I’m so excited to tell you about Erika. She is a young gymnast who has been working with Mental Toughness Inc. for eight months now. We have focused on coping with the stresses of high performance (lots of elements of risk) routines, and maintaining confidence as the competition-stakes get higher.
Last week at Provincials (the equivalent of a state championship, for those in the U.S.), Erika’s first of two days of competition had not gone as she had hoped. She completed solid, but not flawless executions of two of her four events. In the two events she did nail, floor and vault, Erika had to cope with feelings of disappointment, and still face the next day of competition. She knew she had to call on her mental toughness, and she and I spoke at length that night.
After putting the highs and lows into perspective I asked Erika about her disappointment. She embodied (remembered with all of her senses) the feelings and physical sensations of knowing her performance was good, but not her best. She accepted, rather than resisted, her reasonable feelings of frustration and sadness. She acknowledged her emotions and let go of what she ‘should’ feel, or what she needed to ‘make herself’ feel for the next day.
From that self-compassionate place of acceptance, and by being with her emotions rather than trying to control them, Erika could see that what happens tomorrow is not predicated on today. In other words, after really being with her disappointment she was able to clear the emotional deck, and create Day 2 from scratch.
Erika then embodied the exhilaration she feels when she knows she’s nailed a routine. Before she turned in for the night she committed to visualizing her best events performed flawlessly, followed by reliving the feelings of elation when she sticks her landings.
Erika says she awoke on Day 2 “impatient” to start the day, and she reports feeling “excited and jittery, in a good way”. Those new feelings set the stage for a great day of competition. Erika scored two personal bests in floor and vault, and came away with the gold medal for her floor routine.
Erika showed remarkable maturity as an athlete. She had the kind of day any athlete knows, the “less than she’d hoped for kinda day”. She had self-awareness that she was emotionally burdened by that. By reaching out to her Mental Toughness coach, she demonstrated resilience and determination to face the next day with psychological strength. Erika was courageous, and felt into her difficult emotions of stress and disappointment, without shying away from them, allowing them eventually to pass, or have less hold over her. And she used the power of embodiment and visualization to imagine, and then execute, a stellar performance.