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The Power of Self Talk

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

It’s not what we say out loud that really determines our lives. It’s what we whisper to ourselves that has the most power.

- Anonymous



Self talk is a mental muscle that takes time and practice to develop. Our positive or negative self talk can become so ingrained that we don’t even realize what we are telling ourselves.


With team sports like rugby and even doubles tennis, it’s easier to be supportive of teammates, which in turn allows athletes to get into a positive and competitive mindset.


On the other hand, when we focus on ourselves or when we are competing in individual sports, like singles tennis, fencing, or figure skating, we can get lost in negative thoughts or just being overly critical.

Take a moment to slow down and listens to yourself. Hear what you are whispering, take note of your thoughts, and see if they are helpful or hurtful. The more awareness you build, the quicker you will curb negative thoughts and build the habit of developing a supportive and competitive mindset.

Self-talk, the inner dialogue that occurs within an individual, is a key, as it relates to achieving peak performance. Effective self-talk can help you stay focused, boost confidence, and manage stress. Here are some tips and strategies for improving self-talk during competition, challenging moments, and in the face of mistakes or frustration:

1. Be Aware of Your Self-Talk:

  • Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Recognize both positive and negative self-talk patterns.

  • Identify recurring phrases or thoughts that may hinder your performance.

2. Positive Affirmations:

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

  • Use statements that reinforce confidence, resilience, and determination.

  • For example, instead of saying, "I can't do this," say, "I am capable and prepared for this challenge."

3. Stay in the Present Moment:

  • Focus on the task at hand rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future outcomes.

  • Develop mindfulness techniques to bring your attention back to the present.

4. Use Instructional Self-Talk:

  • Provide yourself with specific instructions or reminders related to your performance.

  • For example, "Stay low," "Follow through," or "Relax and breathe."

5. Challenge Negative Thoughts:

  • When negative thoughts arise, challenge them with evidence to the contrary.

  • Ask yourself, "Is this thought based on facts, or am I making assumptions?"

6. Develop a Mantra:

  • Create a short, powerful phrase that motivates and refocuses your mind.

  • Repeat your mantra during challenging moments to regain composure.

7. Accept Mistakes as Learning Opportunities:

  • View mistakes as a natural part of the learning process.

  • Instead of dwelling on the error, focus on what you can learn and how to improve.

8. Cue Words:

  • Choose specific cue words that trigger positive responses and actions.

  • Use these words to refocus and redirect your attention during competition.

9. Visualization and Mental Imagery:

  • Imagine successful performances and visualize yourself overcoming challenges.

  • Use vivid mental imagery to reinforce positive self-talk.

10. Develop a Routine:

  • Establish a pre-competition routine that includes positive self-talk.

  • Consistency in your routine can help create a positive mindset.

11. Seek Professional Guidance:

  • Consider working with a sports psychologist or mental coach to develop personalized strategies for your unique challenges.

12. Learn from Successful Athletes:

  • Study how successful athletes handle pressure and setbacks.

  • Emulate their positive self-talk and mental toughness.

13. Practice, Patience, and Persistence:

  • Like any skill, improving self-talk requires practice.

  • Be patient with yourself, stay persistent, and celebrate small victories.

Remember that effective self-talk is a skill that can be developed over time. Consistent effort and a proactive approach to managing your inner dialogue can significantly enhance your mental resilience and performance in sports.

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