Are you a Coach or a Critic? Self talk matters in tennis and life.

By: Betty Bickers, LCSW Posted On Mar 18, 2017
Betty's Office  1:1      "Your Own Self Talk:    Are you a Coach or a Critic?"

We all talk to ourselves. I'm referring to the ongoing silent dialog we have with ourselves inside our heads. Many of us try to dim that chatter but it's better if we pay attention to it.

We talk to ourselves daily in ways that influence the outcome of our efforts. The style with which you talk to yourself, Coach vs. Critic, does positively or negatively impact your belief in yourself.  This then impacts your actions or efforts.  

A coach emphasizes the possible while working with the actual.  A coach gives encouragement while addressing shortcomings. A coach supports 100% effort while expecting gains.

A critic is a bully. Do you use harsh words to refer to yourself? Do you try to motivate yourself to change by being obsessively critical of yourself? Do you punish yourself for your inadequacies?

Listen to how you encourage or discourage yourself internally when faced with a challenge. "Come on! Let's go!" are familiar sports chants to help rally a team. My favorite tennis player Rafael  Nadal is famous for getting pumped up on the court with "Vamos Rafa!"

We can be both our coach and our critic at the same time. I play singles tennis against my husband and our competition is fierce. How I talk to myself while on court... about myself and how I am playing... directly affects  my play. I still lose every match to him; Ok, and every set over the past 10 years to him. The tennis gods wouldn't blame me if I just packed it in.

But I still set out each time we walk on court hopeful and optimistic that I will try to play my best. My forehand, backhand, and serve may suck sometimes but my attitude doesn't have to. My Critic, however,  can still at times defeat my Coach and steer my attitude downward when I walk off the court and sabotage what could have been a nice lunch. Let's just say we are all a work in progress.

TAGS: tennis, self talk, inner critic, Rafael Nadal, Vamos Rafa
About the Author
In the field of psychiatry/mental health for over 30 years, I am a "seasoned" psychotherapist who helps teens and adults better navigate their emotional worlds. Your privacy and confidentiality is my primary concern; I keep no clinical notes online. Please visit my website to read more about my practice.

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