We cannot control what happens, but we can control our response to it.
Change comes in the form of recognizing and changing the stories in our own minds.
Two sayings that I have heard many times but never been able to quite internalize and apply to my own life.
That is until recently listening to Brene Brown’s new book Dare to Lead. She explains why we tell ourselves stories and gives examples that allowed me to see how I do tell myself stories, and more importantly what I can do about it.
For example, at my last Ironman race, I was required to attend a pre-race briefing. (This is always a requirement for the iron distance races and there are usually a couple of times that you can attend). My husband chose to come with me. We walked over from the place we were staying, arriving a few minutes before the meeting. A long line of other athletes had formed and we joined them to wait for the pro-athlete briefing to finish up. We waited, and waited, and waited. It was hot, and we both became frustrated that it was so delayed. (Neither of us are very patient when others are not sticking to a schedule so I imagine our frustration came very early if not immediately into our wait!) For some reason, I took on my husband’s frustration as my own guilt. I became frustrated at his frustration because in my mind it was directed at me. He was there, stuck in this situation because of me, therefore any annoyance he had was surely my fault.
In hindsight it obviously wasn’t my fault we were waiting. Furthermore, he didn’t even have to be there. Rather than internalize his frustration and just get more mad myself, I could have stepped back and just sat with the frustration we both felt. I even could have voiced it. I could have said: “This really stinks. I don’t know how long we will be here. Do you want to wait or do you want to go do something else?” When he said, I will wait. I could have just said, “okay, that’s great. We can suffer together.” Or at least I could have felt that and just waited as patiently as possible. It might have brought us closer together to realize we were in it together, rather than get mad that he was mad/frustrated. I don’t have to make him feel better or take away that pain.
This is the example in my own life that I have been sitting with, but I suspect that we all do this in sport! We tell ourselves we cannot do something, or are not good at something. Maybe we do not set certain goals because we are worried we will fail?
How do we test our stories? If it is about someone else – if you think a spouse doesn’t support you in triathlon, or you realize that because of a look a friend gave you, you think they do not think you can actually complete a race you are planning on doing – you can just ask them. You can be totally honest. “Hey friend, you gave me a look the other day and I realize that I am telling myself it means you doubt that I can complete this race. That’s okay if you feel that way, but is that what you were thinking?” That’s not easy. You may not like what you hear. But it is courageous, and will probably bring the two of you closer together. Furthermore, because many times we make up stories that are not true, you will avoid going down some really negative paths.
If it is your own internal story, I think it is more difficult to test and Brene Brown didn’t leave me with tools, at least that I recall. One way might be to think about someone else and ask what they would say about our own theories. I have heard that we really can think of someone else and what they would think and manage to actually get out of our own head. We might journal on it. Or maybe we know it isn’t true instinctively, and by shining a light on it we can begin to change our self-talk.
What do you tell yourself? And what is one thing that you are going to change. One thing you will tell yourself in a new light, and eventually you will actually believe it.