In Mina Samuel’s book ‘Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives’, she talks about how “The competition in sports, as in life, was not with someone else, it was with myself”. These words nicely capture the battle that we can often have with ourselves, which, if left unchecked can limit our potential both in sport and in life.
Two of the biggest hurdles that we need to jump in order to reach our full potential in sport are developing our self-confidence (belief in our ability) and developing our self-esteem (feelings of self-worth). Confidence and self-esteem matter just as much as ability, as if either are low, we potentially avoid challenging or difficult things which then reinforces our lack of belief and self-worth.
Past experiences, unrealistic expectations and negative self-criticism can all lead to low self-esteem, which in turn, limits our full potential. Statements such as, “I’m not good enough….I’m not fast enough….I’m not a proper runner….I’m a failure” are key examples of self-limiting thoughts and beliefs which do nothing but reinforce negative feelings of self-worth.
Imagine if we flipped these statements around to say these things to someone else, changing the “I’m” for “You’re”. We’d never say those things to another runner, but we often accept that it’s okay to say it about ourselves.
So what can we do to develop a healthy self-esteem?
Here are five suggestions:
1 – Recognise that your negative beliefs are having an impact on your potential and invest some time in doing something about it.
2 – Challenge any negative self-talk and re-frame it into more supportive statements e.g. “I’m not good enough” becomes “I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m making great progress to get there”.
3 – Be aware of how you compare yourself to others. Social modelling can be great for boosting confidence in your own ability (e.g. “Wow she ran a marathon; I’d love to run a marathon one day”), but used in a self-critical way it can damage our self-esteem (e.g. “Wow she ran a marathon; I’ll never be able to do that”).
4 – Make your own expectations of yourself realistic. If you’re going out for your first race and are disappointed with your finish time then ask yourself what you were hoping for and why. Was it a realistic goal? Did you fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others? Did something else outside of your control get in the way (e.g. weather, injury)? Rationalise your own expectations.
5 – Use social support mechanisms such as the Run Mummy Run community. The Facebook group is full to the brim with women supporting, advising, encouraging, praising and guiding each other through the challenges and endeavours of running, no matter what distance, time or terrain.
Now, take a short moment to think about the question below, considering where you are now with your running and where you would love to be in the future:
• What would you be capable of achieving if you didn’t limit yourself, and if you didn’t have any self-imposed barriers to success?
(Think big, be brave, be bold, be confident)
Go and write that down somewhere, using the words “If I didn’t limit myself I would….”; put it on the Run Mummy Run Facebook group if you feel like sharing it publicly and see what happens!
Remember that we are only human, we are all a work in progress, so lets be our best coach along the way and be the queen of our own self-esteem.
For further information on some of the strategies mentioned above, you can connect with ithinksport and get 20% off the Confidence Coaching course with voucher code ‘confidence20’.
Ali Mahoney is the owner of ithinksport, a Sport Psychology company based in South Wales. Ali has an MSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Science, an MSc in Applied Sport Psychology and works with sports teams and individuals from grassroots to elite level. She is passionate about sport and about supporting people to achieve their sporting goals.
If you enjoyed this post you may like to read http://www.runmummyrun.co.uk/articles-features/how-can-i-improve-my-running-confidence/ and http://www.runmummyrun.co.uk/articles-features/positive-marathon-mindset/