Today’s Topic: Why Your Mental Blocks Keep Coming Back
I want to talk about something that I hear a lot – the concept that mental blocks just keep coming back. All the time I hear people say things like, “We have tried everything. We have spent so much money and no matter what we do, the mental blocks keep coming back. The fears keep coming back over and over and over and my athlete doesn’t want to quit,” but the parent wants to quit because it’s so stressful. It’s so heartbreaking.
The parent is constantly going to the athlete asking, “Are you sure you want to keep doing this?” They see them in tears and they see them frustrated and the athlete goes, “Yes, I want to keep doing this. I love this.”
I’m going to share with you the three relationships that you have to have sorted out in order to break through for good, and then I’ll also talk about why you haven’t broken through yet.
You’ve Tried EVERYTHING!
I’m guessing that you’ve probably tried a lot of things. Maybe you have broken it down into baby steps. This is one of my favorite ways to navigate fear, but it is not the whole answer. You’ve probably danced around the solution and gotten really close to it, but you’re really only putting bandaids on the problem unless you get to the core issues.
Break it Down
You must break it down and then rebuild. For most people, that’s a major, major part of the answer and it’s extremely important that you don’t force it. Instead of going, “Try harder, try harder, try harder. Force, force, force, force, force,” break it down and start moving through. However, that might not be enough for some people. For some it is, and that’s great.
If you haven’t already, we have a confidence ladder that you can download for free. Even if you break it down, you’re going to make progress, but if you don’t solve the core issues, then the fear is going to continue to win the battle.
Moving on – here are some other things you might have tried: beyond going back to square one and working it up again, you may have tried self-talk, positive affirmations, talking to your fear, breathing, relaxation. You might have tried visualizing.
Maybe you have made bets with yourself, your parents, your coaches, or your teammates. Maybe there have been bribes or incentives that got you doing the skill once or twice but then eventually stop working. The bets have to get a little bit bigger and better and the desire is no longer enough though.
Chuck and Pray
That’s one of my personal favorites. In the PerformHappy community, we have a live group training and I’m always saying, “Don’t chuck it!” That means you just do it and hope you don’t die. It’s like, “Here I go,” without confidence or trust in yourself and then you try it. Even though your brain is saying, “No, don’t do it.”
Athletes who do this commonly say, “Well, my coach is going to get mad. I have to do it.” You’ve probably tried it out and either nothing works or nothing stays working for long.
For some people, you’ve built it up and you use your affirmations and you kind of got through it, but then are back to square one again. It can be something as simple as a bad day at school, not enough sleep, a rude comment from a teammate, or not enough food at lunch that can send your brain into overprotective mode. If you don’t know how to navigate that properly, you’re constantly back to square one.
You have to have strategies in place that both get your confidence up and prevent the core issues down below from sabotaging you. It’s twofold.
We have to rebuild. You have to know the strategies, your personal strategies that help your confidence go up. For some, affirmations are really great. For others, it’s imagery. Some people need a really positive environment, others need a combination of it. It may be all about their body – if their body doesn’t feel good, their mind is not going to cooperate.
Some athletes worry that their emotions are going to take over. Everybody has their own little cocktail for building confidence and that’s very, very important, but again, if you don’t solve the core issues, it’s not going to be enough and it’s not going to last.
So for anybody who’s thinking, “I’ve tried it all and it didn’t work and there’s no hope,” I promise you there is so much hope. I’m seeing it every single day, but confidence is not the end of the answer.
There are three relationships I mentioned earlier that you must get in check in order to permanently or powerfully move through the mental blocks and fears and feel like you’re going to have lasting relief.
1. Your Relationship with the World
I know that sounds super vague, but let me explain. Do you look at the world and go, “Worst case scenario is going to happen. I just know it. It’s a matter of time. I’m not hurt today, but I’ll probably get her eventually.” Are you pessimistic? Or are you optimistic where you go, “I will get there. Yeah, I’m having a setback right now, but I will get there. I know I will.”
Are you looking on the bright side? Are you looking for the silver lining? Do you feel like you will get what you want, it’s just a matter of time and you’re going to keep working and you’re not going to give up. You must have optimism and you have to have that sort of positive relationship with the world where you feel like you’re going to be taken care of, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to get through this.
You can trust in your coaches, you can trust in yourself, you can trust in the process that this is just a low spot and you’re going to be okay. You’re going to get through it.
Grit is this concept coined by Angela Duckworth. These people with grit just keep getting up, they brush themselves off and they try again. They face plant and then they get back up and they brush themselves off and they try again. Then they face plant again, but they keep getting up. That is, that’s what’s required in order to really get through this for good.
There’s this saying, I think somebody made this up and then I changed it around, and here’s how it goes (about grit) –
Everything works out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.
This is what gritty people say. So if you have that relationship with the world, then you have one of the core issues solved that can help keep your confidence where it needs to be.
