Self Talk

This week I’m staying a beautiful campsite on a working farm, just outside Edinburgh for the Royal Highland Show. It’s my third year, bringing the caravan to this tiny site. You get to it driving down a narrow lane, at the bottom you must reverse back up a hill while making a sharp turn into a small field where the caravans are sited.

The first year I came here, I was very new to caravanning and lacked the necessary skill! I ended up going backwards and forwards; the lane is very tight with a hedge on one side and a stone wall on the other.

As the farmer watched, I tried again and again, getting hotter and more embarrassed with each failed attempt. Like most men, my fragile ego doesn’t like not being able to do something, especially with an audience. My blood began to boil, my temper rose, and the negative voice inside my head went into overdrive!

I finally got the caravan into position, and as I climbed out of the van, the smiling farmer congratulated me and said that I wasn’t the first to struggle to make the turn. I realised how unnecessary my anger and embarrassment were.

His manner was one of sympathy and concern; he wasn’t judging me. I realised the issue was me judging myself.

This year, with two more years of experience, I made the manoeuvre first time with no problem. I smiled to myself, remembering my previous rage and embarrassment.

I’m struck by the notion that we are our own harshest critics and how counterproductive this is. If I had stayed calm and thought only of the task in hand, rather than of the audience and my failure, then I would likely have found the job easier. I would certainly have avoided the unnecessary negative emotions that accompanied my anger.

Today if you find yourself struggling with a task, then I urge you not to make a personal judgement about yourself and your competence. Focus instead on the activity in hand, what needs to be done, or what do you need to learn to accomplish it?

Concentrate your energy on this positive action rather than letting your mind fill with the negative self-talk and the high emotions that come from a fear of failure.

Be kind to yourself and remember that many tasks you do today with ease were things you thought impossible only yesterday.

Don’t forget, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.

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