It's important to be kind to yourself in gymnastics.
Not only is a gymnastics a hard sport, it's a very critical sport. As a gymnast you are constantly being judged. And your coaches are always correcting you so that you can improve your form and technique.
Unfortunately, if you're like other gymnasts, you also criticize yourself too. If you have perfectionist tendencies or want to achieve greatness in gymnastics, you are likely hard on yourself. You might not be happy unless you do your skills perfectly or compete really well. And as a result, there are many times when you are unkind to yourself.
Self-love is an important skill to learn, then. Gymnasts with more self-love are kind to themselves when they make mistakes. They are more willing to fail because they know they can bounce back from that. And they have compassion for themselves when things don't always go the way they planned. These are all qualities that can help a gymnast become better at gymnastics throughout her journey. Therefore, self-love is something that should be fostered.
If you aren't the kindest to yourself as a gymnast, then it's not too late. You can learn and practice how to be kinder.
Here are some tips to help you in your journey towards more self-compassion and kindness:
1. Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend
If your gym bestie makes a mistake, what would you say to her? Most likely you'd be kind to her and say words to make her feel better such as "I know you can do this" or "You've got this. I believe in you."
Yet when we make our own mistakes we often say things to ourselves such as "Why did I make that mistake?" or "I'm not good enough." We beat ourselves up. And when we do that, we lower our self worth.
It's important to remember that we all make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are a crucial part of the journey to becoming a better gymnast. We have to learn not only how to embrace failure but also how to be kind to ourselves after we fail.
This isn't an easy task for most of us. Especially for those of us gymnasts who are perfectionists and don't like making mistakes. But it is absolutely necessary to treat yourself with kindness, especially after making mistakes. When you can embrace failure and bounce back from it, then you are unstoppable as a gymnast. So remember to be kind and encouraging to yourself after making mistakes, just as if you were your own best friend.
2. Advocate For What You Need
One of the biggest forms of self-love and kindness is speaking up for what you need when you need it. An important skill to learn in gymnastics is how to advocate for yourself. Advocate means to ask for or speak up for yourself.
How many times have you needed a spot but didn't ask for it?
Or how many times did you want to use mats or do an easier version of your skill because you didn't feel safe...but you didn't ask?
How often have you needed a break and wanted to take one, but you were too scared to ask because you knew your coach wouldn't allow it?
Every single time you need something and you don't ask for it, your brain trusts you just a little less. Over time that builds up and can lead to mental blocks or can make your mental blocks last longer than they need to.
Instead, you need to practice asking for what you need when you need it. This can be scary but it is an important skill to learn.
So how do you practice this? You start asking for little things so you learn how to speak up. You raise your hand and ask your coach for a drink of water in the middle of your rotation. Or you ask your coach if you can go to the bathroom. Maybe then you work up the courage to ask your coach for a sting mat or an extra panel mat under beam.
The more you practice asking your coach things and speaking up when you need to, the easier this becomes. So remember to advocate for what you need!
3. Recognize Yourself For Your Achievements
As a gymnast I absolutely know how hard you're working. You go to gym every day and put in the work. You try as hard as you can. You give it your best effort.
But sometimes those things go unnoticed. Sometimes you don't get recognized for your hard work. And that can be frustrating.
The key to being more kind to yourself is showing yourself the recognition you deserve. While this might sound like you're tooting your own horn, that's ok! Sometimes it's important and necessary to be your own cheerleader!
So how do you recognize yourself for your achievements?
You give yourself a pat on the back, literally. Every time you're working hard and you feel like you should be recognized for it, you give yourself a pat on the back. You actually take your hand and put it over your shoulder and pat yourself and say "Good job!"
Yes, this might feel silly at first but it is absolutely necessary. You must learn how to acknowledge yourself for your achievements because it helps to build up your confidence and it gives you the feedback you need to keep going strong.
Also, it's common in gymnastics to have coaches who pick apart the things you need to work on, but rarely compliment the things you've achieved. So the more you can learn how to do this for yourself, the less recognition you'll need or want from others, because you've already given it to yourself.
So practice this as often as possible! And before you know it, you'll feel better about yourself as a gymnast.
4. Love On Your Weaknesses
As gymnasts we all have our weaknesses. You might not be as flexible or strong as you want to be. You might not have the best dance or leaps. One event might be much weaker than all the others.
While these weaknesses might make you upset, remember that they're also what makes you an individual. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and that makes us unique as gymnasts.
However, when you focus on your weaknesses and use them to limit you, you end up feeling worse about your abilities as a gymnast.
Instead you need to look at your weaknesses from a different perspective. You do this by finding the positive in your weakness. You might say phrases such as "I might not be as flexible but that has forced me to focus on becoming a stronger gymnast." Or you can reframe your weakness by saying "Bars might be my weakest event but learning new bar skills has made me become mentally stronger."
If you're having trouble finding a positive in your weakness, think about what good has come out of your weakness. What have you learned from it? How have you had to grow and change because of it? Those are questions you can ask yourself.
At the end of the day it's important to remember that the "perfect" gymnast does not exist. Every gymnast out there has her flaws and weaknesses. It's learning how to work with your weaknesses that counts. Just make sure you're not getting upset at yourself for having them!
5. Find The Positives In Each Practice Or Meet
Your brain is hardwired to look for danger and to seek out your weaknesses so that it can protect you. In other words, it will automatically find the negative in every situation so that it can plan out its next move.
In order to be more kind to yourself, you have to deliberately find the positives in each situation. This takes work because it's easy for your brain to become negative.
And the more negativity you have, the easier it is to go down the black hole of beating yourself up and looking for what's wrong with yourself instead of what's right.
Finding the positive takes work. One way to get in the habit of this is to start a Positivity Jar. After every practice and meet, you write down one positive thing that happened and write it down on a slip of paper. You then put that piece of paper in your Positivity Jar.
The positive thing you write down could be anything from a good performance to working hard at practice to keeping a good attitude that day. It doesn't have to be a big thing that you write down. Celebrate anything that happens, even if it's a small accomplishment!
At the end of each month you'll have a full jar and you can read each of your positive papers at once to get a boost of confidence! Keep the papers in there and add to them or get rid of them after you read them and start over fresh each month.
Again this is training your brain to look for positive things which will help you feel better about yourself and your journey as a gymnast!
Self-love is an important skill to develop because you are the one who will always be there through your gymnastics journey. And you want to help yourself become a better gymnast instead of tearing yourself down. Focus on these tips to develop more kindness towards yourself. This takes time but with consistent practice you'll become your own best friend and cheerleader!
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics