A couple of weeks ago my friend Ken e-mailed and asked if I could help him design a poster for a race he was sponsoring. He had all the graphic elements but he couldn’t get Power Point to work properly. Ken is a personal trainer by trade and while he is in better shape than most human beings, he doesn’t communicate very well. I e-mailed him back and ask what he specifically wanted and how I could help. In a moment of frustration, Ken told me he too stupid to get Power Point to work properly and do what he wanted.
His words gave me pause because they were coming from a man who has raced in hundreds of triathlons, trained people to race in triathlons (including me!), and raced in an Iron Man Triathlon or two. An Iron Man. For those of you who don’t know what that means, an Iron Man Triathlon is a race for the truly bat-shit crazy athletes. You basically swim the English Channel (with a couple of sharks thrown in for good measure), bike 100 miles, and run a marathon. I’m not kidding. Well, I am about the English Channel and sharks part but the swim is 2.4 miles which is a long distance when you’re swimming in open water.
My response to his e-mail was, “So what if you can’t get Power Point to work?!?! You’ve raced in Iron Man triathlons!!!” I’m sure he blew off my comment and internally compared himself to Lance Armstrong or some other, more accomplished athlete who has raced in billions of competitions before their 22nd birthday. We all do it when someone pays us a compliment and honestly, it’s a bit sad. The e-mail discussion got me thinking about internal dialog and what we tell ourselves when we get a compliment. “Oh I’m really not that good, trained monkeys can do what I do, etc, etc.” You know the drill. Sure we joke about it, but in the end doesn’t it do more harm than good?
Two weeks ago on A Closer Look Radio, Pam interviewed psychologist Tim Shurr who discussed self-sabotage and why we listen to the wrong voices in our heads. Tim compared it to talking to our “internal genies” and how if we tell the genie we’re fat, dumb, or stupid, the genie will grant that wish. How often do we actually tell ourselves, “I’m smart, capable, and competent?” Not as often as we put ourselves down, that’s for sure.
Tim also talked about the achievement process and why we should focus less on how we’re going to travel down the road toward our goals but rather what we’ll achieve when we get there. He compared it what we tell ourselves when it’s time to exercise: We know the run or walk is going to hurt so we focus the pain and how much it’s going to hurt and end up not doing anything at all. Tim recommended changing your focus away from the pain but rather the journey. Think about all the time you’ve thought about the long slog ahead rather than the rewards at the end of the slog. I love to go for long hikes and getting all sweaty, but the best part of a long hike? The shower at the end of the hike.
So, gentle readers, as you go about your lives think about the conversations you have with your inner genie. How can you tell people that you are in fact a kick-ass triathelete with little to no knowledge of Power Point without downplaying your accomplishments? I kept track of what I was telling myself and noticed I slipped into moments of bad self talk when I was stressed out, annoyed with my commute, or when I had no control over a situation.
Check out the interview here when you have a spare moment. It’s free and much cheaper than going to a therapist or eating huge plates of comfort food.