How Martial Arts Training Can Improve Your Self-Esteem

1 Posted by - May 25, 2017 - Martial Artist, MMA, Wisdom

Pop star and dedicated martial arts enthusiast (and aspiring MMA fighter) Demi Lovato has been giving some new interviews to promote her new athletics line over the past couple of weeks. She’s doing a decent job of talking up her new collection. But what she’s really great at selling are the benefits of a good martial arts training program.

Lovato, who has been a dedicated MMA student for a couple of years now, recently told US Weekly,  that her time on the mats was “definitely therapeutic.”

In addition to keeping her physically fit, Lovato’s training also helps keep her self-confidence in healthy shape.”I feel the most confident when I’m in the gym. Whenever I’m training – whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu,” the singer, who has faced an eating disorder and self-esteem issues in the past, told the magazine.

kickin @jayglazer’s ass at my oasis @unbreakableperformance #elbowlife

A post shared by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

  While her platform and background might be unique – other than her former tour and training mate, Nick Jonas, there aren’t a lot of famous pop singers who spend all of their free time at the dojo – what Demi Lovato has found in martial arts is probably a familiar story to most of us. Anyone who’s spent any time studying a martial art likely has a story or two to tell about how it helped to make them feel more in control, more powerful, more disciplined, and all-around better about themselves.  Beyond the countless anecdotal accounts of how training can and has made us feel more sure of ourselves, there’s also mounting scientific evidence out there to document this particular psychological benefit. And those benefits extend far beyond the confidence that comes with being able to defend yourself – or even perform well in competition. A 2014 study for the Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences journal found that there was “a significant relationship between confidence and martial arts.” While the social confidence exhibited by people who did and didn’t practice martial arts was relatively similar, martial artists demonstrated higher confidence when it came to physical ability, ethics, and intellectual ability.  “As the whole, exercise increases self concept and the sense of individual’s self-efficacy, and improves individual’s beliefs about himself and his dynamism in society. The findings showed that martial arts are effective in different aspects of self concept and can provide a proper background to advance,” the study’s authors concluded. “Exercise in general has effect on improving mental health and self-confidence. But martial arts can increase readiness and the ability of persons for more self-confidence. Therefore, the martial arts from psychological view are critical and important.”        The study’s authors also recommend further research into the relationship between training and self-esteem.  

you @officialdaniellemartin A post shared by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

In “The effect of martial arts training on self-concept, self-esteem, and self efficacy,” a literature review of other studies on the subject, John Shireman notes that “The practice of martial arts can be used to increase self-confidence and self-efficacy. People who are confident have learned to deal well with stress and/or dangerous situations that they have encountered through the course of their lifetime. Since the nature of martial arts is to deal with stressful situations, the practice of martial arts will increase the coping skills necessary to handle the amount of stress the person encounters By encountering more stressful situations, a person learns to control his or her negative emotions such as fear, doubt, and anger. It is the learned control that a person develops over time that increases self-confidence as the control mechanisms people develop through martial arts training begin to carry over into their everyday lives.”

Shireman then goes on to break down the various ways in which martial arts training can help a person to develop coping mechanisms, building a person’s ability to exhibit self-control, logical analysis skills, objectivity, and empathy, among other things. In turn, these coping mechanisms can help to strengthen a student’s self-esteem. “By promoting appropriate feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in martial arts training, an increase in self-confidence should be found,” he writes.

This is definitely true for Lovato, who has referred to her time in the dojo as both her “outlet” and her “oasis” and credits it with giving her a way to manage everything from her stress level to her impulse control. It’s also something that she hopes to pass on to her fans. “I stay confident in my own life by daily affirmations — looking in the mirror, telling myself I’m beautiful no matter what and just learning to accept my flaws for what they are and knowing that, you know, my curves are beautiful, and I am who I am,” she told US Weekly. “I hope to inspire [young women] by getting in the gym, getting healthy, feeling comfortable in their skin.”

Has martial arts training helped you improve your self-esteem? What do you think of Demi Lovato’s MMA journey? Let us know in the comments!

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