How to Stop Being Self-Critical of Your Game

Creating a Plan for Improvement

Harsh criticism hurts an athlete but the effect of harsh criticism is doubled when it comes from within the athlete’s mind.

Harsh self-criticism is the quickest way to shatter confidence.

Many times, athletes describe themselves as being their own biggest critic. This mindset is viewed by some in a positive light meaning that this type of athlete pushes to be perfect and nothing less is sufficient.

Unfortunately, harsh self-criticism becomes an endless loop of negative self-talk that pulls an athlete downward rather than lifting up their performance to new standards.

Harsh self-criticism never pushes an athlete towards excellence. Harsh self-criticism sends the message that you are not good enough and, no matter what you accomplish, that is not good enough either.

Even professional athletes can be highly self-critical… Take for example Washington Redskins wide receiver Cam Sims. Sims admits he is his own biggest critic.

Sims was a 2018 undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Alabama and was signed by the Redskins prior to training camp last year. Sims has the size and ability to play in the NFL which is the reason Sims made the 2018 Redskins’ 53-man roster.

Sims injured his ankle in the first regular season game in 2018 which ended his season, and now Sims is battling just to make the 2019 squad.

Sims has been highly-critical of his play this preseason rating his performance in preseason as “bad.”

SIMS: “If I drop a pass I will say that my whole day is bad and if I catch 100 balls and I drop that one pass I would say my whole day is bad.”

When you are a perfectionist and have high expectations, your performance is never good enough, which only hurts confidence. When the goal becomes perfection, you lose sight of the main objective in sports.

The slightest mistakes overshadow any progress or success. The truth is that harsh self-criticism sends a negative message to yourself that hurts athletic production.

Assessing your performance requires some degree of objectivity.

Although you cannot be fully objective, you can step back from your performance and take a look at potential ways to improve your play rather than demoralize yourself by highlighting all your mistakes.

The 3 Components of Objectivity:

  1. Credit – What did you do well? There are always some positive takeaways from every performance. Give yourself credit for those successes, even minor ones.
  2. Misses – What didn’t go well? This requires the greatest amount of restraint and objectivity. Refrain from berating yourself and look at your performance through a coach’s eye.
  3. Plan – What do you need to do differently to improve? Knowing what you did wrong is no help if you don’t have a plan to improve those aspects of your game.

You don’t need to be excessively critical of yourself to improve your athletic performance–You just need a plan for improvement.

Avoiding Harsh Self-Criticism:

Treat yourself like you would treat a best friend teammate. When a teammate asks you about their performance, you wouldn’t berate or belittle them.

Be objective when evaluating your performance. Treat yourself with the same respect as you would your teammate.

Ask yourself: “What would the most positive coach or teammate tell me in this moment?” This question will help you step outside of the emotion and be more objective with your game.

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