If you're anything like me then you're a gymnast who is way too hard on herself.
Gymnastics or not, you have big expectations and goals for yourself and you have an idea of the path you're going on to get there.
But when things don't go as planned you tend to beat yourself up.
- "Why didn't I...."
- "Why can't I...."
- "What's wrong with me..."
These are all thoughts you might have towards yourself.
And while having these type of thoughts might be a habit you're used to doing, it's one that will have negative long-term effects on your mental well-being if you don't put an end to it.
Let me get one thing straight before continuing on, though.
Having big expectations and goals is NOT a bad thing. Being laser-focused on your goals and able to carry the weight of these large goals is a big feat in itself and is a very admirable trait.
But when you are so focused on getting to your goals in a certain time frame or in a certain way and it doesn't pan out the way you imagined, it can be detrimental to your self-worth. And that's when your inclination to beat yourself up needs to change.
So while I don't want you to change the character traits that you have, I've put together 3 tips for how to get through those times when you're too hard on yourself so that you can buffer against that negative self-talk that gets in your way.
Whether you realize it or not, that negative self-talk is actually preventing you from getting to your goals.
Tip #1 - Let yourself off the hook if you don't meet your expectations
There are many times when you go for a goal and you don't reach it.
You might have really high expectations for yourself but you might not always reach those expectations.
Maybe you fall short of a goal.
You might lose motivation and not reach a goal you wanted in the time frame you wanted it in.
Perhaps you can do a skill one day and the next day you go to do that same skill and you can't do it again.
You might struggle with a mental block out of the blue.
Or the lack of consistent practices (due to covid or injury) might prevent you from hitting skills you might normally be able to do.
It can be frustrating and your first tendency might be to hold yourself accountable for these mistakes.
While in normal circumstances it's good to have accountability, in some cases it's actually okay and preferable to let yourself off the hook.
Those situations are:
-when you've tried your hardest and put in the effort and you still didn't meet your goal
-when circumstances outside of your control have affected your results
On the other hand, if you've set a big goal and you only halfway tried to achieve it and you failed at reaching it, then it's okay to feel disappointed and upset with yourself. However, the next best step is not to beat yourself up but to learn from your mistake so that you can do better next time.
One of the biggest things you can do is take away valuable information from your failure and understand what you can do in the future to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Tip #2 - Remember that your journey NEVER goes the way you have it mapped out
The path to success is not a straight shoot upwards. It's filled with ups and downs along the way. It's filled with unexpected surprises, good or bad, that throw us all for a loop.
Um, covid. Need I say more?
When things don't go as you've planned, it's easy to get frustrated and to want to throw in the towel and quit.
It's easy to feel like you'll never get to where you want to go because things feel like they're veering off this imaginary course that you've paved out for yourself.
But the biggest thing you CAN do is remember that bumps along the way are part of the journey. And that sometimes the journey to your destination will take you on unexpected routes.
Keep in mind that things will not always go as you planned and that it's important to repeat the words "it's ok" to yourself when you feel yourself getting frustrated.
Now to be clear I'm not saying that it's okay that you didn't reach your expectations.
NO! Of course you want to reach your goals and I'm not telling you to give up on them and just accept that you didn't reach them.
Instead, I'm encouraging you to understand that things don't always go the way you planned and that THAT'S OK.
Things happen that change the course you're on.
You switch gyms.
Your coach leaves.
Your gym gets shut down for weeks at a time or closes for good.
You get injured.
You get blocked on a skill.
You have a bad meet.
You don't learn a skill you need to move up to the next level.
These are ALL things that are going to happen in some shape or form on your gymnastics journey.
Rest assured that you'll get to where you want to go. It just might be on a different path than you planned or on a different timeline than you thought.
The path to success is never a straight line. It's a windy path with ups and downs and loops that take you in many different directions. Those ups and downs are guaranteed on your path to the top.
Tip #3 - Talk to yourself as if you're your own best friend
If your best friend, Lexi, is having a rough day at the gym and is in tears and frustrated, what do you say to her?
Do you go up to her and say "What's wrong with you? You did that skill last week. Why can't you do it today?"
Um, I hope you don't!
Instead you'd use encouraging words. You'd find ways to cheer her up and let her know that despite her struggle she is still the most awesome person you know and that she's going to get this another day.
You'd love on her and find ways to make her feel better because the last thing you want is to see her be hard on herself.
So WHY then is it ok for us to speak meanly to ourselves?
Why is it ok to say to ourselves "What's wrong with you?"
Why do we think it's alright to be disparaging and condescending to our own brains when we're struggling?
Somewhere down the line this has become common practice for many gymnasts. And I'm telling you now, that it's time for this to stop!
It is NOT okay to talk this way to yourself.
Unfortunately, for many gymnasts this has become a habit that is so engrained in your mind that it's not that easy to change.
Yet, it's imperative that you work towards more positive self-talk when things aren't going as planned.
The first step in changing this self-talk pattern is to recognize when you say negative words to yourself. One way to be aware of these thoughts is to keep a thought log for one week of practice. After practice you can write down the negative things you said to yourself.
Then, the next step is to stop these thoughts. I talk about this in more detail in my other blog " ."
From there you can work to shift these thoughts to something more neutral or positive.
The biggest point I want you to take away from this idea is that when you catch yourself saying these mean words to yourself, ask yourself "Would I say this to my gym bestie?" If the answer is no, then it's not the right thing to say to yourself either.
While having high expectations and holding yourself accountable to those goals is an admirable quality in gymnastics, it's also one that can hurt you if you don't learn how to work with these traits.
If you can realize that not everything goes as planned and that it's okay to let yourself off the hook when things you cannot control affect your results, you'll stand a better chance at reaching your goals in the long term.
Remember, the path to success is never straight; it's always filled with twists and turns that bring you off course and onto a new path. Embrace that and go along for the ride! Finally, pay attention to the words you say to yourself and make sure you that you are not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to your gym friend.
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