Black Dress and a Black Belt

This weekend marked a big personal milestone and achievement of a goal I started working on two years ago. On Friday, I tested for my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do...and I passed! As much as I would like to wear that around town in pride of my achievement, I wouldn't actually do that, so I just opted for this little black dress instead as a subtle, personal reminder of my achievement.

Jacket: Nordstrom - sizes M, XL remain (More sizes in similar options here for $53 and here for $40) | Dress: Express | Sandals: Target | Bag: c/o Amazon | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Ring: c/o Kendra Scott | Nails: Sinful Colors "Easy Going"

My dress is an easy, flattering piece that runs true to size. You can see the last time I wore it with a cardigan and lace-up booties in this post. I should also note that it's lower cut than it looks in my top-down photos. I do pull it up higher than it naturally sits for those since the camera is pointing straight down (which I guess is how tall people see me...yikes). The front view below gives a better representation of where it sits.

These sandals ran true-to-size for me and do have a bit of cushion in the sole. They looked completely unpadded in the stock photo so I was pleasantly surprised by that. For comparison they aren't quite as comfy as a Sam Edelman Gigi sandal, but they are less than half the price of those and still met my comfort needs. Plus the studded detail is such a fun touch on a nude sandal!

Amazon is my go-to for designer-look-for-less handbags and shoes, and they didn't fail me on this one! I wanted a small/medium neutral satchel and this is absolutely perfect. The size, shape, and internal structure (I prefer just one big internal compartment with a slot for my phone) are exactly what I hoped. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap which I didn't use this particular time.

Front View:
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Monday Motivation: Lessons of the Black Belt
Every Monday, I share a little about my attempts to stay motivated and on track with goals I've set for myself (especially my New Year Goals found here). As I mentioned in the intro, I just completed one of the big goals I've been working on for the last two years by earning my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. The test itself was two grueling hours of being judged on skills such as basic through advanced kicking drills, nine Tae Kwon Do Forms, two sparring rounds, breaking boards with a variety of kicks and punches, and ending with an intense physical conditioning challenge of 100 push-ups. It was the most physically exhausting thing I can ever recall doing aside from childbirth, and very mentally and emotionally draining with all the memorization required plus the stress of being judged on my performance!

It is really hard for me to even believe I achieved this goal because I started it on kind of a whim and a dare, and I hit a lot of road blocks along the way (more about that here) that constantly made me want to quit. But I just kept pushing myself to go whether I wanted to or not, largely because I didn't want my kids to see me as a quitter, and finally I made it.

The thing that has surprised me the most about this journey is what I learned along the way.
Sure I learned some cool kicks, tricks, and techniques and gained a lot of confidence in my ability to defend myself against an attacker (I was at zero confidence before so any improvement is good), but the number one thing I learned from this whole experience was empathy for my own kids. (Well, kids in general, but this most directly affects my relationship with my own children.)

As parents, we are constantly making our kids do new and uncomfortable things, and they don't get a lot of say in the matter. They have to go to a new school because we moved or because they graduated pre-school/elementary school and it's time to move on to the next level. We sign them up for various sports and activities, and even if it's something they said they wanted to do, it's scary and intimidating and frustrating when they aren't as good as another child or the coach seems harder on them than someone else, etc.

As adults, I think it's easy to feel like we paid our dues as kids when we had to go through those things ourselves. So now our kids have their turn...that's just life! But by starting in a brand new, way outside my comfort zone sport, I got to experience all of those feelings again firsthand. Not only that, my kids got to watch me experience those things and deal with being corrected in class and personal frustration at not being as good as the other adult students (all of the other adults in my studio were already Black Belts, mostly second or third degree so I was way behind). So not only did it make me so much more empathetic to their current life experiences, but they know I have experienced those same things. I don't have to tell them about a time 30 years ago when something similar happened to me (which is ancient history from their perspective...we didn't even have the Internet so how could my childhood possibly be similar to theirs?), I can remind them of a time a few months ago where something happened and they were there!

So in addition the empathy gained on my end, this whole experience also earned me a lot of parental credibility when it comes time to motivate my own kids to do things outside their comfort zone. They know I walk the walk and I don't just talk the talk. That's not to say I think every parent needs to follow this exact path of signing up their kids up for martial arts and then following suit themselves a few years later...I'm sure there are other ways to accomplish the same goals! But it's an experience that made me a better person and a better parent and goal that I'm really proud I didn't give up on despite everything it took to get here!

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  1. First you look gorgeous in that lbd and congrats on getting your black belt. You know what you said at the end is so true, and I feel like as kids we do more things out of our comforts because you don't have a choice I guess. When you're an adult there's no one that can force you to do anything so you can easily talk yourself out of things. I know lately I've been doing that and I need to do better. Like I've seen a new dance class by where I live but I convinced myself I don't need to spend anymore money :/


  2. Wow! Congratulations! You have worked so hard and that is just so amazing. I saw those board-breaking skills on your Instastories. It's just so impressive. You've really given me something to think about, especially since I just started my son in Tae Kwon Do. Time-wise, I'm not sure I can start, at least right now. But although starting Tae Kwon Do was 90% his idea and decision, I watch him struggling as the newest white belt. Watching his classes has given me a better understanding of the hard work and dedication that goes into the discipline. So wow and good for you!

  3. Congrats on your black belt! You bring up a great point - as adults we never really push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Doing something like this can really motivate our kids!

    Doused In Pink

  4. Such a thoughtful post and really well written :) I never even thought about how doing this would impact your kids too but it's so true! Kids see everything! And when they see you, their mom, doing something outside your comfort zone and then accomplishing a goal in spite of that lack of comfort, they know that they can do anything they set their minds to. What a great example you're showing them Gina. They are lucky to have you!

  5. I'm so so so so proud of you! Is an understatement! It was a hard achievement just for me to get a yellow belt and I had zero motivation or drive to move past that, so I cannot even imagine the journey making it all the way to black! You are so inspiring to me in so many ways! I agree with Noelle that this was such a thoughtful and well written post. I'm sure your family is proud of you as well!
    Caryl | http://morepiecesofme.com

  6. Congrats on your black belt!! That is so exciting and such a big accomplishment. I wasn't expecting increased empathy to be your takeaway, but I think it is such an important reminder to all of us to have more empathy in a lot of our everyday relationships/interactions. I can definitely think of couple of mine that would benefit from a little more empathy on my side. Congrats again!

    Nicole to the Nines

  7. congrats on your black belt! I took TKD several summers ago and worked up to a yellow belt, lol. loved reading your lessons learned!

    cute & little

  8. Congratulations on earning your black belt! What an incredible accomplishment! Those sandals are so cute! I've gotten Target sandals before and have always been pleased at the little bit of cushion they have. It makes such a difference!


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