You Are What You Say You Are

Self-talk is what we say to ourselves, and we all engage in self-talk (no, you are not crazy).  What is interesting is how we talk to ourselves, including our choice whether to build ourselves up, or tear ourselves down. 

Psychologists regularly discuss with clients the impact words have, especially as they apply to mental health.  Words can also play a big part in sport competition, as athletes who regularly use positive self-talk play freely and with confidence, while other athletes who use negative self-talk tend to experience frustration, poor focus, anger, and ultimately poor performances.  

Even more interesting about self-talk is that it is 100% under your control.  Unlike other human experiences where you were born the way you were born (i.e. your height), self-talk is what we make it to be and not something that is uncontrollable. Pool players looking to improve their game and get a leg up on the competition are well served to think about how they talk to themselves, and whether their self-talk is positive and uplifting, or negative and debilitating?

Physiology changes too

Not only does our thinking change depending on what we say to ourselves, our physiology changes, too.  When we say positive things to ourselves during competition (i.e., “Hang tough, I’ll still get through this rack) we stand more upright, breathe easier, and experience less anxiety. Our positive outlook is what keeps us in the game and allows us to rebound from adversity leading to peak play.

When we engage in negative self-talk and swear at ourselves, think we suck, and tell ourselves we cannot improve, our bodies follow suit and tend to slouch and move with less energy.  These seemingly small changes result in big changes at the pool table, including missed shots and run outs.  Self-talk might not seem like a big deal against weak players, but what happens when you play solid competition?  Is there anything worse than losing because you beat yourself, rather than the competition beating you?

Final thoughts

Get in the habit of staying positive and telling yourself you can get better every day.  Yes, this might sound corny, but the science backs up the validity of self-talk and the effect it can have on your thinking and physical behaviors.  Again, why beat yourself?  Instead, do all that you can to play your best.