One of my students, who had been a no-show for her latest speech in our public speaking class, stopped me today to explain that she missed the speech because she had a “confidence crisis” and just couldn’t get herself to do the speech. That got me to thinking about what we do to ourselves in our own heads. In almost every case, what we think will happen is MUCH worse than what will actually happen. Our imaginations are good.
I empathize with this student, although I hope I would have at least let my instructor know beforehand, and not after failing the assignment. I have always been one of those people who is in my own head way too much. Age has reduced this significantly, but if I were able to give my younger self any advice it would be this – get out of your own way, you big dork! (Okay, so name-calling is not so nice, but my younger self really needs a kick in the butt).
A perfect example of how I took myself out of the game before it had even started was when I was a high-jumper on the high school track team. I somehow convinced myself that I could not clear 5 feet in competition and – guess what? – I never did. I even tried visualization, which didn’t work so well considering that I kept visualizing myself knocking the bar off as I jumped. I think that visualization tactic works better if you actually are successful in your mind. Oops.
I’ve noticed that my son is not like me in this way and, for that, I am grateful. In sports, at least, he doesn’t waste time over thinking things and, so far, doesn’t defeat himself before the puck even drops. He is like this in most aspects of his life and where it is not, he is working on getting out of his own way.
When I read articles about sports parents (just read this one about soccer parents), I try to take the advice to heart and stay positive and let the coach do the coaching and help my son have fun. What I find is that I have to get out of my head so that I don’t get into his. I can get pretty wrapped up in the game and I am learning to keep most of my thoughts to myself and to stop overanalyzing events over which I have no control. I’m not out there playing and I do not have the knowledge nor skill to teach my son how to play hockey or lacrosse. My job is to make sure he gets where he needs to be at the right time, with the right gear, and pay the fees so he can continue to play. Oh, and to be sure to have a stash of snacks in the car for before and after practice and games (pre-teen boys must be fed at regular intervals or they may starve – no joke).
I think most of us could benefit from getting out of our own way sometimes. My student would have done a fine speech. I could have easily cleared 5 feet and maybe higher. And my son will be a better person overall if I get out of his way when I should and let him find his own path.
I’ll just be sure to stash some snacks along the way.