For many, worth is measured by personal success. Whether it is for coming in first place, making a million dollars, or winning an award, some find value in these recognizable, measurable ways. But is that how we really should measure our worth? For the answer, I looked to UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.
Not too long ago, she was the undisputed, undefeated, unconquerable Rowdy Ronda Rousey. No female fighter even came close to her in power and ability and this inspiring woman dominated the octagon. Until she met Holly Holm, that is. Holm, who has a far better stand up game than Rousey, was able to easily pinpoint her weaknesses and come out victorious as the Batamweight Champion of the World. Rousey admitted that following her bout with Holm, she contemplated suicide. Her fall from the top was shocking and the blow she felt in the aftermath must have been unbearable.
The UFC is unlike any other sport. For example, if an athlete comes up short in one track meet, she has the next weekend to compete again and redeem herself. If a baseball team loses one game in a series, it isn’t the “end all be all.” The team plays again and again, receiving a series of chances to be the best. In the UFC, however, every single time a fighter enters the octagon, she is contending for the title. Every time Rousey fought, the belt was not guaranteed to her. She had to continuously prove herself in order to keep the belt. In that one fight against Holm, she lost it all. It didn’t matter how many times that she won the belt before, because Holly Holm beat her, effectively making Holm the Batamweight Champion of the World. Rousey lost her worth in a matter of minutes. She is defined as a UFC fighter, and a winning fighter at that. So if she does not win, she is worthless, right?
Making matters even worse for Rousey, her shot at ultimate redemption was thwarted by Miesha Tate. Following the Rousey-Holm battle, Tate and Holm fought for the belt, and Tate came out victorious. Because of the nature of the sport, a rematch between Holm and Rousey is not nearly as pressing a match as one between Tate and Rousey. The only thing that matters is that belt. Since Tate has it, the logical step to take next is for Rousey to fight Tate. But what about redemption? Is there really a chance for Rousey to find her worth again, even if she beats Tate? While the belt is supposed to be all that matters, from a personal standpoint, it seems impossible for Rousey not to feel cheated. Until she fights Holm again and beats her, her worth and value will remain absent. While this is not actually true from a logical standpoint, because if she fights and beats Tate then she will be the champion, it is difficult to imagine that Rousey would really be satisfied with winning the belt from Tate when she so badly seeks revenge on Holm.
While boxing and UFC are very different sports, this situation mirrors that of the Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson matchup. Tyson was the greatest boxer there was, just pummeling through every opponent who dared to challenge him. No matter how hard Holyfield tried, he was unable to secure a fight with “Iron Mike” while Tyson was in his prime. A short time before a showdown between Tyson and Holyfield was set to occur, Tyson fought Buster Douglas and lost. This defeat named Douglas the Heavyweight Champion of the World, meaning that a fight between Holyfield and Tyson did not make sense anymore. A match between the current best fighter in the world and a strong contender was much more pressing than one with a defeated Tyson.
While Holyfield was a great fighter and went on to win the heavyweight title numerous times in his life, he was never seen as good as Tyson. He eventually did get to fight Tyson, but many argue that Tyson was no longer in his prime and questioned whether Holyfield’s winning over him really meant that the title was merited to Holyfield.
Redemption, honor, worth, value. Do these things really exist outside of you? Can you only find them in sports, academics, a career, the things that you do to achieve greatness, or are they found within you? Everyone wants to say that value is found within, but in a lot of ways, that just simply is not true. It often feels impossible to be valued as anything other than what you define yourself as. When you are successful at something, it is very easy to let it encompass your whole being. You are good at it and therefore want to be defined as whatever it is. Ronda Rousey, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Miesha Tate, and Holly Holm, all have felt or do feel this in the nature of their professions. They let themselves be defined by their sport, because that is what fighting calls for: one winner and a bunch of losers at any given time. If you are the winner, you are at the top…but in just a few minutes, all of your training and hard work can be dashed by a single opponent in a single fight. I can’t imagine how mentally exhausting being a fighter must be. The mental strength required to keep pushing and want to continue must be overwhelming at times. But these incredible fighters keep going.
What I’ve concluded from these different instances through time is that you are in charge of what is valued in your own life. You have the power to be of value. Maybe Rousey does feel cheated and worthless. Maybe fighting Miesha Tate, and even beating Tate, will not satisfy her. Maybe she will not be satisfied until she steps into the octagon with Holm again and finally defeats her. But that is not the way anyone should approach life. While her profession is grueling and she is in a special circumstance because of it, it is unnerving to think that a person can only find value when she succeeds. Success, again, is a factor similar in nature to value. It is whatever you determine it to be. So, you have to work hard every single day at your job, your craft, your profession, whatever it is that you choose to do, and find value in the work that you are putting in. Even if you fail twenty times a day, even if your startup crashes and burns, even if you go bankrupt, even if you sustain an injury and can never compete again, you need to find value outside of whatever it is you choose to dedicate your life to.
You are worth it. It may be very difficult to remember this fact when life throws you those unavoidable curve balls, but you cannot allow these hiccups to derail you. You must pick yourself up, rediscover your own importance, and keep moving forward.
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