We all have those times when we think to ourselves, “I’m not (insert adjective here- smart, attractive, strong, thin) enough.” And while I like to think of myself as a very strong person, a recent experience really got me thinking about this whole business of self-doubt…
Last weekend I was competing at a local powerlifting meet. It was a pretty typical morning- woke up early, got dressed, packed our food for the day and headed out. We were some of the first competitors to arrive at the venue (those of you who know Ray know there’s no surprise there). But, as other people (girls in particular) started to arrive, I felt my anxiety rise. I immediately started comparing myself to other girls there (“Oh man she looks strong!” “What if she beats me?” “She’s waaay smaller than me- so I bet her Wilks score will be WAY higher than mine” FYI Your Wilks score is basically your total weight lifted divided by body weight, so weighing less is a good thing.) Ray could sense it too. “What’s going on with you? Put your headphones on and RELAX. You’re going to be FINE!” Easy for him to say- he’s over there soaking it all up, loving every moment of preparing that day- mixing up his pre-workout, getting in the zone, passing the time by watching random YouTube videos. How was it so easy for him to relax, while I’m sitting there about to have a nervous breakdown!?
So, what did I do?? I put on my headphones like he said, and then began to think about the best way to react to this situation. I used to let feelings like that take over, not considering what may be causing them, but simply being consumed by them. BUT, after MANY therapy classes, I’ve learned some very helpful strategies:). The one I turned to that day was the ODP technique… (Observe, Describe, Participate). I began by taking a deep breath, and then observing the feelings. I watched them, without judgment. I asked myself, “what are these feelings? what am I reacting to?”. I paid close attention to each thought and feeling that came to me, and simply observed. Then, I described them- literally. I texted Kellie immediately. (Here’s our actual text conversation from that day:)
Me: I’m getting nervous and am experiencing some interesting feelings of self-doubt. It’s interesting to observe them. Stupid ha.
Kellie: Really…that is interesting. I wonder why now? Do you think it’s because of the last meet? Even though you know you were sick.
(She was right- I had competed at Nationals just 6 weeks prior, and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I had been sick the week leading up to it, and had the migraine of the decade two nights before. But, all I really noticed at nationals was my sub-par performance).
Me: Maybe yeah. I think I always get this way a little bit, but yeah that could for sure be it. There are some REALLY strong looking girls here.
Kellie: Ah but looks only tell half the story. You know that…but I can understand how you’re feeling. Just remember…you’re strong enough for you. That’s all that matters- no one else.
Me: Yes thank you:) It’s me vs. myself. And if I win in the meantime, icing on the cake.
Kellie: Exactly! (Insert: Comparison is the thief of joy picture) Just do you:)
Me: Thanks dear.
Kellie: Love you! Now go lift some heavy ass weights!
After describing the feeling to Kellie, I participated. Participating means doing what works in each situation. For me, that involved sharing the feelings so that they didn’t seem so scary. (Thank goodness Kellie was around to listen). It also meant acknowledging the feelings, and allowing myself to experience them. Once I did this, it was SO much easier to LET IT GO. I was able to move past those feelings of self-doubt, and simply enjoy the day. And gosh did I ever! I even ended up with a small meet PR and a SWEET trophy! (Okay, the PR was only by about 2.5 pounds, but hey- I’ll take it!)
So, why do I share this with you? Well, first of all, so you can see that I too, have my “coach,” my support person who I can text at a moment’s notice when I feel a little crazy. Second of all, I think it’s important to acknowledge these feelings when they arise. If we never pay any attention to them, it can become very easy to become consumed by those feelings of self-doubt. If we immediately judge ourselves for having those feelings, we risk going down a path of negative self-talk and a cycle of self-destruction. Finally, and most importantly, I share this with you because I have learned a tremendous amount along my journey, including MANY coping skills that I think can benefit everyone in one way or another. So, next time you come across those feelings of self-doubt, of feeling not _________ enough, take a moment to observe and describe the feelings, judgment-free. From there, participate in the experience fully. You’ll be amazed how much you may learn about yourself.
In peace and health,