How This Pro Manages Criticism


Mental Toughness When being Criticized

Mental toughness is often seen as a physical triumph over adversity.

For example, a football player who returns to action in the fourth quarter after limping off the field earlier in the game.

Or a gymnast who gets back up on the balance beam to complete her routine after a hard fall.

However, mental toughness is more than in-game performance. Mental toughness is needed to deal with the pressure off the field and manage team adversity.

In other words, mental toughness is more than the will to win; it’s the ability to effectively handle all the challenges of being an athlete.

One daunting challenge of being an athlete is handling harsh criticism.

Whether you are winning or losing, there will be criticism, judgments, and negative statements about you as an athlete and your ability.

Thin-skinned athletes will soak in the negativity and allow outside opinions to affect their in-game performance. 

When you buy into harsh criticism, you will often play down to the limiting views of others. The reality is that everyone has an opinion, and everyone gets criticized.

Unfortunately, opinions and judgments are highly prevalent in sports.

Mental toughness is the key to tuning out the noise.

You may still hear the negativity, but you recognize it is uncontrollable and unproductive to peak performance.

For example, if you hear someone say, “He always chokes under pressure,” it only affects your performance if you buy into it.

If you adopt that opinion as your own, you are telling yourself, “I always choke under pressure.” That type of self-statement becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, suppose you recognize that statement as someone’s opinion, not fact. 

In that case, it is easier to blow off the opinion as just noise and maintain a singular focus on your game, your ability, and your preparation.

Even positive opinions are just opinions, and it is important to recognize them as so. Praise can be fickle. The impact can be devastating when the person who praises you turns around and criticizes you.

The biggest challenge for any athlete is to focus on improvement, not opinion.

Detroit Lions quarterback, Jared Goff, understands you cannot change the opinions of others. Instead, Goff focuses on his preparation and performance.

GOFF: “It’s mental toughness, but to be on both sides of it, like I said, you can’t let praise or criticism get to you either way. It all doesn’t matter, and it’s all very fickle, and our league’s very week to week. You play poorly one week, play better the next week, and you’ll be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s the way our league goes, and it’s the way I’ve really approached it since I got in the league.”

Your goal is to be the best athlete you can be. You are the one who puts in the work. You are the one who puts it on the line in competitions. 

You should hold yourself accountable for your preparation and performance.

The goal is to be the best athlete you can be for yourself.

Dismissing outside noise is difficult. However, you can take the sting away from harsh criticism by asking yourself the following questions:

  • “Is this criticism 100 percent true?”
  • “Is this something I can control?”
  • “Will this help me perform better?”

If you answer “No” to any of these questions, dismiss the noise and move forward.

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