We’ve all had it, that niggling voice that discourages us before or during competition. Self-talk is our inner narrator, and when it directs our attention to destructive thoughts or feelings, it can deep-six our performance levels. Thankfully, mindfulness training teaches us an easy way to strip power from this kind of talk, and separate ourselves from its consequences.
Mindfulness teaches us to shift away our attention away from analysis or judgement, and toward observation and acceptance. An analytical mind evaluates and reacts. It examines the past, it anticipates the future. It worries and it avoids. The observing mindset merely notices and accepts. It doesn’t get hooked by negativity or try to change it, it neutralizes it by letting it pass by, like a leaf in a stream.
“I’m not good enough,” is a prototypical example of negative self-talk and, like nearly all negative self-talk, it’s analytical. It’s an assessment of our value and, left to its own devices, it will have a negative impact on our self-regard and our performance.
To neutralize the negative impact of this kind of self-talk, we’re going to shift to an observing mindset and separate ourselves from this thought by adding two simple clauses.
- Add “I’m having the thought that…” to the beginning of the negative self-talk.
- Add “I noticed…” to the beginning of the first clause.
Thus, “I’m not good enough” becomes, “I noticed I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough.”
Voila. Much less powerful, much less overwhelming, and a much more accurate representation of what is really happening in our minds.
It’s essential to remember that no matter how persuasive our negative self-talk might sound, these are just thoughts. They’re not facts of actualities; they’re just things that drift through our heads in moments of pressure or doubt. It’s okay to notice and accept them. They’re normal. We all have thoughts like these. But we needn’t believe them, fight them, or wonder where they came from. We can give them their moment, and let them pass us by, like the leaf in the stream.