• Dr. Jenny Schaafsma, PhD

Performance: What You Say To Yourself

We all engage in self-talk. It's the internal (and at times outward) conversation we have with ourselves.


Self-talk can be positive, motivating and empowering. It can also be negative, critical and debilitating. Within the context of performance (whether that's sport performance, job performance, sexual performance, public speaking, etc.) our internal dialogue can either promote us or hinder us.


There are several self-talk errors

that generally have a negative impact

on performance and confidence level:


- Focusing on weaknesses as opposed to strengths (e.g., "I'm not good at ______.")

- Focusing on outcome rather than process (e.g., "I have to win.")

- Striving for perfection (e.g., "I better not mess up.")

- Trying to control the uncontrollable (e.g., "The rain is going to mess with my performance.")

- Fixating on the past or future, rather than being in the present (e.g., "I can't believe I did that.")


So what can we do about it?

How can we change our negative self talk?


-Develop awareness of your internal dialogue. What are you saying to yourself before a competition? Before a work event? Prior to engaging in sexual intimacy? Is it positive or negative?

-Introduce positive self-talk! Tell your mind to knock off the negative self-talk and identify some positive and encouraging statements. (e.g., "I've got this." "Go _______ (insert your name)" "I'm doing the best I can." "Block the shots." "I've prepared for this.")

-Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Acknowledge and observe the negative self-talk, stop/pause the negative talk and replace with positive affirming statements.


It can also be helpful to identify in advance

a positive "self-talk script"

that you plan to say to yourself prior to a performance.

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