Going from a four-stripe White Belt to Blue was a long and grueling time period. Physically it became easier, but still taxing, but mentally, it became much harder.
This was especially so given the long period of time between my fourth strip and Blue, much longer than any period between stripes so far. All of the stripes on my White Belt came almost exactly three months apart, but going from the fourth stripe to Blue was almost 10 months.
During that time I went back and forth between feeling ready and past-due for the Blue Belt to feeling like I was nowhere close. These thoughts and contradictions consumed much of my thinking around the process, on one hand ready for the next level and on the other, feeling inadequate.
If you read the posts on the numerous BJJ Facebook groups about the topic, you find that is the norm. It seems no one feels ready and imposter syndrome prevails. They say things like trust your coach's decision and don't compare yourself to others but to your earlier self. That all makes sense, but it's mentally taxing regardless.
A large percentage of people quit when they reach Blue Belt. I would bet that it has a lot to do with this mental challenge. I'm sure there are other reasons, but the mental side of it would have to be high up there.
My coach told a story of a former White Belt of his who was competing in a tournament. During the match another coach came up to him and said "that woman's a Blue Belt."
"Yeah, she's pretty good," my coach responded.
"No, I mean she was a student at my gym who I promoted to Blue Belt," the other coach said.
So it seems one way to get around the challenge of being a new Blue Belt is to just start over at a different gym. But I don't feel like I need to do that!
It's been a few weeks since my promotion and I think I have come to terms with everything. I definitely feel like I am way better than when I started and I feel like I have learned a lot.
There are still White Belts who are better than me at some things, but I don't think that's what it's supposed to be about. It's easy to think that a Blue Belt should be able to beat any White Belt, but there are so many variables at play that it would be impossible for a system like that to function.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but suffice it to say that right now, I'm comfortable as a new Blue Belt.
There is a long road ahead to the next belt, but being new at any level is a good time to put those thoughts out of your mind, put your head down, and charge forward.