being himself and playing his own version of the role rather than trying to be someone else.
This also applies to our social interactions.
Insecure people tend to have different personalities depending on who they are around.
They may try to act energetic and funny with one group, surly and pessimistic with another, and laid back and cool with another group.
You can probably think of a time when you or a friend played the “James Bond” role in a club or at a party – acting uncharacteristically cool, suave, and mysterious in an effort to shroud social weaknesses.
People can see through this act and know that deep down you’re not sincere or confident. Because you’re not being true to yourself, people find it hard to trust you.
It’s better to relax and be yourself than to be a social chameleon and seek approval from everyone. When people sense you’re comfortable with yourself, then they will be more comfortable around you.
Find a goal or a purpose to work toward.
Humans are naturally goal-oriented. When we lack a purpose or goal in our lives, we feel unmotivated. Deep down, we may feel guilty for our complacency and like we are losers who are wasting our lives.
Then, when we see someone with ambition and who is progressing in life, we feel threatened, inferior, and then angry. In order to resolve this internal dissonance, we project our negative emotions and shame onto them by cutting them down and criticizing them.
Rousey talks about some of her past romantic relationships. One of her boyfriends – an unaccomplished, unambitious loafer – started falsely accusing her of cheating on him. Another boyfriend – a halfhearted MMA fighter of only average success – played with Rousey’s emotions before her fights and downplayed her successes.
In both cases, this destructive behavior resulted from a damaged ego and exhibited a deep personal insecurity stemming from a lack of personal aim and accomplishment.
This is the same reason why the poor call the rich greedy and evil, why intelligent students are often bullied, and why a child who can’t play with his older brother’s friends says they’re stupid and that he didn’t want to play with them anyway. It’s all the ego’s attempt to defend itself against feelings of inferiority, shame, or rejection.
But when you are making progress toward your own worthwhile ambitions, you too have something to give you a sense of pride and identity. You no longer feel threatened by other people’s success and don’t have to criticize them in order to make yourself feel better.
People want to project their insecurities on others, but I refuse to allow them to put that on me. Just because you don’t think that you could be the best in the world doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have the confidence to believe I can do anything.
— Ronda Rousey
Those who do not possess will always scorn the possessor.
— Jim Rohn
How you feel is entirely up to you.
Imagine you’re in an office sitting in a cramped cubicle doing work you despise for a boss you hate. But you’re excited because tomorrow, you’re leaving on vacation to Cancun.
A week later in Cancun, you’re lying in the sun on the beach dreading the fact that you have to return to the grind the next day.
So how can you feel awesome at work but dreadful in paradise?
The answer is simple: how you feel is a result of your own mind, not of your environment.
This story from Rousey’s book shows that changing things in your life is as simple as making up your mind. You can choose to feel awesome or dreadful. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to be confident.
It’s up to you if you accept criticism or limitations.
It’s up to you to choose how you feel and how you act.
***To learn more about how to be self-confident, resilient, and focused, check out My Fight/Your Fight, by Ronda Rousey.***
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