2. Your Relationship with Fear
In order to have lasting freedom from the mental block, heartbreaking awfulness, is that you have to understand why your fear is there and then learn to use it for your benefit. You have to learn: Why is my body having this reaction? Why am I doing this? What is going on here? Then use it to benefit you.
Fight or Flight
People who are attracted to scary movies and roller coasters and haunted houses (which is not most of the people that I work with and I don’t particularly love to get scared) love to get scared because when they’re scared, their mind is quiet. When you’re in that fight or flight, fear space, you’re not worrying and you’re not overthinking. You may be thinking now, “Wait, but I do overthink before my fear.”
Getting Stuck in the “What If”
That’s beforehand. A lot of the time people get stuck in the “what if” or “what could go wrong?” and that builds up this massive amount of fear that prevents them from even doing the scary thing versus if you do something that you know is safe, but it feels scary, you can get a system in place to get yourself ready to go.
You actually get this peace and calm that comes as a result of the fear. I know that sounds strange, but as a result of the fear, you actually are able to have a feeling of relief and peace and calm around your skills. It’s not that we get the fear to necessarily disappear, it’s that we create a relationship with it that allows us to work with it instead of resisting it.
Be Methodical, Don’t Force It
So you start moving through methodically. You go one step at a time. You need to work with your brain’s needs. If your brain is not going to let you go, don’t force that. Don’t just try harder. You have to be methodical about it. Move through and in a way that’s going to allow your brain to sort of desensitize and start to feel like it might be okay. You work with your fear not against it, and then come up with your personal way to build competence. Use it to your benefit.
3. Your Relationship with Yourself
There are four aspects of your relationship with yourself that you have to get right in order to have the core in the middle and the exterior and the foundation. It’s like building a planet or a cake where the central most important factor here is your relationship with yourself.
This most often happens to perfectionists. Your perfectionism is not doing you any favors. It’s definitely part of the problem. If you consider yourself a perfectionist like I am, although I no longer consider myself a perfectionist, then you need to work on things like having patience for yourself. If you are a perfectionist, then you want it now and you want it perfect and nothing else will do and everything else feels like a failure, so you’re talking to yourself like you’re a failure. You’re not giving yourself any benefit of the doubt. No slack and no patience.
Patience is so critical for this rebuilding process because if you’re impatient and you’re not kind to yourself and you feel like you’re failing, then you are just reinforcing, “I’m a failure, I’m a failure, I’m a failure.” If that is all your brain is hearing you, even if you’re making successful progressions, your confidence is not going to increase, and it’s definitely not going to stay high because you are not going to get perfect. I hate to break it to you. You have to let go of that.
Next you need to address self-worth – that feeling like you are worthy of having an opinion and you are worthy of standing up for yourself. You are worthy of success if you don’t inherently believe that. I know I sure as heck didn’t until like for the last, I don’t know the exact age, but from around age 12 to 22, I had no shred of self-worth. I had a lot of ego like, “Oh I’m great, I’m great, I’m great,” but I did not believe that I was worthy of success. I consistently undermined myself.
3. Giving Consent
If you don’t have self-worth, you don’t want to communicate, you don’t want to ask for what you need, and you don’t want to give consent. Here’s the thing with sports like gymnastics, diving, figure skating… they’re scary and maybe even potentially dangerous. You have to be the athlete, you have to be giving your consent all day, every day. “Yes, I will try this. No I will not try this,” and if your coach is telling you to do something that genuinely does not feel safe, you must be able to say, “I don’t feel ready for that.”
If you don’t have self-worth, you won’t be able to and you’ll fail anyway. Then, because of perfectionism, you will feel like a failure, and then it just continues, no matter if you’re building up success or trying to be positive, if these things aren’t dealt with, they’re going to continue to stay stuck.
There are two hard things beneath the relationship with yourself category that are worth mentioning. One is self belief. If you don’t feel like you’re worthy of speaking up and standing in your truth, even if it goes against what somebody else thinks you’re going to, you’re going to get yourself into trouble.
If you don’t believe in yourself then you’re not going to be able to trust your training or trust your body to do its job.
Some of you don’t trust yourself. You’re going to constantly feel like you need to think harder and try harder, which is actually undermining your success as well.
The three relationships that you have to have control over in order to get through mental blocks for good are your relationship with the world, your relationship with fear and your relationship with yourself.
Those are the things that hat I did not have growing up, and it is my mission to give them to your kid, to give them to you if you’re the athlete. Yes, we can rebuild a skill, but it’s going to fall apart and it’s going to crumble if you don’t address what’s lying underneath.
That’s it for me today. Um, if you feel like you’re totally hopeless, I know you don’t because you’re still here, you’re still with me, so I know that there’s hope there. Don’t give up on it. Just make a commitment.
Thanks for joining me.