Have you ever felt personally attacked when you are given feedback? Have you ever rolled your eyes at practice? Or tuned out when you should be paying attention? Are you struggling with feeling even a lick of gratitude for your trainers or your team leadership? Do you have a hard time finding your motivation to come to practice with positive expectations?
There have been not-so-shining moments over the years where I have checked off more than one of the above. While I try my best to be focused and present in the moment and to not take things personally, my attitude is something that I have to give constant attention to and requires a lot of mental work.
Hi. I’m Jungle, and I have low self-esteem and a consistent lack of confidence. If given free rein, I’m really good at taking every criticism I hear personally, which would lead me to distrust my teammates, my trainers, and anyone else that had an opinion about what I could do to improve. I’d be a regular hot mess of snot and tears, and not writing this to my leaguemates right now. I am opening up to you all because I want us to work on improving ourselves and each other without worrying about being good enough or feeling judged for not being perfect.
So how am I working on it?
Well, this mental shit mountain isn’t something that can be overcome with more drills or even a million one-on-one meetings with my TC. My ability to keep my head out of a mud puddle requires maximum effort from me. In other words how I handle things and how I find reasons to keep showing up even when I am super disappointed or pissed with myself and my feedback is up to me – not my coach or trainers.
So here is my particular list of mindful behaviors I am seriously working on:
I am willing to accept that the more I learn, the less I know. If I was a chocolate cake baking in the oven, I’m nowhere near passing the toothpick test. I have potential, and I am in a constant state of learning and growing as a skater.
At every practice, I try to see myself as a beginner. There is value in every suggestion from my trainers and coaches, no matter how outrageous it may seem. It’s often the craziest ideas that work – but only IF we refuse to dismiss it; and if we keep our minds open and really try, it can inspire the most awesome breakthroughs. When I was first learning how to t-stop, I had to hear several different ways to do it from different trainers and teammates for it to actually click in my brain. Who’s to say I can’t continue to have similar ah-ha moments seasons later?
I shut my brain up when it starts to compare myself to others. While I am excited to see my teammates doing great things and improving, I think it is human nature to get a little jealous when you aren’t quite there yet. So I re-focus on what is within my grasp, and what I can do here and now to make a meaningful improvement in myself as a skater and as a teammate.
I take ownership of what happens to me, not because I am to blame, but because it is the most empowering position to assume. To keep my shit together, I have to refuse to be a victim. Instead, let me figure out how to get out of a hole, rather than sit in it and wonder why I got pushed into the hole in the first place, and how it is so not fair that it happened to me.
I expect my words and actions to be misinterpreted by others. I readily apologize when the impact of what I have said or done hurts someone, even if it wasn’t my intention to do anything wrong. We aren’t good and bad here – we have differences, and that is ok. So then, with this, it is easier for myself to assume good intentions in my coaches and teammates, which in turn helps me to be less paranoid of ulterior motives.
I try to understand with as much effort as I invest in being understood. So this season I’m doing my damndest to speak less and listen more at practices. This one is a toughie because I have ideas and sometimes I want to share them so bad because maybe they are really awesome and I’d like a cookie or a gold star for my excellent idea. My lizard brain is on a constant hunt for approval, but I want to be stronger than that, so I have to shut it the hell up.
These are especially difficult when I am in a shit mood. On those days I want to come to practice and complain to my friends and bitch about everything in my life that sucks. And there will be more days ahead where I feel like total yuck, and I’ll have to hit that reset button again on my mindset.
But spending last season on learning about mindfulness and sports psychology has helped me. It’s gotten easier to remind myself that I love roller derby. And no one will take that from me unless I let them.
Just know that there is no way that every practice is going to be beautiful and that’s ok when you have the courage and capacity to grow.