Manage Self Doubt. Don't Let It Manage You.

August 30, 2018

Self doubt can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. It can impact your workouts, keep you up at night, and taunt you on race day. At some point, all athletes will experience some form of self doubt in their career, and it's important to learn to fight these feelings so they don't debilitate us. As I always say, mental toughness isn't something athletes are born with it's something they learn over time and something there is ALWAYS room for growth in. Below are some tips when you are experiencing self doubt.

1) Recognize your feelings - So often we aren't aware of why we are under performing or what our actual feelings are. We are creatures of habit and society has told that having negative feelings are "bad". We must realize that we are doubting ourselves and face the fact rather than making other excuses for why we are poorly performing. 

2) Determine where these feelings are coming from - What is driving this self doubt? Did you have a recent race that didn't go well? Are you comparing yourself to other athletes that may have more training/experience than you? Are their other things in your life that you are struggling with? Identifying WHY you have doubts will help us conquer the feelings.

3) Trust in your training and in your coaches - You have a plan and coaches for a reason. If it wasn't possible than it wouldn't be a goal. Reminding yourself over and over that you have people that have faith in your ability and in YOU will help you feel more confident in yourself. 

4) Use imagery - Close your eyes and spend time thinking about the perfect workout/race. Imagine every detail and picture yourself succeeding in whatever you have doubts over. Using this technique will help reinforce success and your body and mind will start associating this outcome with your race. 

5) Using mantras and saying them out loud - It is a proven fact that hearing yourself say something out loud will help train your mind to believe whatever you are saying. Try saying "I can and will do X" five times in the mirror each morning and at night. 

6) Give your self doubt an identity - Name it. Draw a picture of it. Talk back to it. This will give you empowerment over your feelings and dis-identify them from your inner self.   

7) Connect with a professional - If you feel you are still struggling with self doubt consider talking to a therapist. Many elite athletes attribute their success to having someone to talk to.

Lori Ashworth, LICSW, is a licensed therapist who has been in practice for over 10 years. She has worked at the Childrens Hospital Boston, Brigham & Womens Hospital, and has also worked with hundreds of athletes of all ages. Lori is not only one of our running coaches but also has completed an Ironman. She understands both the clinical and personal side of training and will help maximize your performance and everyday life.