Athlete Journal: Valerie Worthington, Entry 13 - Back To Love

Valerie Worthington

Contributor - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Educational Psychology

Princeton, New Jersey, United States

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Sport Psychology


Welcome to the Athlete Journal of world-class grappler Valerie Worthington. Follow Valerie as she trains and competes in various events over the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition season. Val's journal will be posted every Thursday.


You can catch up by reading her previous journal entries!



At the risk of dating myself, I have had a song by the Brand New Heavies in my head all week. The Brand New Heavies is a band from the 1980s. Wikipedia says it derived its name from a James Brown song and describes its musical styling as “funk” and/or “acid jazz,” all of which makes the band sound like something someone much cooler than I would listen to. And yes, I know the limitations of Wikipedia as source material, but this is for background information about a band from the 1980s, not the identity of Deep Throat, so I’m okay with it.


The song is called Back to Love, and it features the lovely voice of the talented N’Dea Davenport. Enjoyable. I won’t provide the lyrics here, partly because not all of them are relevant and partly because doing so would make this article feel too much like a high school yearbook quote. No offense to high schoolers. I just am not one. But you can find the lyrics here.


love, joy, love of training, passion, brazilian jiu jitsu, bjj, martial artsAnyway, the reason the song is in my head is because I’ve been thinking about how and where along my recent tournament preparation path I managed to suck all the joy out of training, something that has brought me such joy for so long. They say we are our own worst critics, whether we are beating up our bodies (actually, I guess I say that, too) or making with the negative self-talk.



Lately, I’m doing the latter, and I’m doing it and doing it and doing it well (Sorry, LL). In recent years, I have worked hard to live in the moment, love myself unconditionally, and find the joy in any situation. And there are times when I’m damn good at it. I have strengthened that muscle so it’s usually pretty much as strong as - and sometimes able to overpower - the self-doubt/overthink/love-myself-only-if muscle.


And I have successfully used BJJ to help me get stronger in the good ways. Over the years my love of BJJ has both helped me recognize that other parts of my life were not making me as happy as it was making me AND given me the courage to change those parts of my life. BJJ has repeatedly helped me to be brave, which has meant keeping my own counsel even when it has seemed crazy or ill-advised, to help me trust that I know what’s best for me, and that I am worth the effort as I am, not as I want to be someday.


But in recent weeks, I have lost my way, stumbling down the slippery slope of self-judgment, and I have become wedged in a crevasse. (Yes, a crevasse!) I have reintroduced “I should” into my vocabulary. I am worrying about what “my everybody,” as Martha Beck would put it (as in, “What will everybody think?”), has to say about what I am doing and how well I am doing it. (Which is actually a really conceited thing to do. Why would anybody’s “everybody” spend all their time thinking about what anybody is doing when they all have lives to lead?) And I am validating the twisted logic of “I need to beat myself up first and best before anyone else has a chance to do it, so they know I know I’m not measuring up.”


It blows. And equally importantly, it isn’t working, if my goal is to feel good about myself and continue to self-actualize (which it is, notwithstanding my current joy-sucking activities). In fact, it sets me back, making it impossible for me to learn and grow.


Maybe I sound fairly articulate about all of this in writing, but it has taken me the better part of the week since the tournament to slog through the “blerf” I’ve been feeling and realize I’m back on this annoyingly familiar jag. The fact that I feel I fell short in competition is just the icing on the urinal cake. It’s amazing how easily the dark place can become the norm. I’m just glad that even though I still have to go there periodically, I don’t seem to go as often and I don’t seem to have to stay as long. Even though at the moment I seem to have set up a shantytown right in the middle.


So, as the song says, it’s time to get back to love.


Of jiu jitsu, absolutely. But more importantly, of myself.

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