The first time that Kathy Jackson, author of the Cornered Cat, looked me in the eye and told me that I, all by myself, was worth defending, I cried. So did almost every other woman in the room who heard that same message delivered to each of them. It was an immensely powerful moment, but it took me years to understand why it was so important.
Many women have an experience that drives them to the self-defense and personal protection world. After a personal brush with violence or close call, they realize a need to learn how to protect themselves. Other women find motivation in the people who depend on them–their children, perhaps. Still others turn to self-defense at the urges of a trusted person in their life: a parent, a sibling or spouse.
They decide to take a class, buy a gun, or carry pepper spray out of fear, the desire to protect a loved one, or because it will make someone in their life more comfortable. Sometimes they enjoy it and learn more than the bare minimum.
None of these reasons were why I became involved in the self-defense world, and it made me feel a little adrift. I immersed myself into learning how to shoot and all of the corresponding skills because I thought it was interesting and fun. No children needed me to be “mama bear,” and I did not have a husband insistent that I learn how to protect myself. I had a general idea that I wanted to be able to take care of my own safety and security, and that was all.
It made me wonder if all of this training and equipment was simply part of a vanity hobby–a way of pretending to be a tough girl like the female action stars and superheroes I love. Some girls dream of being princesses, but I wanted to be an international secret agent. It made me feel like an outsider because I did not have anyone to protect or anyone I was protecting myself for, but I was enjoying myself.
Over time, I have come to realize that no woman needs a reason to learn defense. Any woman is capable of deciding that her life is worth defending—the ultimate form of self-care—and that’s a difficult leap for many women to make.
Theoretically, it makes a whole lot of sense. After all, why else would we be willing to prepare ourselves to do harm to those who would otherwise harm us? Of course it’s about self-preservation. If it’s about self-preservation, of course it’s about valuing ourselves ... right?
But fear of being hurt, fear of a loved one being hurt, and fear of disappointing a loved one aren’t equivalent to valuing ourselves for who we are. All of those drivers are, instead, a response to someone else’s existence and actions and not a reflection of a woman valuing herself and being willing to fight to preserve her own value.
Self-defense isn't just about reacting to fear. It's also about being confident enough to say that bad guys can’t scare me. That’s because self-defense is the ultimate woman’s empowerment movement. It’s the ultimate way of drawing boundaries and saying that no, someone else does not have the right to determine the course of my life.
It’s saying that I have value purely for being me, no matter who I am surrounded by. It’s saying that I can choose who I defend and why, even if it’s just me, without permission from anybody else. It’s saying I can be my own hero, just for me.
And you can too.
Because you are worth defending. Even if you don’t have a specific danger right now that you need to protect yourself against. Even if you don’t have a child to keep safe. Even if you don’t have someone asking you to stay alive for them. You, all by yourself, on your own, are worth defending.
About the Author: Annette Evans is the Beauty Behind the Blast and founder of "On Her Own," a project for women navigating the world solo. When not studying shooting and self-defense, she is a competitive shooter who goes to the gym too much. Annette is also an NRA- and Rangemaster-certified firearms instructor, author of “The Dry Fire Primer,” and a commercial attorney in her spare time. Her cat's name is Tuna.