Q&A on Focus and Show Nerves

Questions:

  • How do I deal with over analysing myself and over criticizing myself?
  • When I look at videos of myself during the ride I say ‘ahh I should do this and why didn’t I do that’ and it constantly plays through my head as I’m riding.. I am a confident rider and always want to take risks. I just don’t know how to stop being so hard on myself.
  • I am interested in learning how coaching can help me be less judgemental of myself and less critical if I don’t get something perfect immediately! I find myself being really hard on my efforts, particularly jumping and when learning new skills or behaviours. When I do something really well then I am even reluctant to try the exercise or course again in case ” I mess it up”
  • In my personal experience, I am very determined and set on my goals. I have high expectations of myself and my horse. Because I am such a perfectionist, and training or competition does not always go to plan, I feel disappointed and that it is not good enough.
  • I judge my riding and doubt myself so much, I feel like I am a terrible rider and have no talent.

Answer:

Every one of us has an internal part of our psyche that is programmed to criticise our efforts.  We call this the Inner Critic, and its job is to make you achieve.  It means well, and wants desperately for you to succeed and not get things wrong. 

You see, the very trait of our characters as competitive riders that drives us to do our best, to be determined to succeed against the odds and to bravely step up when we are shaking in our boots, is the same little quirky trait that can turn on us and rob us of small moments of joy, and little celebrations of tiny successes.  It makes you so focused on producing perfect plaits that you forget to chuckle at your horse’s goofy morning yawns.  It can make you all too serious, and destroy your perspective of the bigger picture, while it concentrates on picking every little detail of your ride apart.

Most of the people that I have coached have had to confront their Inner Critic at some point and remind this voice that although it means well, and it really wants you to succeed, constantly criticizing everything you do is not actually useful, and doesn’t make you do things better.  It often makes you feel like a failure, or a fraud, or just flipping lucky to have got where you are – rather than encouraging you and boosting your confidence with small successes.

It’s not easy, but it is essential, to begin to dialogue with this negative inner voice.  One of the most useful and positive ways to start this conversation, is to insist that you always, after every single ride, or at the end of every day, make a note in your diary or journal, of two things that you did well.  Small things. For example:  I kept my heels deep and that meant that my position over the oxer was stable.  Or:  Even though I was really anxious about walking past the black bag, I remembered to breathe deeply and we passed it successfully.  Look for things.  Two of them.  Every day.  Build up your own portfolio of evidence about things that go well. 

As much as the answers to these questions can give you an overall view of the general direction to begin taking, everyone has his or her own context, and unique set of reactions and responses.

One on one mental coaching sessions can help you to make sense of why you do what you do, and support you as you begin to practice new ways of responding to old patterns.

“Its not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives.

Its what we do consistently.”

Anthony Robbins

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