What advice would I give my younger self?
Man, that's a hard one.
I've been trying to answer that question ever since Baz Luhrmann came out with the song "Everybody's Free" in 1999. I still don't know what I'd tell my younger self in regards to life to prepare myself for the future. Maybe that's as it should be. I probably wouldn't have listened to myself anyway. My life has been a journey of ups and downs, failures and successes, surprises of all kinds. And not knowing has always been half the fun. Overall, I have nothing to complain about.
Today, however, A Girl And A Gun challenged those on her facebook page to reveal what they would tell their younger selves in relation to self defense.
That, I can do!
It's a narrow enough scope that I can pinpoint specific areas where I could have been better prepared to face the evils of life.
The original challenge was "what would you tell your 20 year-old self?" Well, I'd have to go a lot younger than that to really do much difference in the scope of protecting myself or preventing some of the worst tragedies in my life.
How young? That's a tough one, too.
I decided to look at it from the perspective of a mother. I look at my two sons and my daughter and I think, "When should I start teaching them these lessons?"
The answer is now!
So, if I could go back in time and teach my younger self some self defense lessons I'd go back to the times of a little girl who was terrified of flushing toilets, learning how to tie her shoes, how to write the number "4" and stealing her mother's high heels out of the closet to wear around the house and these are the things I would tell her:
- It's okay to say, "No!"
In fact, you need to say no. You need to have boundaries and it's good to have boundaries. People who don't respect your boundaries aren't people you should have in your life.
- Your body is your own. PERIOD!
With EXCEPTIONALLY few exceptions, no one has the right to touch you, hold you or ask you to do something with your body that you don't want to do. You don't owe anyone your body.
- Your parents are wrong.
A lot of society will be wrong, too. They will tell you things like, "You are safe here," "This person is okay," "Stay in public places. The public will protect you," "Good girls don't hit." It's confusing, I know, when people you trust tell you things they believe to be true and they turn out to be wrong. It doesn't mean they don't love you, it means they were human. You'll have to learn to discern the truth for yourself and that's where your own instincts, life experience and feelings will have to come in.
- Listen to your instinct.
When that inner voice says, "Something's not right," listen to it. Don't try to talk yourself out of it. Don't let other people downplay your feelings or talk you out of them. You're having those feelings for a reason. But here's a newsflash for you, sweety, you'll be wrong from time-to-time, too.
- It's okay to be angry.
There are people who waste their lives on anger. They are consumed by it and use it for minor issues where it has no place or they use it disproportionately to the offense. Or they dwell in it, wallowing in it in misplaced comfort and failing to use it as the tool of action it should be. There are also people who never use anger for fear of it. They allow people to misuse them and abuse them and never get angry enough to change their situation.
Don't be either one of those people. Don't misuse or neglect anger. Don't be afraid of it, either.
Anger is a tool of action when you have suffered a legitimate hurt or injustice. Get angry--even if you need to get angry at someone you love. Use that anger to cut through the fear, the societal norms, the lies you've been told about how you or a "good girl" should act. Use it to give you the courage to act, to stand up for yourself, to do something about your situation. If you need to, use that anger to act immediately to save yourself. If it's after the fact, use that anger to give you courage to seek help. Learn to use it appropriately and to the right degree. Then, learn to put that anger away. As useful of a tool as it can be, it will destroy you and your relationships with those you love if you overuse it.
- Learn to hit.
Despite what you've been told, good girls DO hit. They hit hard and in the right way and at the right time. Be a good girl. Learn to hit!
- Get strong.
Seriously! Do it now. Lift weights. Screw running! Your life and the defense thereof will be way easier the younger you do this and the better you maintain it. You'll probably save yourself a lot of aches and pains and open up a lot more opportunities for yourself, too.
- Don't mistake your skill or defensive tool as a talisman.
I know you won't, but here's a reminder anyway. As you get older you will learn the hard lesson that there is no magic talisman against evil. Saving yourself will mean hard work. It will mean exercising your boundaries, your anger, your common sense, instincts, avoidance and learning proficiency with whatever tool or discipline you choose (Hint: choose as many as you can and take time working them all when you can). It will mean working that tool or discipline as regularly as you can which will demand money and time. You will need to keep working those tools and skills and it will become a part of who you are but it won't define you and it shouldn't. Avoiding or defeating evil is a tiny, TINY part of what will make up your life and the joys therein (as it should be), but that doesn't mean you should neglect developing and maintaining your skills in that area.
No one is as devoted or available to defend yourself as you are. You need to be in a condition--physically, mentally, skillfully--to do the fighting for yourself.
- Not everyone is out to get you.
There will be people you trust who will betray you. They will hurt you. They will make you question everything you thought you knew about life, love, trust and who you are. You won't be right about everyone and you will be hurt. Sometimes more than others. Sometimes just emotionally, sometimes physically. But there are other people who do love you. They legitimately want to help, encourage and support you. They won't test your boundaries, instead they will help you build new, stronger ones. They will love you. Rest securely in the love of those people. Seek out those people. Appreciate them, as I know you will. It will be your relationships with those people and the people you meet (and even create with a special someone down the road) that will make it all worth it in the end.