There is an insidious behaviour that humans adopt that has to stop. We have probably all been guilty of it in the past, some of us may even be repeat offenders, and most have certainly been on the receiving end.
This behaviour, is often expressed with “good” intentions yet with forthought. The damages can be literally kill performances and leave the recipient defeated for a very long time.
The negative Bullshit that people throw at you. They can squeeze all of your own self belief right out of you. IF, you let them.
It happened to me a few years ago. Before a race that I was in amazing condition for. I was seriously fit, and both KM and I knew that I was going to go big on the day – we had seen it training and the right attitude was there to back it.
But a very brief run in with a professional athlete 2 days prior to the race left me a mentally crumbled mess. My fitness didn’t change, but my ability to execute did. I was done. I didn’t acknowledge it at the time but it exposed some really deep self-beliefs that I had ignored for a very long time.
Now, the intent of the remarks may have been harmless, maybe even ‘advice’ (that’s another story), but the fact it was given without any true understanding of athletic ability, how well prepared my body was, and how strong (I thought) my head was. The same words of (basically “You can’t race that time”) were mentioned to a friend who was with me at the time.
I tried to dismiss it, and admittedly I knew a lot less about mental development then as I do now so I din’t know how to accurately process it.
But the damage was done. Mentally I was checked out – everything that negative that I was told, I believed. My race went great for the first few hours, until I hit a low point and then the wheels off (in a literal sense I fell off the bike, collapsing from an at the time, unknown Virus).
Even if that hadn’t of been the case, in a micro-second, I had let that seed of doubt flurry. Even if i could have gone on, I wasn’t prepared to do so.
Ultimately, the buck stops with me when it comes to that attitude. I am the one that lets those words creep in, and I am the one that chose to believe them.
So I completely understand when an athlete calls me up and tells me how their family/ friends/ training partners said that they shouldn’t be racing an Ironman, it’s too hard on the body, it’s not healthy (really? but being a fat-ass on the couch is?) or your body isn’t built for that.
I have witnessed this so many times. I have watched an athlete who has had brilliant preperation for their first race; great attitude, great execution in training. Only to have their mental headspace completely destroyed by some muppet who thinks they know better.
I can tell you, going back to that race of mine, two people (ok, maybe 3 if I include Rach) knew the true level of fitness I was in. The rest was speculation, completely un-educated and misinformed. Therefore any other opinion: irrelevant.
Same goes for the aforementioned athletes. Being their coach, I knew exactly what shape they were in. I knew all of their strength, and weaknesses. And because I communicate frequently with my athletes, I understood that they knew how well prepared they were.
But those little seeds that others plant, they can over-grow very quickly. And I have watched many athletes simply shut up shop and go inside their shells. When you do that mentally in a race like IM, it is very hard to come out of.
They go from fiercely confident and ready, to nervous messes. And it is worse when those seeds have planted by people closest too them.
So why do we do it?
Is it jealousy? Are these people simply envious that there are people in world that exist to do extrdonary things whilst they themselves choose to be mediocre?
Is it some sort of pack mentality? Where we bring every else down around us so we can be the leader? A bit of tall poppy syndrome?
Is it simply that what a person is doing is so inconceivable to them that they express their disbelief in negative reiforcement?
I didn’t think about it then, but I do now….what drives someone to tell a person that what they want to do is impossible, that they cannot do it? Scoffing behind someones back is far less damaging then telling them to their face that they will fail.
So is that it? If we think someone else will fail, even when we have zero insights into how hard they have worked, how determined they are then we feel the need to remind them of the risks?
As if anyone racing their first big race isn’t already aware of the risks they are taking.
No matter what time you are shooting for, over any distance, shit can happen. And when you dangle a lofty carrot out in front of you, you have to take a roll of the dice; gamble on yourself a bit, and it will either be bang or bust. That is what makes racing cool.
But when you spend your hard earned time, money, sweat and tears on preparing for something that pushes you outside of comfort, you CANNOT afford to have that all knocked down by someone misinformed opinion. The ONLY opinion you should be looking at is yours (and those that know you well).
So with that in mind, how do you truly tackle those opinions? Like I said, it is a choice, and the choice is yours.
If I rang Kristian right now and said, there is no way you can do….[insert crazy Kristian goal here]….his response would be a polite middle finger (there is a reason we cake him the Honey Badger).
How you respond to a challenge should be the same, but you have to be prepared to cop some flack, some criticism (constructive or otherwise) along the way. There will always be people telling you that what you are doing is wrong, or that you can’t do it.
Do you need that negative crap filtering through your own thoughts. No.
Here’s something I recently read:
“FACT: When you work exclusively to avoid criticism you GUARANTEE lack of success.”
The people that are lobbing criticism bombs at you are only doing so to disguise their own fears. They aren’t really thinking about whether you will succeed or fail, they are merely trying to figure out why you believe you can (because they themselves believe they can’t).
Your best and only strategy is action. Get out there and do what it is you want to do.
Believe in yourself, in the processes you have deployed and that when everything gets peeled back, you will push through whatever shit you need to. No whinging, whining complaining, or being the victim. You will get it done.
The peanut gallery will always be there, just waiting to vomit up their vitriol. So be it.
Meanwhile, you can just spend your time getting on with it. Arm yourself with supreme and unbreakable self-confidence. Surround yourself with honest, positive people.
Close the door on anything negative. Stand strong against it, believe deeply in your convictions.