Being Your Own Worst Enemy

Today’s Topic: Being Your Own Worst Enemy in Sport

Hello everyone!  Our topic today is how to stop being your own worst enemy in sport.  Like all of the topics I talk about, I have direct experience with this, and I think many of you probably do as well.  As humans, we do these things that get in our own way and then we get frustrated and then, without realizing it, we’re undermining our confidence.

We put in all this effort, time, and money into this sport that we love.  We pour our heart, soul, and pocketbook into this sport.  Our time, our family, our relationships – it all revolves around sport, especially when you have a highly talented athlete who’s very passionate about their sport and a family who supports them.

Loss of Confidence

But then, it happens… the confidence.  Where did it go?  What is the problem?  You may be asking, “She’s working really hard.  She gives it all she’s got, why can she not get it together?”  There are a lot of different elements that affect somebody’s confidence and you have to consider what your learning style is and what is your personality is.

Recognizing Different Learning Styles and Personalities

I know we have a lot of coaches in the audience.  You might be coaching to a particular learning style and a particular personality without realizing it.  That might mean that you’re leaving some out and you’re not understanding what’s the mismatch?  Why is this kid not getting it?  Why are they not confident?  It could be a learning style or personality issues.  I’m going to go over that.  I’m also going to give you access to a document that I have that gives you all the different types of athletes so you can go through and figure out which one you are.  Then it also says what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you need from your coach and your parents, and mental toughness training tips for you and your personality.

Six Mental Toughness Boosters

Quick review – this is day two of our live training series.  We did one where we talked about mental toughness and some of the secrets of Olympians.  There were six mental toughness boosters that I gave you guys, six things that you could choose one from.  I asked you to take a look at these six things and decide which one are you going to work on.

  • Motivation
  • Goals,
  • Believing in yourself
  • Focus
  • Staying positive
  • Switching off sport when your practice is over

Now I want to share with you a list – it’s a long list of ways that people get in their own way, ways in which you might be your own worst enemy.  I want you just to do a little mental tally of how many of these things you relate to.

1. Expecting the Worst

I used to joke with my husband that when I met him, his motto for life was, “Everything’s ruined.  I knew this would happen.  Everything’s messed up.”  His negativity fit perfectly with my positivity because I tend to be pretty optimistic.  I tell him, “It’s going to be fine.”  Well, for anybody but myself. When I’m involved, I’m thinking, “Oh gosh, am I going to fail?  What’s going to go wrong?”  But for him, it was really obvious.  He would say, “The worst is gonna happen.  This is not going to go well.  We are going to be late.  We’re not going to get a seat.  We’re going to hit traffic.  We’re never going to find a parking spot.”  He was always expecting the worst.  Give yourself a point if that applies to you, imagining things going wrong.

I know a lot of athletes who, without meaning to, actually see a picture in their mind.  If the people are very visual, they see a picture in their mind of things going horribly wrong.  If you set out to do a scary skill and then you see yourself crashing, that is not really doing anything for your confidence.

I know you’re not doing it on purpose, but give yourself a point if that happens to you.

2. Never Happy with your Performance

Even when it was good or great, there are plenty of people who get on a session and will say,  “I had the worst performance.  It was really horrible.”  I’ll ask, “How did your mom think you did?  How did your coach think you did?”  The response is, “She thought I did great.  My coach is really happy.”  So not feeling happy with your performance, even if it was close to perfect, because it wasn’t perfect.

3. Jealousy or Comparing Yourself to Others

This is for athletes who get wrapped up in what other people are doing.  This leads to you feeling like you’re less than someone else, and you start giving up and feeling like it’s impossible when things get hard.  This happens a lot for people who have a lot of talent in sport, but they’re really used to winning, getting medals, doing well, getting the skills, making the corrections fast, getting praise there.  They’re pretty accustomed to that.

Inevitably, in every sport career, there is a time where it gets hard for everybody.  For Simone biles, for everybody, it gets hard at some point.  For the people who go, “Oh, it’s too hard.  I’ve peaked.  My talent has escaped me. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get through this,” you’re obviously getting in your own way.

4. Having Incredibly High Expectations

High expectations creates insane stress and pressure where you go in and say, “If I don’t do x, y, and Z, then I’m a failure,” or you get really tense before competition because you have so much on the line at all times because you need to be amazing or else.  That’s a way that you could be sabotaging your confidence, believe it or not.  That’s interesting, right?  Because this is good in sport, you want to be excellent.  You want to be aiming for the very best performance possible.  I’m not saying we don’t want to do that, but if you have high expectations to the point of never feeling good enough, getting really stressed out, and feeling a ton of pressure (and you’re a lot more likely to implode under pressure) you might be able to relate to that.

5. Getting So Nervous that you Make Stupid Mistakes

This sort of goes hand in hand with the last one, that you are so nervous that you really want to do well because it’s a big deal, and then you get tense and all of your skills are off and you’re asking yourself, “What happened to me?”  That’s a way that you’re undermining your own confidence.

