Inside all of us is an inner critic. At first, it appears as an uninvited guest – a voice that appears out of nowhereintruding our thoughts and overcoming our senses. An inner monologue of negative self-talk, the inner criticsoon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps us in a rut of pessimism.
In golf, we are often confronted by this inner critic as it is, by and large, a mental sport. Even the most seasonedplayers understand that every stroke and swing rests on the frame of mind. Yet no game is ever perfect. Startinga round on the wrong foot, needing a few more tries to make the shot, or even playing with more polishedpeers can lead calm headspaces into a stream of “I can’t”. The inner critic will arise, whether we intend it to ornot. So how do we begin to silence it
Awareness. The first step to breaking any cycle is to recognize the patterns that exist; the traps thatwe, very humanly, fall into. Pay attention to how you speak to yourself, and notice when you startto turn less-than encouraging. Do you lambaste yourself after making a mistake? In golf, does yourperformance from the last shot weigh down on how you carry out the next ones? Bring these to yourconsciousness and observe how often you stumble into the habit.
Positive Self-Talk. A Halmstad University Study found that positive self-talk among athletes wascritical for enhancing confidence and, in turn, performance. Coaches believed that this form of selftalk was one of the most influential skills in building athletes that could tap into a state of calm, evenamidst mounting pressures. In the same manner, speaking to ourselves (silently, or otherwise) in away that uplifts, not criticizes, can help us stay focused on executing the task at hand to the best ofour abilities.
Change the narrative. What would happen if you gently flipped the script? A powerful mentalexercise to practice daily is to take note of the negative script running through our heads, andreversing this into positive affirmations. For example, switching thoughts such as “that last shot wasterrible” into “everybody makes mistakes; I have made plenty of great shots before” can transformthe way we perceive unfavorable moments
Understand that it’s a part of a whole. And not the whole part. Our inner critics are but onefacet within the complexity of our beings – just because we can hear it, doesn’t mean we are it.Making this distinction between the self and thought can help untangle ourselves from unwantedemotions, and move through unfavorable events with heads held high.
As with many things in golf, the lessons we learn on the course extend well until we arrive home. Learning totame our inner critics is a practice that applies to all areas of our life, and we must consciously work on it inorder for us to reclaim our full potential.