For some reason, we tend to believe that in order to improve, we need to be criticizing ourselves constantly. In my opinion, however, this does not work at all. It’s not helpful for two reasons. One, because you don’t get any feedback on how to improve or make things better, and two, because at the same time, your confidence is going down the drain.
Want to break the cycle? We do too. Here are a few ways to ditch the negative self-talk and build your self-esteem.
1. Let go of perfection.
Constantly striving for perfection is the biggest demoralizer imaginable. It results in becoming afraid to make mistakes and self-criticizing your every move. Setting the bar this high and not allowing for any mistakes will most certainly tee you up for failure. Instead, let go of the perfect image and start working on improvement!
2. Feel your horse.
When listening to your own inner chatter, you can’t be in the moment, feeling your horse at the same time. As we can only perform one task at a time with 100 percent attention at a given moment; you are either thinking, or, you are feeling. So next time you catch yourself wondering off into the land of defeating thoughts, take a moment to recognize it and go back to feeling your horse underneath you.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
If you want to feel defeated, insecure, or “not good enough”, go ahead and compare yourself to others—it’s a great way to feed the monkey mind. In case, however, you’d rather stay optimistic and confident, recognize when you’re listening to unhelpful critics and refocus on your own journey. Asking negative questions like, “Why can’t I just _____?” will only provoke negative answers. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?” or, “What am I most grateful for?” Answering these questions will fill your heart and mind with gratitude and love—the best antidotes to negative emotions and feelings.
4. Practice acceptance.
When we get very angry with ourselves for not being perfect or making “that mistake” we, in essence, aren’t being accepting of the situation. Practice the habit of acceptance. Or, at the very least, challenge the belief that athletes need to be extremely hard on themselves in order to succeed. By interviewing top riders, I have learned that they are a lot more relaxed about making mistakes than riders who are not at the top.
5. Stop judging.
The other day, a client of mine described how she would tell herself off during her course after making a mistake, saying things like “idiot” or “I’m so stupid.” We talked about how this habit of judging herself was standing in the way of her staying focused in the moment, and how it resulted in her making even more mistakes. Notice how your judgments are standing in the way of your ability to be positive and focused.
6. Be kind.
Would you ever be this critical or negative to your best friend? Would you tell them what you say to yourself? If the answer is no, or “hell no!” then do yourself a favor and change your language and thoughts. You see, the words that repeatedly go through your mind become powerful beliefs. Stop telling yourself that negative story and start creating a more positive and enjoyable one!
-Photo credit: Meghan Bacso.
Written by Annette Paterakis
Annette Paterakis - The Equestrian Mental Coach - specializes in mental coaching for riders of all levels. She is passionate about working with riders and trainers to help them better understand the mind and reach peak performance. Annette is the author of the book "Keep Calm and Enjoy The Ride", available through Amazon.com. For more information give her website a gander: annettepaterakis.com