I love sports, especially tennis. I play competitively as often as I can. Recently I played a doubles match against an opponent that I had played the week prior on a different team. I was already feeling the pressure of the match, knowing I had to be on the court with her again. I had lost the previous match against her in one of the most difficult and physically depleting matches that I have ever played.
You might be wondering why I am sharing this story… As the match went on, my strokes seemed to be leaving me. I was making more mistakes and I could not get my act together. I was angry at myself and getting angrier until my partner and I lost the set, having been up 5-2. I felt horrible. I also knew that the mental place I was residing in at that moment was not going to help me win this match. At that moment, I wanted to go home, but that was not an option, at least not for me. So, I took a moment between sets to go to the restroom. I tried to leave the negative energy there. It certainly wasn’t going to be productive on the court!
When I returned, my partner and I switched sides. I said to myself, “you have just arrived to this match. Look at it as a new beginning. Forget what has happened and start fresh with another set.” I closed my eyes for a second before each point and just took a breath. I reset myself and my mind at every step of the way and began to have a more positive internal dialogue with myself, rather than the negative self-talk I was engaging in before. It made all the difference in my attitude and my performance. We ended up winning the second set 6-0 and then the third set tiebreaker, 10-4 (a 10-point tiebreaker determines the outcome of the 3rd set and the match in this case).
So, why am I sharing this story? When we beat ourselves up over things we have done or not done, we do ourselves a disservice. How can we rise when we are negatively pulling ourselves into the trenches? With each negative thought, negative statement and overwhelmingly disappointing self-talk, we are carrying a heavy weight on our shoulders.
When we realize this and allow ourselves to let go of it, we shift the focus and the feeling. We can rise and show up as ourselves without the heavy weight we create through negative self-talk. This weight does not serve anyone at all – not you, your friends, family, etc. And it did not serve me or my tennis partner either. It takes a lot of awareness and strength to let go of this weight. Here are some tips to stop the negative self-talk and engage in a different, more productive mindset:
• Breathe and remind yourself that the past is already gone, and this is a new moment. • Reframe your self-talk into a neutral or positive focus instead of negative. • Try to find a reset, a break, a moment to pause and regroup in whatever way speaks to you. • Remind yourself where you are and why you are there. Connect with your purpose, joy, and activity. Life goes on. Everything is temporary. Feelings and focus are important. They can make or break you, depending on how you perceive them. We all have choices. Once we realize this, we can do better at supporting ourselves.
Life goes on. Everything is temporary. Feelings and focus are important. They can make or break you, depending on how you perceive them. We all have choices. Once we realize this, we can do better at supporting ourselves.