A Blow to My Ego
It hadn’t even been a week into my first year at college when I convinced my roommate to venture a few miles off-campus and into the city of Ithaca to join a martial arts gym. When we got there, one of the employees showed us around and introduced us to the boxing coach.
He was an unassuming middle-aged man, about 5’9” with a shaved head. He was just cleaning up the boxing area when we approached him and, upon learning that we were interested in taking his classes, grinned and warmly shook our hands.
After I confidently told him that I had boxed before, he invited me to step into the ring. He grabbed some boxing mitts and, stepping into the boxing ring, said: “let’s see what you’ve got.”
I was excited to show him what I knew. to find my gloves. My adrenaline was starting to surge as I dropped my backpack onto the floor and pulled out my blue boxing gloves. I slipped them over my hands and tightly fastened the Velcro strap around my wrists.
I stepped up onto the boxing ring, which was covered in a blue canvas. The ropes around the ring were red and blue. I paused for a second before stepping through the ropes into the ring to savor the moment. I had never actually been in a boxing ring before.
I stepped into the ring. The boxing coach was already standing in the middle of the ring, ready to test me. “Let’s see your stance.” I walked closer to him and got into my boxing stance with my right foot forwards, left foot back, and my gloves up to my jaw to protect my face.
“Hmm, a southpaw?”
“Yup!” I responded confidently. In boxing, a lefty is called a southpaw. Lefties are a challenge in most sports because their stance is reversed, so they have to be coached slightly differently. It makes me feel very special.
“Ok, let’s see your jab then.” The coach held up his right boxing mitt to catch my jab. I fired my right hand across my body to his right hand as quickly as I could. When my glove hit the mitt it made a sharp clap! I felt good about the punch and awaited praise from the coach.
Instead, he furrowed his brow and stared at my jab hand. “Do that again,” he ordered.
He held up his right mitt again and I put as much force as I could behind my right hand, throwing out what I thought was a lightning fast punch. Instead of hearing the sharp clap, I saw his left boxing mitt flying towards my face, right before it hit me. This time, the loud clap was from his boxing mitt hitting my face. It hit me so hard that I stumbled to the side.
I blinked a few times to clear my vision and put my glove up to my nose to see if it was bleeding. My right ear was ringing and my vision was slightly blurry. I looked at him, confused. “Always keep your hand up, you never know when someone will throw a punch.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever been slapped across the face, but it sucks. Not only is it painful, it’s degrading. The stinging sensation on my face wasn’t the worst part – it quickly dissipated. The real problem was the blow to my ego, which I will never forget. I honestly thought that I could box when I stepped into the ring with my coach. My confidence lasted until he hit me with the boxing mitt with such ease that I quickly realized that I didn’t know the first thing about boxing.
Instead of making me quit right then and there, that slap to the face woke me up. It snapped me out of a trance that my ego had kept me in for almost a year. I had been telling me that I could box, that I knew what I was doing. I told myself that same thing so often that by the time I stepped into that boxing ring in Ithaca, New York, I believed it. It wasn’t until my ego was destroyed that I was ready to learn how to box.
Now, I’m not saying that having an ego is a bad thing. Everyone has an ego. When I publish an article or blog post, almost always autobiographical, I need to have a certain amount of self-confidence to put my work out there. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with being proud of the things that you accomplish in life. Having an ego is not only necessary but helpful.
The problem with my ego comes when I stop learning. For instance, I might have disregarded my boxing coach’s advice had he not proven to me that I needed a lot of work on my technique. I might have started to believe that I was an amazing writer if I didn’t have any editors to point out that I still make many mistakes. There are many ways that we can get a little slap in the face in life, and if we take it as a wake-up call rather than an insult or injury, then we can truly start to grow.