We regularly carry on an inner dialogue with ourselves, this is called self talk. Your self talk can be negative and self destructive or it can be positive and helpful. The key point is that you choose what you say to yourself.
It’s easy to forget someone else’s criticism of you, but it’s not easy to forget your own criticism of yourself. I ask the athletes I work with to monitor what they say to themselves. If you get negative with your own self talk and cut yourself down, you have to recognize this behavior and make an effort to change. When you say to yourself, “I can’t play this game,” or “you are the worst player,” or “don’t lose another game,” you are killing your own confidence. Negative thoughts lead to low self-confidence and negative outcomes.
You Make the Choice
Most athletes don’t pay attention to what they say to themselves. Many golfers, for example, after hitting a shot into the water hazard, jump all over themselves: “You can’t hit one good shot; you’re the worst golfer.” Can you change your self talk to help you perform better? Yes! No one can be positive for you but yourself. You have to make the choice to keep your self talk positive and helpful.
First, pay attention to what you say to yourself and notice when you begin to get negative and quickly identify your negative self talk. After you finish your game, go back and think about when you were negative with yourself or your game. Write down the negative statements and in what situation they occurred. If you have more negative than positive self talk during a round, this indicates that you need to work on changing your self talk.
The next step is to modify what you say to yourself. Write down the negative self statements from the previous exercise. Next to each self statement, change the negative statement to a positive statement. For example, the negative self statement: “I can’t believe you missed such a short putt, you’re the worst putter in the world,” change that to – “everyone misses a short putt now and then, you have made plenty of putts from that distance.” It takes practice changing your negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Use paper and pencil first.
Be Positive and Confident
The next time your play your sport, you will be more aware of what you say to yourself. You will also be able to change your negative self talk into positive self talk and be your own best friend. Make the choice to keep your self talk positive and confidence enhancing.