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You are your own worst critic on the mats

Brazilian Jiu jitsu provides a lot of opportunity to learn about ourselves and life. The metaphors and analogies of overcoming struggle, humbling ourselves, building confidence, etc are endless. The action we take on the mats teaches us things that we can directly apply to life. This blog we are talking about how, for most people, they are their own worst critic both on the mats and in life.

Have you ever walked away from the Jiu Jitsu mats thinking “I F8cking sucked today” or “I Should be way better than this'' or “Why couldn’t I execute this move, I am awful” or “Why do I even try.” Most, if not all of us have experienced some type of internal self talk like this. That said, is this type of internal dialogue helpful or appropriate? Would you want your friend or coach to talk to you like this, especially consistently?

In my work with MyOdisee, when people talk to me about their jobs, or parenting, or how they act in relationships I hear a lot of the same type of dialogue. “I should just stop, I am just not good at X” or “I have always sucked at dealing with Y.” My response to those people I work with at my “day job” are similar to the responses I give when coaching Jiu Jitsu. Is that how you would talk to a friend? Is or has this talk led to positive changes or higher stress levels?

I typically hammer home the questions: Would you tell a friend that they just suck? Would you tell a friend that they are just awful? Would you tell a friend that they should quit? The answer in most cases is no. So what would a good and supportive friend say? They will listen to you. They may acknowledge what you are saying but also bring some positive perspective to the conversation. No “failure” is all negative. They may even praise the positive behavior that they have exhibited towards their goal. Use the “what would a good friend do” as a framework as to how you should communicate with yourself.

Some rapid fire questions for you: Do you pat yourself on the back when you accomplish a goal? Do you tell yourself “nice job” when you do something right? Are you a good friend to yourself? Many people get caught up in expectations both on the mats and in life and forget to give themselves positive reinforcement. Those expectations generally blind ourselves to the information that reality is trying to convey to us. We always think that we should be better than the other person. We have expectations that when we learn something it should work immediately. When we fall short, we focus on that as opposed to both the good and the bad. If we don’t acknowledge the good as well we hinder the amount of information we can learn from.

I was asked to give advice to new BJJ students in the Forever White Belt podcast today (episode to come out before 1/22). After consideration, I believe our expectations and the way we talk to ourselves because of those expectations is the largest block to learning in Jiu Jitsu. Does this sound like you either on the mats or in life? If so, here is what can be done about it.

Each time you roll or train, make sure that you make note of at least one thing that you did well. Perhaps it was when drilling or rolling, it doesn’t matter. Find at least one thing that you were proud of. When you get home, or to your phone, write that one thing down. Do this for at least 30 training days straight. After the 30th day go back and read all of them. Really allow yourself to take it in with pride.

If your self talk is so off balanced that you struggle with that, start paying compliments to other grapplers when they do something well. Pick at least one of those and write it down after your training session. Start getting in the mindset of seeing the good at least in others and it will filter to you when you are ready.

If you choose to do this, I would love it if you shared your experience with me. You can reach me on this site or on my Instagram JoshuaJ_BJJ. If you are having trouble with it or have any questions I am happy to help you with that as well. Let’s work towards not being our own worst critic and being supportive to ourselves and our teammates!


~Josh



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