6. Too Focused on the Outcome

When you are focused so much on the outcome, you end up messing up what you need to do to create that outcome.  For example, your routine starts with a tumbling pass.  You begin thinking about the flip at the end and then somehow, your round off gets weird, and then you’re back handspring is funky, and you have no idea why that flip was so terrible.  It’s because you were out in the future, missing what you needed to do in the moment to make it go well.  So that anybody who was thinking about the score, thinking about the judge, thinking about their time, thinking in any way about the outcome, you are not in the moment and in the moment is where you actually execute really, really good skills.  So getting ahead of yourself is a way to self-sabotage.

7. Getting Discouraged by Setbacks, Mistakes, or Stuck on “where you should be”

This happens anytime something’s not going well – you’re behind your teammates, maybe you get injured, something happens that sets you back and then you’re obsessed with where you should or could or would be instead of just being where you are and moving forward.  It can get really discouraging.

8. Focusing on What’s Not Going Well instead of Progress

This is a human thing.  We are conditioned to focus on what’s not good, what’s not going well, what our weaknesses are, so that we can stay safe.  This was great in ancient times, but this doesn’t do us any good anymore.  By focusing on what’s not going well, all it does is bring the energy down, bring the motivation down, bring the happiness and the joy down.  If you have a tendency to focus on your flaws, at your imperfections, your mistakes, your failures, and really internalize, that it is stealing your energy.

9. Avoiding Hard or Scary Things

We do this subconsciously.  If there’s a skill that you’re having a mental block on, your brain wants to do anything possible to prevent you from trying that. “Ouch, your elbow!  Oh aren’t you thirsty?  Gosh.  We gotta go to the bathroom!”  And then your coach is thinking, “Wow, she is so lazy.  What is going on?  What happened to that hardworking kid?  Why is she doing nothing in this rotation?  What is happening?”  When really your brain’s just wanting you to get out of there, allowing things that are hard or scary to take over

10. Getting Easily Distracted

Now, sometimes this comes with our chemistry.  Some people naturally have this broad focus and they’re aware, hyper-aware of everything.  If that applies to you, the trick is to learn how to narrow that in and get it on the right things at the right time.

11. Getting Overly Concerned with what Other People Think

I call this mind-reading.  If your teammates start giggling and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, they’re laughing at me,” or somebody is in a bad mood and you’re thinking, “Oh, they’re mad at me.”  If the coach makes a funny face, they must hate you.  These are very common thoughts for adolescents and teenagers.  It’s actually part of your reality that your job, your developmental job at that age is to ask yourself, “Who am I?  What’s important to me?  Who do I want to be?  Who do I want to be around?  What do I want people to think of me?  How do I want to show up on this earth?”  That’s basically your job. You’re supposed to be like me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, because you’re trying to decide what “me” even means.

But the downside of that is that you’re so self-centered naturally that you feel like everybody’s thinking about you.  Here’s the secret – they’re all thinking about themselves.  So if you do this, give yourself a little tally mark.

12. Afraid of Failure

You don’t set goals or you keep the bar really low.  Some perfectionists would say that this is something that they do, where they are very conservative in their goals setting because failure is such a horrible idea.

13. Seeking Approval

You may spend some much time being a people pleaser, wanting approval so much, that you go against your own intuition or fear just to make somebody happy.  I would say is one of the main causes for mental blocks.  You feel afraid, and you don’t want to be afraid because you don’t want to get in trouble or you don’t want to make anybody mad.  What you do instead is say, “I’m not afraid, can’t be afraid, don’t have time to be afraid,” and then you try something, putting yourself in danger, which then freaks you out, even if you’re not really in danger.  And it was fine.  It was safe.  Your brain starts to feel so unnerved by your inability to stand up for yourself, it goes, “Wow, this person’s not to be trusted.  They will do anything to please their coach and that anything might not be safe.  So we’re not going to allow those anymore.

I’m going to talk about that in just a minute – how your brain and your body get out of sync.  This is one of the ways that you seek approval, so much that your brain and your body sort of detach from each other.  Your brain just goes, “We’re not going to do anything because I can’t trust you to take care of me.”

14. You Only Feel Good with a Good Score or Compliment

Basically, you have no sense of how well you did until somebody tells you you did a good job.  I can relate to this one.  I’m like, “Did I do okay?  How’d I do?” It’s a tendency that I’ve had since I was a little kid.  I wanted attention, and when people would tell me I’m good enough, that undermined my confidence.  What we want is to have is the ability to go, “I am good enough regardless of what I do and who’s watching.”  That’s actually something I have written on my little board above me.  It’s that I’m good enough regardless of what I do and who’s watching because for me this was a big one.

15. You’re Mean and Critical to Yourself

That’s self-explanatory.

