The (mean) stories we tell ourselves.

mental skills mindset Oct 17, 2023

Last week, I didn't send a newsletter (did you miss me?), and as a result, I beat myself up. I enjoy writing to you weekly, just as I enjoy recording my podcasts, yet missing one week had me feeling guilty.


It was easy to tell myself it was no big deal in the scheme of things, yet it reminded me of how we are hard on ourselves and feel guilty, even over small stuff. When it comes to dog sports, guilt and "shoulds" show up when we talk about training our dogs or feeling like our dogs should have performed better and that it's all our fault. Basically, we spiral pretty fast.


So much of our mindset is our self-talk; after all, we believe what we say to ourselves, especially when it's harsh. Something simple like not sending a newsletter or skipping training class one week can send us questioning our dedication and feeling guilty.


Naturally, this is flawed thinking, but we've likely all done it. But why? Why do we let one action - or inaction - mean so much?


Brene Brown talks about "the story we tell ourselves" to describe the meaning we give to something. For example, I skip one weekly newsletter, and the story I tell myself is that I will only get clients if I do all the right marketing things. Or, I didn't take my puppy to a novel place this week, what if she becomes fearful?!


The story we tell ourselves is the meaning we give the event and, therefore, the power we give to it. The issue is, in most cases it's not true - factually at least. We are really good at telling stories and making more of something that it is!


As handlers, we do this with all sorts of things. We tell ourselves we are bad handlers because we made one mistake in the ring. We tell ourselves our dogs deserve better handlers just because they are so talented, and we are learning to handle them better. We find trends where there are none and catastrophize when thinking of all that could go wrong in the future. All stories we are telling ourselves that likely are not true.


One of the ways we can get ourselves out of this spiral (and habit) is to ask ourselves, "Is this really true?" Is it really true that one error makes me a bad handler? Is it really true that a missed newsletter makes me a bad performance coach? Probably not.


Learning to interrupt our "bad story-telling" and replace the thoughts with more positive - and accurate - truths will help us measure our progress more accurately and lead to increased confidence. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to assessing any stumbles and giving ourselves grace in the process. We get to be human. We get to take a week off without it meaning anything. We get to make mistakes without catastrophe.


What's a story you are telling yourself that needs to change? How can you replace those thoughts and cut yourself some slack this week? Do you need to show your dog some grace? Let's review those stories and check for accuracy - we'll all be better for it!

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