Picture “Braveheart’s” William Wallace, astride a horse, blue paint streaking his face, yelling encouragement to his army. Now picture a Japanese Samurai, curved horns on his helmet, plated armor-clad, face enraged, shouting as he runs toward his foes. Finally, picture a Viking woman, sword held high, hair streaming, screaming, eyes wide.
What do they all have in common? Each one is boldly running toward the battle. And each one is a warrior.
What do you think about when you hear warrior? Let that image hang around as we do some exploring.
We’ll begin with a few basic questions. What makes a warrior? What’s the secret to their ferocity, their ability to bring the fight to the enemy and win? What makes them so appealing?
What makes us secretly want to be like them?
Now let’s put a fine point on it: What’s the expression warriors cultivate, where just one look at their face makes their foes shake in their combat boots?
A simple definition of a warrior is as follows:
war·ri·or (wôr′ē-ər, wŏr′-)
1. One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.
2. One who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict.
Unless you serve (or served) in the armed forces, technically, you’re not a warrior. But what’s in their heart, that inner strength blazing through their faces?
Let’s dig a little deeper into the first definition. “One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.” What is a “battle”? Is it a strict battlefield definition? Can we face battles without ever entering a combat zone?
1. Fight or struggle tenaciously to achieve or resist something: “he has been battling against the illness”
If the definition of battle encompasses conflict, I’d say the answer is Yes. We all experience many conflicts. So anyone can develop a face that takes on, and ends, the conflict.
I skipped the noun version of “battle,” since I think we know it’s two (or more) large, organized forces fighting. But check out the verb definition, above. It’s a determination to achieve or resist something. In our training, we develop two levels simultaneously – “You will not win,” and “I will overcome.”
Now even in the armed forces, not all warriors face combat. The warrior identity begins with a mindset and goes from there. As the wife of a former Army National Guard member, I learned warriors are equipped to use various weapons, including their bodies. Everything from rifles and bayonets to missiles and other weaponry, to arms and legs and torso, while grappling on the ground.
From their intense training comes an intensity that shows on their faces. They’re fully trained, continue training, and the confidence from, “I can take care of myself and those in my care” spurs them on.
Warriors are trained to be fearless. What does “fearless” mean? The absence of fear? No one can keep fear from pouring in, but the warrior is trained to set it aside and act separated from fear. Hence, for all intents and purposes – fearless.
We can start right where we are, and learn to channel fear into energy to fight. Fear is overwhelmed by action. What action? The trained-in skills, so integrated with mind and body, emerge automatically and are otherwise selected as the battle evolves, move by move, moment by moment.
The overriding purpose? Victory. Let’s go back to the definition of “warrior” and check out the second definition. There they are, the attitudes of a warrior. Let’s look at those words. A warrior is engaged:
…in an activity, cause, or conflict.
It’s a mindset. It’s the passion to take the fight back and beat the enemy. It’s righteous indignation fueling us to run toward, instead of away from, the conflict. It’s active and aggressive.
And once cultivated within, this intensity can be released through the face.
You can channel it into an expression that puts fear into anyone who comes against you or those in your care with evil intent.
We call it the Warrior Face.
Fascinating. But how do we go from where we are, relatively untrained, to learning how and when to employ a warrior face? In the last blog post, Throw a Look Before a Punch- Your Gaze Can Change Everything, we talked about using our eyes as self-defense tools. So as we ramp up from a side glance, through staring and raising our eyebrows, into a stern expression, leading to widening the eyes – we end up at the Warrior Face.
It’s the look that ends or leads to the ending of the conflict. Or battle, if you will, because each of us is likely to face opposition that simply won’t back down until we force it to. And if we can force it to – without force – so much the better.
But we have an obstacle.
Women Tend to Be “Nice”… But Why?
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when I was growing up, we were taught to look at whoever was talking to us, and answer any question they asked. The whole “stranger danger” thing came out later. If an adult talked to you, you answered. Plain and simple.
Oh, and another thing. We were taught to be nice. To say “please” and “thank you” and to smile benignly. We acquiesced to any grownup in front of us.
This attitude toward basically everyone is so deeply ingrained, it’s still part of our mental fabric, weft and warp all woven into us. Especially girls.
Being “nice” can originate from various sources, including growing up watching how girls and women in our family behave. We act accordingly. It can also come from our natural tendencies. It can stem from beliefs we swallowed during trauma.
Are you a “nice girl”?
Introducing… The Nice Girl
Let’s take a quick look at the Quintessential Nice Girl. See if any of these hallmarks sound familiar:
- She cares more about others’ perception of her than her perception of herself
- She goes along to get along, refusing to disagree with others
- She does what she’s told
- She’s easily manipulated and controlled
- She has no strong opinions of her own
- She’s passive and people-pleasing
- She’s willing to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone
- She’s fake, conforming to others’ wants and attitudes, pretending to be someone else to keep the peace.
