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In triathlon and in life, it’s really easy to get bogged down by the negative voices in our head. You may not even realize it’s happening. I had gotten a little bit of control about my inner negativity with some work over the years, but it was not without pain and fenagling.
I am working a program with a peak performance coach, Deb Cheslow, about “taming the bully in your brain.” I was excited about Deb’s work, for sure, but she insisted that I go through her program as a new baby, a newbie with a beginner’s perspective. In other words, even though I was co-hosting, I also was required to be a student. That made me nervous (for many reasons) but mainly because I was being thrown into the frying pan with all the other people.
I wasn’t up to being vulnerable. AGAIN. But I did it, because that’s what I ask of my “people”—gotta do the work, right? OK. So, with this focus on the “bully” in my brain, the first assignment from Deb was to recognize the voice and to just hear what the voice was saying. “OK,” I thought, “I can listen.”
Interestingly, I woke up in the morning and got on the scale (which delivered good news), and the bully was quiet. I dropped the kids off at school and went to the gym where I proceeded to run for an hour. Still no bully. Interesting, I thought as I stepped off the treadmill, I must be making AMAZING progress—and then there it was.
I was walking toward the mirror, and the barrage started: Look at your arms, your legs, ugh that stomach, how in the world have you worked so hard and that fat is still hanging around? It’s getting sort of ridiculous at this point. I mean how many years of working nutrition will you really have to do before this comes to a point?
And there HE was: my bully. (Yep, my bully has a man’s voice. Like a mean Barry White.) My bully shows up when I have mirrors. Well, that is disappointing. I am continuing to do major work on this, but I am grateful for the opportunity to pause and listen, to hear the negative self-talk and what triggers it, and to continue to dig in to this power of mental toughness and grace.
When I am racing, I tend to be mentally strong. But I can look back on the races that fell apart for me, and they always involved my own negative thoughts: You are too fat for this. Why are you so slow? If you had only trained harder, ugh that tri suit and your thighs.
Turning the bully around might be like turning around a yacht in a swimming pool, but I think it’s a process that we owe to ourselves, in racing, but especially in life. Replacing those negative thoughts with “I am awesome” and “I am great” is a silly exercise that Deb has suggested, but it is strangely working wonders. If you feel you have a bully going on, then try these two simple tips from Deb and see what happens. After all, if we aren’t going to believe in our greatness, how will anyone else?
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the new podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith and Deb Cheslow have a new online series called “Your Brave Mind,” that is turning heads and changing lives. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.