There is power in finding your place. There is power in taking up space once you find that place. Stand tall, speak loudly, spread those metaphorical wings. It’s not about doing what’s expected of you, what will make you the most money, what’s written on your degree. It’s about doing what you connect with at the truest part of your core, what you genuinely were meant for. And you’ll know. Once you find that, you’ll know. It’ll click. You’ll realize you have a light inside you that you never even let shine before. You’ll get that feeling of “Oh, that’s what it feels like to be connected with who I am, to feel like I value myself, to believe in what I have to offer.” And I say “I value myself” because no one will see value in you if you don’t see it first. Your purpose, your place, isn’t based on what other people think. It’s an internal process.
I have been going through this internal process for 10 years. I have been trying to figure it out since my early twenties. I knew that was the feeling I was looking for, that click, that passion, that belonging, but I had no idea where I would find it. I dealt with untreated mental illness for years, and even as I was diagnosed and began treatment, I still struggled. Finding my place, finding that feeling began with finding my stability and finding my health.
Now that I know what I’m meant to do, now that I know what I have to offer, I can start working towards it, I can start chasing that feeling. And that’s what I did last week for four days. I had the chance to spend four whirlwind days reconnecting with jiu jitsu and with the community as well as promoting mental health through Submit The Stigma.
Submit The Stigma is an organization that raises awareness for mental health within the jiu jitsu community. This sport is a bit niche, though it is quickly gaining notoriety, and as such our community can feel small. Despite having gyms, academies and practitioners all over the world, most big names and high level competitors know each other or of each other. Most gyms have ties to other gyms and people have often come across each other at least on social media. This creates a great opportunity to come together, to support causes and to effect positive change.
It is so important to use our sphere of influence for good, to use the opportunities available to us through the communities we are a part of to speak up and support important issues. There is a lot of space for this in jiu jitsu because the niche-ness of the sport means we are close, loyal and supportive of our own.
Erin Herle, a close friend and founder of Submit The Stigma, flew into Toronto last Thursday for a short seminar tour. We spent Thursday hanging out and relaxing, getting matching tattoos (of course) and having a quiet night in. Friday, we drove to Ottawa and arrived just in time to hop on the mats at Arcana Martial Arts for Erin to teach and share her favourite techniques. As she does in all her seminars, she took a few minutes to talk about Submit The Stigma and spread our message. This gave me the chance to chat with some of the attendees about the organization and about what I do. We stayed the night in Ottawa and drove to Montreal the next day to host a Submit The Stigma charity seminar at Carlson Gracie Montreal in the afternoon, only to leave at 5:00am the following day to get to Brampton for noon for Erin’s last seminar at Brampton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy.
Every seminar was an opportunity to spread the Submit The Stigma message and share more about what I do, but the Submit The Stigma charity seminar was next level. It was unreal. It was a chance to share my story, to have access to an audience of eager listeners who hopefully gained something from my talk. It was a chance to be wholly me and share what I have to offer to the world. The entire four days was invigorating for me as I got to spend time with someone I love, I got to share my passion for mental health and educate and inform people, and Erin and I did work on the future of Submit The Stigma and plans we have for the charity.
Every time I get to speak in front of an audience, I feel like myself and I know I am doing something valuable that will inevitably help someone. Finding what I’m meant to be doing has been the biggest catalyst for internal change I have ever found. It has helped me build confidence, self-love and self-understanding. I’m so grateful that I get to do this for a living and I can’t believe the amazing people I get to meet and the amazing things I get to do along the way. A huge thank you to Erin, to every academy who hosted us and to everyone who attended last week!
(Check out my YouTube channel for a video of this seminar! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URVQly9wemc)