I have spent the past few days in a psychology conference in Chicago and added some new strategies to my toolbox. One of the great sessions I attended was about self-talk and it had an awesome video that I want to share with you today:
This is a girl with a GoPro on her head going through her first ski jump. She engages in all kinds of self-talk: positive, negative, and instructional. She questions if she can do it, she reframes the challenge as “a longer 20”, and she tells herself that she can do it. The video is great because it shows:
- how much we talk to ourselves without even noticing.
- that it is okay to be scared, as long as you can deal with it.
- how she used self-talk to overcome her fear
- how she is proud afterward, thinking that “60 seems like nothing now.”
You may be thinking, “well, she is scared because it’s her first time. If you are a pro you shouldn’t be scared.” But this is not true. Even elite athletes feel anxious and even fearful when they compete. Mikaela Shiffrin, an Olympic gold medalist, said in an interview: “There are athletes who will say, ‘I have no fear. Like, in order to win downhill, you can’t have fear.’ I call BS. If you have no fear, you’re insane. I have fear, and I’m just trying to overcome it every day.” She explained that when she is at the top, waiting for her turn to go downhill, she feels fear and has to talk to herself to calm down, telling herself “I do this every day.”
So here is what you can take away from it:
- It’s okay to have fear and get anxious before important challenges/competitions. Everyone does. Even athletes with great mental skills. You just have to use your mental skills to perform well despite your anxiety/fear.
- Self-talk can help you overcome your fears and doubts. Two great helpers are instructional self-talk (e.g., bend your knees) and positive self-talk (e.g., I got this!). You just have to find out what works for you and practice to make it come naturally to your head in times of need.
- Supportive people can also help. As you saw in the first video, the man explaining the course and being patient was helpful for the girl to come up with more positive self-talk. If you know what type of support you like, you can communicate it to your teammates, coaches, and family. This will help you be more confident and positive, helping you face the challenge at hand.