WHAT IS IT?
Self-talk that increases performance takes many different shapes depending who you are. We are all so different on the inside- what motivates us, what pushes us forward, and what stops us completely. There’s no way to prescribe one formula to the female athlete that will tell her the 3 things to tell herself before competition. Your self-talk needs to match up to your story.
Self-talk refers to those thoughts you have about yourself or the direct dialogue you have in your head throughout the day that pumps you up, reminds you that you are capable and loved and ready. This kind of self-talk is the x-factor in self-confidence and helps us to tell ourselves an internal story of empowerment and growth. Maybe those words are positive and loving, maybe they are intense and talk you through words you have heard from mentors in the past. Let’s explore what goes on in your head and get clear with what thoughts are making you great or holding you back.
Your self-talk combines your conscious thoughts with your unconscious beliefs and biases. It’s an effective way for your brain to interpret and process your daily experience. However, human nature is prone to negative self-talk, making sweeping assertions like “I can’t do anything right!” or “I’m a complete failure!” We know this negativity can be unrealistic or even harmful, but we do it anyway. The good news is that you can learn to challenge that negative self-talk, and the first step is becoming more aware of it.
WHY YOU NEED IT
REASON 1: The language you use with yourself has the biggest impact on how you recover
REASON 2: If you can learn more about the voice that really motivates you, you can start to
filter out those parts of your self-talk that conflict with your ideal story. The athlete that
recovers fastest has a better chance of winning and recovery starts in our minds.
REASON 3: Just being aware of self-talk is enough to start building mental defense.
WHAT THE RIGHT SELF-TALK CAN DO
Research shows that people benefit from different types of self talk according to what they believe about in themselves already. For example, if you genuinely don’t think you’re the best at a certain skill, telling yourself that you are over and over again won’t match with what you truly believe to be true and probably won’t be the thing that builds you up to perform better.
This same person might benefit more from telling herself that she’s going to be the hardest worker on the team and own that part of her game.
Being able to focus on a truth of yours instead of either
1. Someone else’s or
2. A defeating story about yourself will be endlessly more helpful to propelling you to be
in the right mindset.
Harness how you speak to yourself and you’ll understand the keys to mental toughness. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about framing a failure into an obstacle that you can overcome.
“The way we navigate our inner world – our everyday thoughts, emotions, and self-stories – is the single most important determinant of our life success. It drives our actions, careers, relationships, happiness, health; everything.” - Susan David
Complete your Week 3 Journal entries.
Consequences of Not Having Good Self Talk
Lack of the right self-talk can put false ideas into your mind that you’re all on your own, that you’re not good enough, that you can’t do anything right...take your pick.
This is one of the most common places people get stuck- thinking there’s no way someone else can understand what they are going through- because the story they have spun in their heads has put them in a corner and there’s no way out when you have told yourself there’s not.
“If you frequently blame yourself when something bad happens; if you automatically anticipate the worst in a situation; if you put polarized pressure on yourself (for example, you either have to be perfect or, if you mess up once, you're a failure; there's no in-between) or if you magnify the negative parts of a situation and dismiss the positive ones, you practice negative self-talk.”
Have you heard that idea of what you think about most comes true? Scary to think that some of your fears might come true if you think about them enough, but our mind is just that powerful.
We need to give the power to the right thoughts so we don’t default to those easy-to-fall-into negative thoughts.
Negative self-talk is when you berate yourself for making mistakes during practice or competition. This kind of thought pattern can cause a crossing of the line from losing confidence in your ability as an athlete to the loss of self-worth or self-love. There is a very fine line when it comes to how this can affect athletes when the game gets a little bigger in your life.
When the game means more, failures can often mean more. This is where the story in our head can go from “I should have gotten that” to “I knew I wouldn’t make the play” to “I can’t do anything right.”
Change the Narrative
WHAT THE NEGATIVE STORY CAN DO TO YOU
Replaying negative words, calling yourself names in your head, or bashing your own character can suck the life out of you by putting you in a mental corner. You take a time out from everything you are trying to achieve or any task at hand, because you are fighting this internal battle instead and you’re standing in your own way.
Constantly hearing that you aren’t good enough or that you’ll never get it right from the most
important voice- your own- can make you scared to try again or to try new things. It can take you, not just out of the game, but out of participating fully in life.
“Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways. Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression, so it's definitely something to fix.”
Why Is Bad Talk So Toxic?
The words you use to talk to yourself or define the “you” inside shape the lens you see situations through and the characteristics you put onto yourself in general. “ [...] the way you view yourself is so powerful that, in a 2013 study, researchers at the Florida State University College of Medicine found that normal-weight teenagers, who even thought they were overweight, were more likely to become obese later in life. Negative thoughts not only affect you mentally, but physically.
Who are these people that have what you want; that get all the breaks, that are chosen for a certain team? They are the same ones that have great relationships and win all the trophies. Above all- they believe they deserve those things.
Now, I’m not saying EVERYTHING can be made to appear in your life just by thinking about it and believing in it. No matter how hard I believe I have blonde hair, I will always be a brunette. BUT, when talking about self-worth, self-love, and your ability to growth and learn and your capacity to be happy in life- there is LOT to be done about the language you choose to have internally.
It’s funny to think when we read it but...some of us going through this training have always thought that the good things in life happened to us by luck or good timing whereas the bad things happen because we didn’t work hard enough or weren’t good enough.
How do we change this process and mold it to fit a story that you believe about yourself (if you DO believe you are worthy) and shift our story and develop good language to fit who we are and who we want to become?
HOW TO DEVELOP SELF-TALK FOR YOUR STORY
ACTION 1: Journal- Document the language you use with yourself. Bring a notebook with you to the field and to school. I bet you don’t even realize half of the things that pop in your head.
ACTION 2: Go through your journal and write down alternative responses or language. Find kindness and empathy for yourself. How do you wish people talked to you? Imagine if you could do that favor for yourself first.
ACTION 3: Practice. The words that no one hears except for you can be very hard to change. Repetition will help you make them more natural.
Only you know how certain words and thoughts make you feel. There are some that we say so often to ourselves that we brush passed the cause of them and use them out of habit. The only way to rediscover your feelings around these words is to reflect and to make a choice: Are you going to let these words and thoughts affect you just because you don’t want to take the time to understand the self-talk you need?
The biggest takeaway from this self-talk section is to note that everyone is going to have a different intention about it. Some want to feel good, some want to tell themselves they are the best, some want to remind themselves that they are loved no matter what. Your job is to find your own way to stay motivated and worthy in your own eyes.