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Coyote Thoughts: Beating Yourself Up

A buddy of mine and I were watching baseball on TV. One of the players made an error and we could see him looking cranked off at his mistake, appearing to be talking to himself. I said, “Look, he is beating himself up!” My buddy responded, “He should be, he screwed-up!”

A little time went by and my friend asked, “Don’t you think it is important to beat yourself up when you make a mistake?” That is a simple, yet big question with an answer that deserves an “it all depends” answer. If you are a bully, scoundrel or a jerk, darn right you should mentally beat yourself up. However, since you are reading this column, I am guessing that you are not any of those but a good person.

When a person makes a mistake on something they are trained to do, they can learn from the mistake, then “do better” and move on; or they can allow the mistake to begin to erode their confidence. Detrimental Trickster Thoughts then sneak in: “Fortune Telling” thoughts say, “We won’t beat this team; our streak is over. I can’t hit against this guy; he is too good. I might miss a catch. I hope I don’t screw up,” and so on.

“Labeling” Trickster Thoughts further beat yourself down: “I sure blew that catch. I am so stupid. The other players think I am a loser. Everybody watched me screw up and thinks I suck,” etc.

Finally, “Catastrophizing” Trickster Thoughts take over: “The coach is going to yell at me. I will lose my place as a starter. This team will beat us in the playoffs.”

The thoughts build, causing frustration and the sinking feeling that keeps a person from playing their best.

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We perform better when we are not beating ourselves up. Positive thoughts enhance our focus. Beating ourselves up divides our attention.

Plus, negativity is contagious. Consequently, others on the team may begin to have Trickster Thoughts. And fans say, “They did not deserve to win. They ‘beat themselves’ in that game.” Sure, we all make mistakes, but now I understand the dynamics of how our thoughts interact with what we do. The mistakes are caused by mental errors. Yup, Trickster Thoughts play havoc with our physical ability.

Let’s say we compare the stats of two teams. One turns out to have 10 percent better overall stats than the other. Let’s also say that they play the same opposing teams throughout the season. If we plug the stats into a computer and let the program consider the stats without other variables, the better team would win every time. However, teams aren’t computer programs and other variables are at play. Some variables we can control—like practice time, diet, fitness, rest, player positions, batting order and player’s baseball IQ. Others variables we cannot control like weather and umpires. Trickster Thoughts lose games. They are one variable we can learn to control. 

Just as in sports, in life, Trickster Thoughts tell us things that decrease our ability to play the Game of Life. Generally, we don’t need to beat ourselves up with thoughts that are not accurate. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. The Tricksters are poisonous thoughts, wanting us to focus on what we do wrong and forgetting everything we do right. In reality, each of us does so many things right each and every day that the wrong things we do don’t even add up to one percent. Really!

Recognizing and replacing Trickster Thoughts with Healing Thoughts will increase our satisfaction with life. Healing Thoughts help us learn from our mistakes and move on.

Beau Washington’s therapy model is entering the clinical trial stage at the University of New Mexico. He is training behavioral health clinics in his therapy. Beau is also adapting his therapy for sports, making it easier for players to focus on the moment.