Reset Your Mindset
Do you believe the things people tell you about yourself? Do you believe the things you tell you about yourself?
A reader of my Shut Up and Run blog emailed me recently. She had been through a tough time and had gained some weight. Feeling out of sorts and depressed, she decided to go for a run to work out some of the stressful kinks. She ran in the woods of Iowa, feeling on top of the world. Then, she rolled her ankle and fell.
Laying there with no phone and two miles from her car, she felt foolish and defeated. Her mind started playing back what people had told her over the years, “You’re not a runner. You’re not athletic. Why do you even try? You aren’t good enough.” She sat in the midst of all of the negativity for a couple of minutes, crying, wallowing. Then a switch went off.
It started as a whisper, but became louder and louder. “I am good enough,” she told herself. For so long she had been allowing the untruths people had told her about herself into her psyche. By accepting those judgments, she had become defeated. She had stopped standing up for herself. Yet, on this day, in this moment of vulnerability, she was done believing the negativity. She had “reset her mindset.”
This story perfectly illustrates the power we have over our thoughts. It lets us know that we can filter not only what others tell us about ourselves, but also what we tell ourselves about ourselves. I don’t think we’re born with self-doubt, I think we learn it. Over time, we take in negative external messages from parents, peers, teachers, coaches, etc., and decide to believe them. We learn the ways of the world. We start to compare ourselves to others. We decide we don’t stack up. Before we know it, we have decided we’re not good enough.
Self-doubt can crop up about anything and everything. I am not a fast enough runner; I’ll never get my PR (personal record). I am not an effective parent. I am not smart enough to do this job. No one will love me enough to ever marry me. Self-doubt does not have to paralyze you. There are some steps you can take to stop self-doubt in its tracks:
1. Admit it. Realize the self-doubt is there. Most of us have some degree of self-doubt. For some it is the smallest of whispers and doesn’t lead to inaction, depression or low self esteem. Others, however, operate out of self-doubt and can be immobilized by it.
2. Trace it. Try to figure out why it’s there. Does it rear its ugly head when you run with a friend who is faster than you? Do you feel it most when you go to a mom/baby playgroup? How about when you visit your parents? What triggers the strongest feelings of self-doubt? When you are in those situations, be prepared to notice the self-doubt to tackle it head-on (#3).
3. Tackle it. Don’t take self doubt sitting down. Set up strategies to minimize it.
- Question it! Are the doubtful feelings true? Not likely. For example, if your Aunt Edna keeps telling you that you will never run a 5K because you are too out of shape and it will kill you, is this true? Not likely. Maybe she needs a lobotomy. Consider the source. Know that some people want to bring you down because they are jealous or they don’t feel great about themselves.
- Be bold. Challenge the doubt. If you’ve always wanted to run a half marathon, but talked yourself out of it, take the first steps. Find a training program or a coach. Prove yourself wrong. This is the best way to kick self-doubt to the curb.
- Talk back. Self-doubt thoughts creep into our brains on average 1,560 times a day. Well, maybe not exactly, but the number is probably pretty large. Have a strategy in your head for when this happens. When I was in high school my speech teacher always told me that before I got on stage I needed to tell myself, “You are the queen of the world.” It sounds goofy, but it worked. Sometimes building up your own confidence and getting behind yourself is the best thing you can do.
Awareness is the key to controlling your thoughts. Controlling your thoughts is the key to erasing self-doubt. In the words of the late Henry Ford, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”