Brazilian jiu jitsu is not one of these activities with a nice, shallow slope of a learning curve. On the contrary, you're going to get smashed for a good two or three months before you ever feel like you're getting a tiny little toehold of understanding.
On the one hand, that's part of what makes being a jiu jitsu practitioner so special; because it is so challenging and so many people give up, sticking with it is a source of pride in and of itself. On the other hand, repeatedly getting beaten by anyone and everyone makes it hard to actually stick with it. When you're repeatedly getting smashed on the mat, it's less your body and more your mind that takes the real beating. If left unmanaged, this constant bruising of your confidence may set you on a path toward quitting jiu jitsu before you've even had a chance to realize how far you've come, and how much you have to look forward to in your jiu jitsu journey.
So here are some pointers on how you can manage your confidence when you're constantly getting smashed. Read on:
Until you've gathered enough tools in your jiu jitsu toolkit, you're not going to be winning very many matches. Especially if your training partners are better than you are - and you should seek those out - you're going to be out-techniqued a lot. If you focus entirely on the outcome of the match, you'll easily get discouraged about losing time and time again. However, if you focus on the little things you do right - the "small victories" - you'll be able to see your growth, maintain your excitement about learning jiu jitsu and salvage your confidence. Finally passing the guard of a training partner that you don't normally pass, executing a perfect scissor sweep, or having the courage to throw up an arm bar from guard... those are all small victories; the things that you couldn't do before and now you can. That's progress, and you should be proud of that.
Brazilian jiu jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint. If you're trying to become an expert BJJ practitioner as fast as possible, you are going to put a lot of undue stress on yourself to continually improve, and win, win, win. This creates unrealistic expectations, and when you don't meet those, you're going to become more and more frustrated, then maybe even quit altogether. If you remind yourself to think long-term, you'll be better able to take each day at a time and to keep yourself from obsessing about your perceived lack of improvement. With this long-term vision, you'll note that there will be ups and downs, but you're always moving forward, closer and closer to whatever jiu jitsu goals you might have.
Choose Your Training Partners
As a female athlete, and usually the smallest person on the mat, I've spent many a training session - and still do - getting out-muscled. This is fine. No matter who you are, there will always be someone out there just a little bit - or a lot a bit - stronger than you are. That being said, I never shy away from rolling with stronger opponents, because it just forces me to be even more technical. However, there are some individuals on the mat that I just do not train with, because I know their goal is to win at any cost. They have no problem using their superior strength and/or technique to smash me mercilessly and without conscience. This kind of mentality is toxic for your growth, and death for your confidence. While they are under no obligation to just let you win, your training partners should acknowledge that you're just embarking on your own journey and have an interest in helping you learn. You are well within your right to choose those kinds of training partners, and say "no" to the others.
Becoming a "competitor" is not for everyone, but I believe everyone should compete, at least once or twice in their jiu jitsu career. Win or lose, every competition is worth at least two or three months of training, because you come back with a better sense of how far you've come and what you have to improve on. It's hard to see your growth when you're always training with the same mat sharks day in and day out. When you compete, you face someone your own size and experience level, who may have never fought you before and doesn't know anything about your game. So the opportunities for winning - and therefore getting a nice little boost to your ego - are exponentially higher. Even if you don't win, you'll be able to see that, yes, you have actually been retaining some of this jiu jitsu stuff. Which is exciting and only helps to keep you coming back to the mat.
Regardless of whether you've just started jiu jitsu, or you've been training for a decade or more, you'll continually have to manage your ego and your confidence. The beauty about Brazilian jiu jitsu is that no one is ever on top all the time. One day you could be the best in the world, and another day you could be tapping to a lower belt. It's important to keep in mind that it's "OK".
Hopefully, these tips help keep you moving forward on your jiu jitsu journey.
Train on... with confidence. Oss.