How to stop negative self-talk
"F*ck!!!, I'm doing this all wrong. What the hell happened, did I get weaker in a week?"
We were doing box pistols at crossfit the other day and I couldn't do them at all. The other 10 people in class did them pretty easily and I was struggling. I ended having to do them assisted and I could still barely get them done.
From there we did Romanian deadlifts, standing single leg deadlifts and finished with a pretty intensive leg-heavy metcon piece.
I came in dead last.
Everyone else was done and sitting around talking while I was still grinding out the final burpies.
I felt totally demoralized & completely bummed out about my performance.
I tried to rationalize it by thinking that most of the people in class were younger than me, had fewer knee/back surgeries than me and were more experienced.
It didn't work.
I still compared myself to them and felt shitty and embarrassed about myself.
Shit, it's embarrassing to even write about this now. I cringe when I remember looking around the gym and seeing everyone doing it easily while I was dying.
In fact, at one point I just closed my eyes while I was lifitng because I couldn't bear to witness how shitty I was doing compared to everyone else.
It was my own personal hell.
And I know what I'm supposed to think in that situation:
"You only compete against yourself so don't worry about anyone else." (easy advice to give, hard to take)
"I'm sure it wasn't as bad as it looks" (It was)
And then a beautiful thing happened.
Eric, one of the coaches/owners of the gym came up to me after class and complimented me on the depth of my squat.
Yes, the 'depth of my squat'.
He said my squat was looking solid.
[Let me back up. When I 1st started crossfit 2 years ago I was insanely inflexible and couldn't squat at all. And after two years of working at it I got better. I can now go below parallel- a big deal for me and am stronger than I've ever been.]
Eric is a great dude and I've learned a ton from him and Blake, the other owner/coach of the gym. They are both mid-20s and very knowledgable about crossfit.
So anyway, Eric tells me how he was watching and how impressed he was at the depth of my squat and how he was stoked about the progress I've made.
I was completely blown away.
I would have been less surprised if he told me he was moving to Africa to start a dance troop with Miley Cyrus.
In a Usain Bolt millisecond I went from feeling all-time shitty to crazy proud.
That happened last Friday and it made my whole weekend.
I no longer looked at myself like someone who had failed at something, I was now the guy who did something right.
Before I get into the lessons I learned, let's talk about Eric.
Eric coached that class and no doubt saw me struggle through 59 minutes of it. He saw me f*ck up the pistols, come in last on the burpies, etc. Yet he was able to find one good thing I was doing and focus on that.
One good thing.
He saw one good thing, anchored to that and decided to forgo the rest. Maybe he did it unconsciously, who knows, but it doesn't really matter.
He completely flipped my self-talk & I went from feeling like a loser to a hero instantly.
It was the most powerful example of leadership and coaching I've seen in a long time.
And it took him less than a minute to do it. It was sincere, direct and inspiring.
I've seen him and Blake do this before with other people in the gym and it's no less astounding.
I once saw Blake complement a woman in front of a class for 5 minutes because she did a pull-up for the 1st time.
It's funny because I've seen CEOs with Ivy league pedigrees not possess the same level of people skills as these two dudes from Sacramento.
What if we all did that?
What if we all looked for one good thing in everyone we dealt with on a regular basis?
I don't know about you but it might change my life completely. I find myself bitching about the dumbest shit sometimes:
On the road:
"Why are you driving so slow lady??!. Blinkers are free, feel free to use yours when you turn!"
In a meeting:
"If this engineer doesn't get to the point pretty soon I'm going to lose my mind"
What if we focused on the one good thing and forgot about everything else. Sure might make life easier and less stressful.
The other key thing this experience taught me was that, like you probably, I'm incredibly hard on myself and completely unforgiving.
Do you ever feel that way?
Like whatever you're doing just isn't enough or as good as your friend/neighbor/co-worker?
Believe me, I know the feeling. Feeling you suck while these thoughts cycle through your head:
"What is wrong with me, why can I do this?"
"He/She is way more successful than me"
"He/She would is better looking/in better shape than me"
I've been there and I still fall into that hellhole occasionally.
I don't have all the answers (and this isn't a rah-rah post anyway) but here's what I learned from this experience:
1. In context, you're probably not doing as bad as you think you are. It's very likely that most people aren't holding you to the same standard that you are.
2. Negative self-talk can be completely immobilizing. I don't necessarily have an answer for this yet but wanted to throw it out there because it seems pretty f*cking dangerous. I am going to write about this in the future because it's important.
3. It only takes one person to notice one good thing about you to change your image of yourself. It can happen to you and you can be that person to someone else.
4. Box pistols and my inability to do them doesn't define me a human being.
5. We are all way more valuable/cool/awesome than we think we are.
6. There are way more awesome people in the world than bad people. There's no empirical proof to this but I'm going to choose to believe it.
At the end of the day, as shitty as this workout was, I'm really glad I got to experience it. It taught me a lot and I am forever grateful to Eric for being a great coach and giving me the ability to give myself a break and not be so hard on myself.
Very cool experience.