16. Getting Distracted

You’re allowing yourself to lose focus because of what other teammates are either doing or not doing.  You may be feeling like you need to take care of everybody and control them.  You may be saying to yourself, “They should be doing this,” or, “Why are they doing that?  Why aren’t they doing that?”  Basically you are needing to micromanage.  Parents, we do this a lot, right?

17. Not Asking for Help When You Need It

You don’t ask because you want to get through it on your own.  Maybe you don’t want to make any waves so you don’t ask for help or feedback.  Well, then don’t get help or feedback from your coaches and then you get behind and you get mad that nobody’s coaching you.  That one is another huge one that I bring up.  When we talk about getting through mental blocks or fear, there are three critical things and one of them is communication.  If you don’t have that or you’re too afraid to speak up or you don’t want to need help, you will stay stuck.  That’s been my experience.

18. Feeling Frustrated because You Move at a Different Pace

Now, for people who tend to get mental blocks, it’s a weird backward situation.  They’re very talented, they’re high level, they work hard, and they’re passionate.  They have all of the pieces to be really phenomenal at their sport, but their body outpaces their brain.  What I mean by that is that their body is so capable that their brain has to say, “Wait for me!  I don’t know about that.  That sounds scary.  Are you sure?”  Even though their body is like, “Yep, I can do it.  I can do it.”  So that’s where the mismatch between brain and body comes in and athletes wonder why they have to move slower.  They’re thinking, “I should be moving fast.  I should be up there with my teammates.  I should be able to do this.  I’ve competed this.  Why do I have to move slower?”  And then they feel like they’re broken or they’re not as good or they’re less because they’re more of a tortoise, where other people are more like hares.  So yes, even though your body can do it, some people have to accept it the following – “I’m a tortoise, I move a little slower, but I’m just slow and steady.  When I go slow and steady, I get the confidence I need to reach my goals.”

19. Going So Hard You Burnout

You push too much and you get overtired and then end up injured.  This is for those diehards who say, “I will not stop, I will not stop,” and then you end up with the overuse injuries or saying, “It doesn’t hurt that bad,” or you don’t want to say anything at all because you think you’re going to get in trouble.  That can definitely undermine your confidence, even though you’re like, “I’m going, going, going.  I care.  I’m trying.”

You have to listen to your body, whether it’s your brain or it’s a physical ailment of pain, you have to learn to listen.  Otherwise, you are going to be undermining your own competence.

20. Focusing on Things that are Out of Your Control

This is a losing battle.  If you’re thinking, “My coaches hate me.  Oh gosh, what are my scores going to be?  What if the equipment isn’t good?”  All of that is stuff that’s completely out of your control.  Even for those of you who have a time-based sport like swimmers, the clock is out of your control.  You cannot make time go faster or slower, so obsessing about times or scores or outcomes is a waste of energy.

If you find that you’re doing that, focusing on things that you cannot actually control, like other people or outcomes, then you’re wasting your own energy.

These last few are pretty self-explanatory.

21. You Can’t Take Criticism Well

22. You are Stubborn or Inflexible.

23. You Feel like You Know and Someone Else is Wrong

I just flared up on that one cause I like to be right.  I like to be like, “All right, everybody else get out of my way,” but sometimes I’m not right and I need outside feedback, which leads to our last one…

24. You Need to be Right

Even if it means self-sabotage, you’d rather be right than be happy.

Here’s How to Stop Being Your Worst Enemy

Can you relate to anything on that list?  Are you potentially sabotaging yourself a little bit now?  If so, here’s how to stop.  I imagine if you tuned in for something called “how to stop being your own worst enemy”, you probably can relate to that list, but here is the one, two, three punch on how to stop doing this.

1. Be Aware You’re Doing it in the First Place

For anybody who’s thinking, “Um, no.  I’m not doing that,” are you aware?  For anybody who’s thinking, “Yes, I’m doing all of that,” good job.  You’re paying attention.  The first step for any kind of mental toughness improvement is to notice where your weak spots.  Then, once you become aware, you make a commitment to continue to notice it.

Now this, along with a lot of mind shifting, can get uncomfortable.  All of a sudden you’re having to pay attention to yourself, and not in the best way.  You’re starting to think, “Oh my gosh, I’m doing it again,” and you start feeling all agitated because you got some criticism.  Then you see your perfectionism.  “Come on.  Can it just be good enough?”  It can start to feel uncomfortable.

2. You Commit to Noticing it Continually

See if you can notice when you’re doing the things that are undermining you.  Maybe there’s a big one that applies to you in particular.  Take that and commit to making a change.

3. Learn the Right Mental Training Techniques for Your Personal Brand of Self-Sabotage

This is all going to be in that list of 14 types of athletes that lists all of the different types of people, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your support squad can do, and then what your mentors reading tips are for your particular personality.

If you want to download one of those and kind of check it out now, you can click here.  If you have any questions, please feel free to send them to  Thank you for joining me and I will see you again soon.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.