Self-Talk: How It Effects You & Me

There’s this thing that many of us do before, during, and after the workouts, including me. I want to talk candidly about it so that we can all improve, both for ourselves, and for each other, because when it comes right down to it, all involved are effected by it.

It’s called “negative self-talk” and there are many levels of it.

A little bit at a mild dosage is normal, and can even be motivating in a positive way. It’s the right amount to help us better ourselves. We do need to be a little hard on ourselves in order to learn and grow. It’s the gentle criticisms we give ourselves, like, “Wow, I totally let my back round in those deadlifts. That was dumb of me, I should have gone lighter to focus on form. Next time, I’ll do better.”

Sometimes, though, we can be too hard on ourselves, and too often. Here’s an example:

Betty walks in to class, looks at the whiteboard and says, “Well, sh**, I can’t do pull ups, and I definitely cannot do the Rx weight, so what’s the point? Geez, I suck! What’s the point if I’m never going to be able to do any of these workouts as prescribed?!!”

Then, during warm ups, Betty continues, “My body hurts everywhere. I don’t even want to be here. Do I have to do the warm up? I hate burpees, why do we have to do them in the warm up?”

And then the workout starts, and we hear Betty saying, “WTF?! I can’t even string together more than 3 ring rows. I am so weak! This is hard. Why can’t I do a pull up yet?! OMG, this barbell feels so heavy! Why am I so weak?! This sucks. I suck. I should be better by now.”

And then… everyone else in class is done, and they’ve come to cheer Betty on. Betty gets instantly defensive, and during her last set of thrusters she starts shouting, “This is only 65 pounds, I should be better than this! You guys don’t laugh at me, I have to do these thrusters in sets of 2 or 3! Don’t judge me! I am so freaking slow and weak. Ugh! Wow, I am the worst one in class. I should have done the thrusters at 45 pounds, but that’s way too light.”

Okay… Betty, it’s okay!

I will be the first to admit, I was once Betty back in my early days of CrossFit. And even today, on rare occasions, Betty slips out of me. We have all been guilty of “Betty-ing” at one time or another. We are human, and we are allowed a little bit of leeway.

But, if you’re coming in everyday with that talk, I need to share with you some VERY IMPORTANT perspectives:

  1. No one cares. And, I mean, no cares if you scale or Rx a workout. No one cares if you finish first or last. Seriously. No one cares. Get over yourself. We are not judging you based on your potential (or lack thereof) of being a Games athlete. We ARE judging you on how hard you try, how much heart and soul you put into it, and how much effort you put into being a part of our community. We care about your efforts, not your results.

  2. When you negatively self-talk to yourself, it physically effects your performance. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether you realize that or not. You literally are what you say you are and believe to be. When you keep telling yourself you can’t do something, you’ll never get it, and you suck at that, then you will always perform that way. Our minds have an incredible way of protecting our egos, and when it comes right down to it, we don’t like to be wrong about anything, including the negative things we say about ourselves. So, if you tell everyone that you suck at Double Unders, well, now you have to suck at them to prove to everyone how much you suck. It’s simple psychology. BOTTOM LINE, if you want to change your habits and results, you have to start with the way in which to talk to yourself and about yourself. You have to change the story.

  3. Our negative self-talk can inadvertently negatively effect our teammates. Let me preface this by clearly stating that this portion is NOT, I repeat, NOT a guilt trip. None of us would intentionally effect our teammates in a negative way. But, I need you to be aware of the bigger picture here - It’s not just about you. It’s about ALL of us.

    1. When Betty said, “I should have done 45 pounds for the thrusters, but that’s way too light,” she inadvertently told everyone else that went 45 and below that they went too light, too.

    2. When Betty said, “I suck, I can only do 3 rings rows at a time,” she is inadvertently telling all the others who can do 3 rings rows or less, as well as those who can’t do ring rows yet, that they suck even more than she sucks.

    3. When Betty said, “Don’t laugh at me! Don’t judge me!” she is inadvertently implying to her teammates that they are a**holes.

    4. When Betty says she sucks and should be better than she is, she is inadvertently telling everyone else that they suck and should be better, too.

You see, the thing is, this CrossFit thing we do is a highly social lifestyle, and whether we realize it or not, like it or not, accept it or not, we all influence each other everyday. And, most times, we influence each other in very subtle, unintentional ways, like the negative self-talk.

So, while we certainly do NOT need to walk on egg-shells and zip our mouths, we do need to simply consider our word choices and re-train ourselves in how we talk at the gym.

When we learn better ways to talk to ourselves, we will inadvertently help others to talk kindly to themselves. See how awesome that works?! ;-)

Kara PurvesComment