How to Turn Negative Criticism into Motivation

Perfectionist in the Game

What Fuels your Motivation?

Wins, personal bests, rewards, awards, and compliments are positive forms of motivation for athletes.

When your coaches, teammates, or parents believe in you, you will feel that extra spark to go for it.

But what if others don’t believe in you? Can you be motivated by disparaging remarks by others?

Some athletes view negative comments and being discounted as bulletin board material. These athletes are motivated by proving people wrong. Why are some athletes motivated by disparaging remarks while others are negatively affected?

First of all, motivational sources differ from one athlete to the next. In other words, motivation is personal.

Confidence is the second factor that determines how negative messages affects athletes.

When you have shaky confidence, you tend to internalize negative messages. You wonder, “What if other people are right about me? What if I am not a good athlete?”

When you have low confidence, you buy into negative messages. Instead of negative comments becoming bulletin board material, those negative messages become self-affirmations.

When you fully believe in yourself, you don’t need confirmation from others. You know what you are capable of accomplishing. You are confident in your abilities, competitiveness, and mental game. 

You have the mindset that no one will tell you what you can or cannot accomplish. You feed off the doubts of others, and that negativity motivates you to dig a bit deeper to prove others wrong.

To turn negative comments into motivation, you must first work on building confidence.

Many tools are available to athletes to build confidence. When you achieve a high level of confidence, you become, in a sense, bulletproof to most negative criticism.

Instead of hurting your performance, negative comments become fuel…

Arizona State football coach Herm Edwards doesn’t buy into the negativity from the media. Before every team meeting, Edwards posts the Pac-12 conference rankings. In the 2022 preseason rankings, ASU is projected tenth out of 12 teams.

ASU senior fullback Case Hatch commented that negative media coverage is nothing more than bulletin board material.

HATCH“Every meeting (Coach Herman Edwards) puts up the Pac 12 conference list, for who’s No. 1, who’s last. We just sit there for a second and look at it. It’s just a reminder of where they have us projected and what we have to prove. The world’s against us.”

ASU offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson stated outside negativity only serves to motivate the team further.

HENDERSON“We already heard from every outlet possible that we’re not going to win any games. We’re horrible. We hear it from ex-players and just all types of people. We’re done with that. We’re playing a game. We’re just locking in. Everybody’s gonna see. We’re not overly concerned with what people think of us. We know who we are.”

Confidence, or knowing who you are, in conjunction with motivation, will strengthen your performance no matter what the outside world believes.

If you look for criticism, you will find it. It’s everywhere. So avoid having your radar up for hearing criticism from others, but if you do…

Use this strategy for staving off negative criticism…. When you hear negativity, say to yourself, “Just bulletin board material,” then refocus on what you are doing in the moment.

Get motivated instead of allowing it to consume you.

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