Lie to Yourself to Build Mental Strength
Recently I’ve gotten into a ton of discussions about mental strength.
I think mental strength, which I define as having confidence in yourself and believing that you can succeed (and have the ability to overcome adversity), is one of those things that can be developed by lying to yourself.
Yep you did just read that…lying to yourself can help you develop mental strength. Ok, maybe it’s not so much lying as telling yourself how wonderful you are even when you don’t totally believe (I call it lying to yourself because it does really feel that way at the beginning).
Its sort of like imagery – like picturing yourself playing well so that you then go out and play well (which has been shown to actually help athletes perform better). BUT instead of picturing yourself doing something well, you are telling yourself all the things you are good at and why you should have confidence in your skills.
I started developing confidence in my tennis skills by lying to myself about how good I was. Every time I walked out on that court I told myself that I was going to play great. I didn’t tell myself I was going to win, but I did tell myself that I was going to play smart, and play well. I constantly told myself that I could beat anyone on any given day.
And guess what? I barely ever lost during our spring seasons. I think I lost under 20 singles matches my entire college career during the spring. One year I lost only two matches the entire season.
And how did I accomplish this? Because I had tricked myself into having confidence in my skills EVEN when I was facing opponents that were ranked higher than me or having an off day.
This may all sound like a load of crap, but it works. Think about how much you focus on the outcome of something…How often do you tell yourself “I don’t want to lose” or “I don’t want to do badly”? How often do you criticize yourself for mistakes that you make?
Now think…how often do you tell yourself “I can do it”? How often do you praise yourself?
You probably don’t say half as many positive things to yourself as negative. I know at points I’m definitely guilty of that.
We sometimes get stuck focusing on the negative, which…guess what…only makes us do worse or feel worse.
You need to start finding the positive in everything and praising yourself for it.
It’s what I’ve started doing with dieting and lifting since apparently I’ve been repeating too many negative things to myself. These negative thoughts have thrown my diet off at points and kept my lifting from progressing. They’ve kept me from believing that I can overcome plateaus or fully reach my goals.
So back to the grind of lying to myself.
If you are looking to getting mentally stronger, it can help to start with generic praise like “I’m pretty” or “I’m strong.” As you get more comfortable with it, try praising yourself for specific things right when you do them. If you hit a new max or stick perfectly to your diet one day, praise yourself for it.
Or if you are stuck on the negatives, try thinking about what others have praised you for. Repeat the positive things they’ve said to you to yourself until you come up with your own.
Like with Candy…this was a great text from her mom when she was going through a rough patch and struggling to see the positive. (In this text Candy’s mom is right…we work to strengthen all our other muscles, but too often forget to strengthen our minds or even recognize our own mental strength!)
good morning baby. I finally had a chance to read that email you sent to me...don't forget the mind can be strongest muscle. Physically you are stronger than any woman I know but it's not just physical strength that's important, it's also having strengthen in the knowledge of who you are and how you want to be treated. It's also being able to see things as they are...not just the way you want them to be. Those were my weaknesses. I was too young and immature to start life the way I did..with no knowledge or experience to be able to make good choices. I hope that you can see that as much as we are alike, we're different in that way. You have a good head on your shoulders and can take pride in yourself and your knowledge..in other words, your mental muscles are in very good shape! lol I love you more than words can say baby. Hope you have a good day.