Something weird happened to me at practice that got me thinking about self-talk and the ways we sabotage ourselves.
It was a simple line drill, toward the end of practice. One line’s the jammer, one line’s the blocker, etc. But my first thought was, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.”
Really, brain? You have jammed in front of 5000 people. You did so poorly, but you survived it, at least.
“No, you’re going to biff it and look stupid.”
This is exactly the type of conversation my brain’s been enjoying with itself since… childhood, probably, but definitely for my entire roller derby career.
Other things I like to tell myself: If I jam, I could mess it up for the whole team; If I make a mistake I’ll look like a fraud and everyone will say I had no business writing a book about roller derby; I don’t know if you have the endurance anymore; If this jam goes past one minute there’s no way I’m going to survive; If I get put out in a jam against so-and-so I’m definitely toast. Etc., etc., into infinity.
And endurance? I used to dread going every week. HATED it. “This is going to be terrible, ugh, I hate endurance, this is going to suck.”
This is what we call negative self-talk. And it doesn’t help.
I was really good at being a positive skater on the bench, except when it came to myself. You know what? You’re part of your team, too. You need to pump yourself up as much as you pump up the rest of your teammates.
I’d like to tell my past self that endurance made a stronger skater. Hey, past self! You were even good at it! Remember that time the coach made you start ten feet behind everyone else? Or when someone yelled at you to “use those long legs, gurl!” and you did and you passed everyone? There were so many moments of victory that you buried under memories of a few minutes of discomfort or stress.
Being human means being a work in progress. Don’t be too hard on yourself, for your skating or for your mental processes that influence it.
Additional reading and food for thought:
Scarlene gave us great advice for mental toughness that I need to remember all the time.
This isn’t much wishy-washy feelsy stuff: “If athletes are engaging in negative self-talk, their affective experience may be one of frustration, anger, or extreme anxiety. These emotional states challenge breathing, increase muscle tension, and create a loss of concentration and focus, resulting in lower performance.”
A million times yes: “Focus on the task at hand rather than the outcome.”
Yes, that means at practice or on the way there, if need be: “Self talk should be practiced ahead of time (outside of competition”
What do you do to defeat negative self-talk? Or, better, to promote positive self-talk?