Sound like someone you know? A friend? Someone you’re related to? The girl looking back at you in the mirror?
And she’s easily recognizable, with her “Oh sure, whatever you want,” and her placating smile. I should know. I am her by nature and nurture.
I spent almost all my life as a nice girl. As natural as breathing, it kept me squashed down till I thought smiling and saying “Okay” was normal in any situation where someone in authority or more forceful than me was pushing their agenda.
I was so deeply schooled to consider whoever was in front of me as my superior, and this mindset followed me into my fifties. Sadly, I didn’t even begin to see how weak I’d become until I started self-defense training.
I’ve spent the last three-plus years working to undo the damage.
The story I’m about to tell happened about three years ago. I’m not proud of it, but maybe it will help someone. Here goes.
Speedy Gas Debacle
I’m at Speedy Gas, fueling up my tank when a guy fueling over the tank from me catches my eye and starts chatting.
Him: Hey, how are ya?
Me: Good, how ‘bout you?
Him: So far, so good. (Looking over at my car, where my teenage daughter sits in the passenger seat). Hey, is that your daughter?
Him: Wow, she sure is pretty, isn’t she?
Me: (Smiling at him) Yes, she is!
Him: (Creepy smile)
Me: (Something’s not right here but I don’t know what. Just finish fueling up and get out of there.)
What was that all about??
It was about my twisted training. And maybe yours. My old training kicked in: look at them while they’re talking to you. Answer their questions. Be nice. The nice face. Nice. Ugh.
As my daughter’s mother, it’s up to me to protect her and not just stand there and let some strange guy ogle her. Oh, I’m pretty ticked at my clueless self back then! And with good reason! Why didn’t I just give him The Look and compel him to back down?
Because I didn’t know better.
Because I did what I always did.
Because I wasn’t trained otherwise.
We Need To Learn What We Don’t Know
Is it okay to be clueless? Well, yes and no. There’s space and grace for ignorance. For a time. But seriously, we need to unlearn so much of what we don’t even know is there.
“We don’t know what we don’t know.” Yes. So we need to learn what we need to know. Then we’re equipped to protect those in our care.
I mean, if you’re a mom, did you know exactly how to be a mother when that brand-new baby first gazed up at you? Of course not! Was it your responsibility to learn and keep learning, so you could be the best mom you could be? Yes. A thousand times yes.
And that thinking doesn’t just apply to being a parent. Many of us will never be parents, but we all need to grow up. We must take responsibility to learn and grow, so we don’t become yet another statistic. And most of us have people who are counting on us. We simply can’t claim ignorance forever.
We have to step up and learn. Grow. Become.
Train out the harmful.
Train in the helpful.
How About a Do-Over?
Back to Speedy Gas, this time as a warrior-in-training.
Him: Hey, how are ya?
Me: (Strong stance, I’m his equal.) Good, how ‘bout you?
Him: So far so good. (Looking over at my car, where my teenage daughter sits in the passenger seat) Hey, is that your daughter?
Me: (Eyes widen, mouth stern. Look straight at him. Say nothing.)
Him: Wow, she sure is pretty, isn’t she?
Me: (Firm but quiet. Let protective/righteous anger simmer. Look him dead in the eye, aim that anger at him, through the face.) Stop looking at my daughter.
Him: (Raises hands in defeat posture, backs off.) Okay, okay.
Time to Trade In Your “Nice” Face For a Warrior’s
Like it or not, we need to face what our messed-up world is made of, and let the injustice of its various evils sink in as far as they need to. Then we’ll take them seriously enough to not be “nice” when they hit home:
- Human trafficking
- Women being abused
- Children being abused
- Any or all of the above… and more.
It helps to think of a specific incident where someone was cruel to us, or to someone we love. I can instantly ignite that fire if I picture someone coming after my children.
Then we expand it to include home intruders, bullies in private or public, and anyone coming to hurt our bodies.
We draw a line in the sand and don’t let anyone cross it: No one gets to hurt me or anyone around me. It ends here, and it ends with me.
A Secret Weapon
Sometimes we women are afraid of anger. Well, there’s nothing wrong with anger, and anger properly channeled can bring a world of good into a situation where being “nice” can get us mowed over. We feel righteous anger, and let it show on our faces as needed.
Each time we enter class, we train in an aspect of self-defense, strengthening ourselves from the inside-out, so we can build and solidify every tool we’ll need. One new skill at a time, one class at a time.
And as we learn and grow, we can show we mean business and potentially shut down an attacker with our face – our Warrior Face. Because that face shows we can back up our stance and words with a fight they don’t want to have.
We know developing this skill takes time, so we take our time to get there. It’s worth the work because once you’ve trained in a Warrior Face… well, let’s just say it’s one of your most powerful weapons.
No more weak, passive “nice girl.” Become the warrior you and your family need, and let it show through every inch of your face.
Our door is open to you, and you’re welcome here.