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The Mask I Hide my Anxiety Behind

I look around yearning for someone to approach me to ask me to roll, but no one does. I continue to try and will people over to me because I can’t seem to work up the courage to take initiative and ask them to roll myself. If you couldn’t tell, I have a pretty good amount of social anxiety.

Although I feel comfortable on the mat now that I am a little over 2 years into the sport, I still struggle with this aspect of jiu jitsu. Honestly, I absolutely hate having to ask others if they want to roll. When having to do so, every possible response they could give runs through my mind. Maybe they were planning on taking a rest round, maybe they don’t actually want to roll with me because I am a newer blue belt, because I am a girl, etc. but now feel forced to because I asked.

However, I don’t think anyone in the gym knows this. Why would they? I am constantly smiling and laughing, not only before and after practice, but even sometimes during rounds if something funny happens, or I am just having a good time. I am a very bubbly person, so much so, that my old professor gave me the name “risonha,” meaning “smiley” in Portuguese. I have multiple competition photos taken during matches in which I have a giant smile beaming across my face.

Anxiety is such a difficult thing to deal with sometimes, especially since it is human nature to think that everything is ok if it appears ok. I look like a social and outgoing person, but many people don’t know how much effort goes in to walking over to ask them a seemingly simple question. I try to make myself initiate asking at least one person per class to roll. I have come a long way since my initial diagnosis of anxiety, but I still have a long way to go.

As far as silver linings go though, I am thankful for the empathy that it has brought me. I understand when the younger white belt girl is sitting on the side of the mat instead of running up to someone to ask to go a round. Because of this, I now initiate conversation with the younger ones and the newer ones, so they have one less person to be nervous about asking to roll.

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