The Many Faces of Negative Thinking

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When things don’t go as planned in training or in the ring, we can tend to be negative and put ourselves down by thinking things like: I'm a coward. I'm afraid that my coach will be ashamed of me. I always fight badly against this guy. I'm not technical. I looked like sh*t. Dark thoughts then make their way into our mind without asking permission.

Even though they seem petty in the moment, negative thoughts can in the long run harm us by creating a mentality of failure, diminishing our self-confidence and causing stress.

What about you? Do you think like a champion? Do you let negative thoughts get to you and affect your performance? This week, I suggest you start analyzing your thoughts in order to become better prepared and mentally stronger as an athlete.

What is a negative thought?1

To know how to eliminate harmful thoughts, you first need to know how to identify them.

Negative thoughts are irrational thoughts that lead us to believe that we can’t perform, for example when we think something is impossible when in fact it is just difficult.

Here are 6 personalities that our little voice can adopt. Does one of them seem familiar to you?

The Critic

She blames us, compares us to others and exaggerates the impact of our mistakes.

Solution: silence it by focusing on encouraging and constructive thoughts.

The Critic

The Drama Queen

She imagines the worst and exaggerates the consequences of negative events.

Solution: ask yourself what is the worst thing that could really happen if you perform terribly. Generally, even if it’s not pleasant, it’s never the end of the world!

The Drama Queen

The Overgeneralizer

She draws broad conclusions from isolated facts.

Solution: learn to see the big picture and take into account all factors.

The Overgeneralizer

The Old Grump

He blames others – officials, coaches, family, etc. – for your failures.

Solution: learn to accept responsibility. This way, you’ll be empowered to have an impact on the situation, which means you can do better next time.

The Old Grump

The Intolerant

He thinks that you must live by rigid rules and believes that things must be exactly as he decides.

Solution: accept that you can’t control everything and do your best every opportunity you get.

The Intolerant

The Extremist

He sees everything in black and white and doesn’t leave room for errors.

Solution: give yourself the right to make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect!

The Extremist

Your Mission

Your mission from now on is to become aware of everything that comes through your mind. When a thought comes, step back and ask yourself: Is one of these personalities talking? To be certain, argue with this voice. See if it’s the reality or if this statement is tinged with a false belief. Correct each negative thought you "catch" by replacing it with a constructive affirmation that brings your attention back to the positive. When it comes to overcoming the many facets of negative thinking, remember that practice makes perfect.

1This article is inspired by the book Sport Psychology for Coaches, by Damon Burton and Thomas D. Raedeke.

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