Negative Self Talk and Performance

In the past few weeks I have seen a blog post floating around that discusses negative self-talk within a specific athletic genre.  Since reading the article (original article here), I have given the topic of negative self-talk a lot of thought.

When I first began running, I avoided running in a group or even with a few other people.  I was afraid I wasn’t a good enough runner.  I was afraid I was going to slow everyone else down, or worse yet, be left all alone in a puff of smoke as all the others ran off into the horizon.

These thoughts gave me a lot of anxiety.  So much, that I continued to avoid group activities.  I went to a hiking meetup last summer, but never joined up with the actual group.  The silly thing about that day was that I was literally feet away from the group for the entire climb up Camelback Mountain, but still told myself that they were in a higher category than myself.  Even sillier, was that each of those people were super nice and welcoming.  I even got messages from the group leader saying he was sorry they missed me afterwards.

I was able to finally break this habit with an amazing group of women called Moms Run This Town (MRTT).  I cannot explain the amount of support and empowerment I have received from this group of women.  As I continue to move forward in my fitness journey, I am learning more about myself through experiences I am having with women I look forward to spending time with.

Since reading the article early mentioned, I have made an effort to stop saying things like, “I don’t want to slow you down” or “I’m not at your pace”, and other negative comments.  I may not be the fastest, but I am the fastest I have ever been…and getting faster and stronger every day.  I may not ever place in a race, but I will always be improving and chasing my own personal records, and who knows? It’s always a possibility!

No one has ever ran with me and told me that I am slowing them down.  Why do I feel the need to pre-warn others that I might not be as fast or as good?  What is it inside me that feels relieved by stating I am less than?  After much consideration, I have come to realize that by setting the bar lower for myself, I tend to impress rather than let down.  It’s not my goal to impress, but I sure as heck don’t want to disappoint those around me.

I am the strongest and fastest me that I have ever been today.  Tomorrow I will be stronger and faster.  I can only get better, and I am going to keep myself accountable through positive self-talk.  No more low-bars.

Thoughts become actions, and my words should reflect the positive actions I plan to take.  If I start a race saying, “This will be awful.  I can’t do it.” I will be right.  It will be awful and I won’t be able to do it.  It has absolutely nothing to do with my physical ability at that point.  My mental strength is what will push me through the times I want to quit, and the times I struggle.  Without it, I will never progress.

My challenge to each athlete out there is to lose the negative self-talk.  Replace the limits you’ve been setting with positive goals.  Don’t let people around you use negative self-talk either…it’s contagious!

Here’s a list of things to avoid saying/thinking:

  • “When I run/walk”– There is no need to say you are run/walking.  You are a runner, and you are running.  Jeff Galloway refers to his method as a running plan. Remember that! Everyone starts somewhere, just keep moving forward!
  • “I will probably slow you down” – Even if you are not as fast as someone else, there is no need to state this before a run or a race.  It will work out.  You may be faster than the other person, and all that negative self-talk will rub off on the other person as well.
  • “I could never run that far”– Almost every new runner thinks that a longer distance is impossible.  When I first started running I thought one mile sounded impossible.  Then, I felt the same about 3 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, etc.  What I have found is that over time and with training any distance I decide is possible.  Any race I prepare for is possible.
  • “Don’t worry about leaving me behind” – Of course there are times when you might be left behind.  During a race, for example, I tend to pace off by myself rather than attempting to stay with another person.  However, a good running buddy will pace with you (and vice versa).  Each run is different, and sometimes it is okay to be by yourself.  I prefer to find my own pace during a race, but love the company during certain runs.  Even if you are running by yourself, it’s okay.  It’s not the scary demon we make it out to be.  And, running by yourself does NOT equate being left behind.

Let’s do it together, and see how far we can go.  What is your go to negative self-talk?  Share it in the comments, and make a commitment to go NO NEGATIVES!

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2 Responses to Negative Self Talk and Performance

  1. Olivia S says:

    I love this post!! I’m guilty of the negative talk and self doubt. Putting the positive energy out there will bring back the positive results. 🙂

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