As a competitive athlete you always have people watching you. Spectators always have something to say whether that be positive or negative. How do you handle the negative comments or thoughts of others? How do you feel when you are exposed to that kind of negativity?

We are too often torn between what people think of us and how we think of ourselves. It is quite common to have a hard time mentally and emotionally disregarding what negative things other people say or think about us. Some people are able to just forget and move on but most strive to impress and have a hard time letting go. The feeling of wanting to impress someone is not something to be ashamed of . It is a natural human instinct. Humans by nature want people to like them and will do things such as showing off their abilities and talents, proving their academic knowledge or even enhancing what they look like to accomplish that. Despite the many ways to impress others, those are just a few examples. That being said, I want to focus on this natural human process and explain how competitive sport can be affected by it.

With those types of feelings to impress others, it is hard to just forget about how someone else feels about you. We tend to linger on their thoughts and unconsciously forget about our own. The issue here is not the feelings themselves because those are quite normal. It is more how you are going to deal with them. Many people get so overwhelmed with trying to change themselves for the satisfaction of others that they forget what is actually important to themselves.

I have had experience with athletes that hold themselves back physically because they don’t want to advance ahead while leaving their friends in a lower category. It happens quite often in many other sports, especially team sports or ones that involve performing in order to be able to advance into a higher level.

It always comes back to why you do what you do. Why do you do competitive sport? Why did you work so hard to attain the level of physical ability you have so far if you are just going to hold yourself back? You put in so much time and effort into your training and that should not go unnoticed. You are the most important person. Your friends and teammates can come next or in whatever order you feel is correct but never forget to impress yourself first. How can you better yourself in any way if you don’t even know what is good for you because you are always focused on what other people think?

You can’t, it is unrealistic!

You cannot be completely confident in yourself if you did not push yourself to the best of your abilities to accomplish your goals. You have to be proud of who you are first in order to reach your highest potential in sport or any other challenge that life presents to you.

It’s Much Easier Said Than Done…

Something to remember is that you know yourself best. Not your friends and not your teammates. In this case, how can you turn some of those negative thoughts or comments into something positive? Very often someone’s negative thoughts towards you are often based on their perception of you only at that specific time. Their own negative feelings of jealousy or frustration at that specific time could be preventing them from a clear perception of you in that moment. Two people’s perceptions of an identical situation can be completely different and therefore would result in different reactions. For Example:

Example #1

When people think of you as loud and obnoxious, they could have only thought that based on the last situation they encountered with you. For example: If you just won a race and were cheering so loudly because you worked hard to achieve that place, a competitor could have thought of you as loud and obnoxious based on their hurt feelings of losing the race. You were not trying to put anyone down or make anyone feel bad. You were simply excited and proud of yourself for a good reason. It was the perception of the other person that turned this into a negative experience. This example shows how “loud and obnoxious” in one persons mind could mean “confident and cheerful” in someone else’s.

Example #2:

Some people may think that you are annoying because you talk a lot. Someone might say you never keep your mouth shut, but you can easily change this around into something positive and look at yourself as someone who has lots of energy. Perhaps you were excited about an occurrence that day but the other person perceived you as annoying because they did not feel the same way about your story. This example shows that “annoying” in one persons eyes can mean “full of energy” or “excited” in someone else’s.

Both of those examples clearly identify that the same situation can have different perceptions from people and can be seen as both positive and negative.

So now lets talk about your reactions to these situations and how they can relate to competitive sport…

In competitive sport, there are so many times when something seems negative but it is really meant to help you get better. For example, if your coach just told you that something you did was not very well done, you can take that as an insult and get upset about it or you can think of it as the perfect way of learning so that you can do better. In most cases your coaches reason for letting you know that you didn’t do something well is so that you can find out how to do it properly next time. Their intention would be completely positive and constructive so that you can become a stronger and more talented athlete. I don’t know about you but that sounds quite positive to me.

In some situations, someone else’s intentions of their negative comments can be indeed to put you down. Whatever their reason is, there is always a way to look at it from a positive perspective. For example, if your friend at training told you that he or she thought they were better than you, you could chose to react in a negative way or a positive one based on their perception.

Your friend could be feeling jealous of your progress and therefore felt the need to say that to you. Or she really could be better than you and just wanted to tell you to your face. In both situations the comment is unnecessary but we cannot control how people react to their own feelings. Only you can control your own feelings. You can look at the comment as an insult and get torn down emotionally, or you can remember why you play this sport why you have worked so hard to get where you are now and focus on your goals. Whether your friend is better than you or not, you still have put in a significant amount of time to get where you are today and that should count for so much more than their negative comments. You can choose to look at yourself as someone who is motivated and progressing well or you can stay hung up on the fact that your friend was not very nice.

In every situation like this, you want to try and see the positive over of the negative.

I have prepared a little brain game based on an activity that I did a few years ago in a university class. Check out Brain Game #9 – Every Negative Has A Positive. It will give you some experience changing someone’s negative perceptions into positive thoughts that you can use to motivate yourself to better your training.

Never let anyone else’s perceptions of you hold you back from reaching your highest potential.

“You are your own most powerful motivator and critic. Which will you be?”

-Coach Brittany-

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