MMA superstar Ronda Rousey has covered a lot of territories that no woman ever has.
She was the first woman to win an Olympic medal in judo. She arrived unapologetically on the martial arts scene and created a name for herself as an unstoppable force with unshakeable esteem – until she suffered a defeat to Holly Holm, to which the media took a repulsive delight.
There’s no denying the public intrigue surrounding Ronda, but there’s a lot we can learn from it once we step away from the media lens and look at the real woman standing in front of us.
Every struggle may soon be your strength.
Ronda is no stranger to hardships. After being born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, Ronda spoke with a neurological speech disorder rendering her unintelligible. The first six years of her life were devoted to painstaking treatment of this, gradually improving her speech – until she had the confidence to smack-talk Floyd Mayweather! With uphill battles dotting her childhood, it’s no wonder that she took her new command of speech and turned it into one of her weapons – proving to us that while you may be facing one of your biggest personal challenges, it will only add to your arsenal of strengths when you rise above.
Keep happiness as your goal.
It’s easy to make happiness a condition of something else. ‘I’ll be happy if I get that promotion/ lose some weight/ buy that coat’ – but the truth is, happiness is not conditional. You could be happy right now if you wanted to – go ahead, try it. Think of something fun; I dare you! Ronda battled to get to the Olympics, only to lose to Claudia Heill in 2004. She was left furious, furious at herself and furious at the world, because she had decided her happiness was conditional. It took some time for Ronda to remember that a medal or placement doesn’t always mean happiness – in a devastating turn of events, Claudia committed suicide in 2011. Ronda had earned her own Olympic medal by this time, and saw achievements and happiness aren’t always inextricable.
Ignore the haters but stay real.
Ronda has had a public wringing from online critics and joyous trolls, as they circle like vultures waiting for her to falter. Many of us have probably experienced that feeling of people waiting for you to trip, and you shouldn’t let other people’s opinions define what you think possible of yourself. Of course, however, there is the flipside. A defiant confidence can quickly turn into an over-inflated ego, as you stop holding yourself accountable to normal decency and start leaning towards a quasi-narcissism. Ronda suffered a crippling loss to Nunes when she left judo for boxing. After training for a mere thirteen months at specialised boxing classes, she entered the boxing match for women and was immediately dealt a major setback. If you have people telling you that you can’t do things, but you believe you can and should – go for it. But sometimes it pays to keep one foot on the ground and know your own limitations (then work on tearing them down!).
It’s okay to be hurt.
There is nothing more delicious to some keyboard warriors than a woman who doesn’t succeed, and Ronda felt that after her defeat when the trolls came out in full force to denounce her while she publicly processed the mental and physical anguish. Finally, the sassy MMA fighter had been taken down a peg, and it seems like everyone wanted to have their say. If you’ve suffered a loss – a break up, a redundancy, a health problem – there are a lot of pressures to ‘keep up appearances’, especially when everything is immediately documented online in social media. But by denying our emotions we’re denying our ability to process them, and numbing the experiences that life is handing us. It’s okay to admit that you aren’t the best at something, even if the whole world is gleeful at it you can still stand tall in defeat and be gracious in your shortcomings.
Ronda Rousey is among thousands of female MMA fighters who are redefining the sport.