What is Face? with Instructor Ma

Discovering Asia with Instructor Ma

What is Face? How does it affect us as Martial Artists?

You have all heard the term “Saving Face” or “He lost face in front of his friends”. But the concept of face is hard to explain although it is easy to feel.

Face is basically our “Self-Worth”. The confidence we have in our daily lives for many Asians comes from our level of perceived face.

I had an experience several days ago in Taekwondo training that could have left me questioning my worth, and yet it didn’t. This isn’t to say that it didn’t leave me sad, it did; just not for the reasons it once would have. I was sad because a judgement was being made that wasn’t based in fact. Instead, it was based on fear, an unwillingness to be open to other experiences or perspectives. I had set a goal for myself to become an instructor and have started private lessons to prepare for the Instructors Training Course in Korea. Some things in training were physically hard and suddenly fear crept in and made me doubt myself. Because I didn’t do as well as I thought I should have I felt as if I had lost “Face” in front of my Taekwondo teacher. I started thinking “Maybe this is why there aren’t many female licensed instructors. Maybe this is too hard for me.” I think that my teacher can read my mind at times. He said: “You can do this. Keep going!” Then suddenly, after his encouragement, I was able to do it.

Although “Face” is an Asian concept it is found in all cultures. If our confidence in ourselves isn’t strong, the opinions of others can consume us. Instead of believing that you are worthy of all that you want in life you can be fooled into believing that you have to settle for less. We can be left trying to conform to the people that others want and expect us to be. If we’re not careful, we lose sight of ourselves trying to please everyone else but ourselves.

When we know that we’re enough, just as we are we don’t let the opinions of others define us. We don’t let their lack of acceptance give us a reason to question ourselves. We have to remind ourselves that others’ judgement of us is a reflection of who they are and where they are at in their own lives and has nothing to do with us. I’m not saying it’s always easy to remember these things yet it is important to. Even when our gut reaction is to be upset and take it personally, it’s in our own best interest to remember that we have no control over what people think about us. This is something that I have become aware of by following the comments of my teacher.

You are enough. I am enough. We are all enough. Repeat it to yourself. Write it on your bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. Make it your screensaver or image on your phone! It can be so easy to question ourselves and our worthiness, so we need constant reminders that we are perfect just as we are. If there are things in your life you want to work on, do it. Don’t allow others to direct your path. You can become what you want to be and I know that I can become a Taekwondo Instructor and have what it takes to graduate from the course.

Empower yourself to take control of your life and believe that you can do it, regardless of what anyone else says. This latest experience was a great teacher. I realize that I still have major triggers when I or others question my worthiness. Those triggers come from years of doubting that I was good enough. I spent years unsuccessfully trying to prove to my value to others. The cool thing is? I didn’t instinctively look for ways to prove myself. I listened. I processed. I surrendered to the fact that none of the issue at hand had anything to do with me personally. It was/is the idea of who I am and what they think that means.

It’s unfortunate that I will never be able to show them that their perception of me is false. Who knows, maybe there will come a time when a discussion can take place. In the meantime, I will continue to do me, living my best life with the knowledge that I am no less worthy of joy, happiness, respect or dignity, regardless of what anyone thinks. I am enough, and so are you. This is what I learned from my Taekwondo Grand Master and you can learn these lessons from Taekwondo as well as other martial arts. Keep on Kicking and Never Give Up!

About the author: Xiao Ma is a 3rd Degree Black Belt in the Korean self-defense art of Hapkido and a 2nd Dan in Traditional Taekwondo. She is a professional sports and fitness model and full-time Nursing student. She is the language, culture, and leadership development teacher for the World Martial Arts Congress. www.worldmartialartscongress.com

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