Negative Self Talk: Why It’s Not Cool & How You Can Squish It

One of the best things about CrossFit is the awesome support you get from your mates, especially when you’re struggling through a torturous WOD.

This really hit home for me on Saturday at the CrossFit-U in-house ‘Throwdown’ competition. The final Rx WOD involved 5 rounds of rowing 250m, 10 deadlifts and 5 thrusters*, the latter being my least favourite movement in the entire CrossFit artillery.

As early as round 1, my little shoulder devil was telling me: you’ll never make it through this WOD; you suck at thrusters; you are going to be terrible, etc etc etc, however it was quickly drowned out by the shouts of encouragement from my CrossFit comrades, who could clearly see I was a bee’s dick away from either throwing a screaming tanty or passing out.

Yes the WOD sucked. Yes it made me wanna cry. But I finished it, and there’s no way I could have  done it without my awesome friends cheering me on. (Seriously, you guys rock.)

crossfit christina canters thruster
In so much pain right now…

You know what this made me realise?

We are so generous with our words of encouragement to each other, but unfortunately it’s completely different to the way we talk about ourselves.

I’m so shit at running.
I seriously don’t think I can lift that!
I have bad ankles, so my squats are crap.
I’ll never be able to do a pullup!

Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

I have told myself some of these (plus plenty of others) multiple times over.  And during training sessions, I’ve heard many of you make similar negative remarks about yourselves.

And it got me thinking: why do we do this?

Is it so we have an excuse for not performing as well as others (“Yeah, I only got 5 rounds in ‘cos I totally suck at wall balls”)? Is it because we have difficulties taking compliments (“Wow, you smashed that row!” “Yeah, but did you see how bad my double unders were?”)? Or is it because we’re protecting ourselves from failure?

(If we talk ourselves down, it eliminates the risk of failing. I get it. Failing is scary for most of us.)

Whatever the reason, I’ve learned that negative self talk has a much greater impact on you than you think. As my GP told me, words can have a very powerful effect on your body. If your mind is hearing “I can’t do this”, or “I’m bad at that”, your body is likely to mirror these thoughts, meaning that it physically won’t do what you’d like it to.

The good news is: if you can simply recognise when you’re thinking or making a negative remark, you can take steps to turn it around. Here’s how.


4 Ways To Squish Negative Self Talk

1. Negative self criticism makes us focus on our failures and weaknesses, so instead try and focus on the small changes you can make to improve. For example, to combat my loath/hate affair with thrusters, I’m spending 15 minutes every morning mobilising my upper back and hips, my main problem areas.

2. Turn a negative statement into a positive one. For example, instead of saying “Ugh, I was so slow, I HATE BURPEES SO MUCH!”, say something like: “I wasn’t as fast as I’d like to be, but that’s ok, ‘cos I’m still working on getting more efficient at burpees.”

I used to look at the whiteboard before a session and groan “Oh no, not wall balls. I hate wall balls!” but now I try to turn it around with “Oh we’re doing wall balls today…uh…great!! Here’s an opportunity to practice them and get better!” See the difference?

3. Another thing you can try: speak to yourself as if you are speaking to a friend. Would you ever tell a fellow CrossFitter: “Man, you really suck at running!”? Of course not! So be friends with yourself 🙂

4. Get a pair of these socks:

burpees socks crossfit christina canters

So as you go forth into your next training session, work day or big event, think about being kind to yourself. Arm yourself with a positive attitude, and if you don’t meet your own expectations, that’s ok!

Acknowledge that you have areas that need development, and that you can take small steps to improve.

You are responsible for you. You have the power to make a change. All you have to do is give yourself permission to do it.

Now go say yay for burpees!

crossfit-u west melbourne christina canters
Go team CFU!

*A thruster is a movement where you hold the bar on the front of your shoulders, squat with it, then as you rise, you press the bar overhead until your arms are locked out. It’s a challenging move as it works your whole body constantly, and to complete it efficiently you need exceptional mobility in your hips, ankles, shoulders and upper back , which is something that I lack (sorry, something that I’m still working on!)