A Conversation with My Inner Critic

“Who in the world is Matt Crawford?”

My inner critic is brutal and relentless.

I don’t have a name for it. It is not an alter ego of myself that is trying to make me better or an attempt to hold me to a higher standard. It is a part of who I am that is trying to tear down everything that I have worked to build. The voice is not someone from my past talking to me, the voice is mine and mine alone. It is a constant reminder of the things that didn’t work out and all the times I screwed up.

Sometimes my negative inner voice causes so much anxiety and worry about the future that my fictional failures seem more like flashbacks.

Where did this inner critic come from? Was I born with this voice? Can I get rid of it?

Right now would be a good time to point out that this inner voice is not a sign of any sort of deeper mental illness. This voice is the devil on my shoulder, the unconfident me, the great discourager.

The following is a deeper, personal look into my own inner critic and how I kick it in the teeth every single day.

“You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”

This thought doesn’t so much creep into my head as it busts through with a grand entrance. It usually comes to me whenever I am about to do something that I know I have struggled with in the past. It could be about anything from public speaking, working with a client, or even throwing batting practice to my guys. It is a daily thing that I struggle with. This thought is usually accompanied with a multitude of memories of occasions where I failed at whatever I am about to do. “Remember that time you couldn’t throw a strike in batting practice? Or when you blanked and didn’t know what to say to that client?!” Yes, yes I do remember those times. Thank you so much for reminding me.

“People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”

This thought primarily happens when I am working on my practice. Imposter syndrome is another title for this thought. That could be making a video, having a session, or writing this blog. Even as I am typing these words I am thinking about how people are going to think it is stupid. Someone somewhere is going to read this entire blog and not get anything out of it. A common fact that often accompanies this negative thought is my age. I’m 26 years old. In the psychology field, a common misconception is that the older people have it all figured out. “Who would come talk to you?? You are brand new at this stuff! You don’t know what you are doing!!”

“You weren’t even good at your sport!”

This one hurts. Was I a good pitcher? Maybe.  I was okay. In my five years in college, I only had four appearances. So it would be fair to assume that I was never one of the team’s top picks to take the mound. It would also be fair to want to work with a mental performance consultant who has a lot of personal experience in a sport so that the athlete can really relate to someone who is experiencing the ups and downs that come with consistent playing time. I don’t have any of that.

“You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”

This is a pretty common phrase my inner critic says after I might have done something wrong. I tend to just sit and stew on whatever I just did. “You should’ve done this!” “You should’ve done that!” Is there always room to improve? Of course. Could I have done something differently to achieve a better result? Probably. Do I have a time machine to fix it? No. Will that fact stop my inner critic from bombarding me with these thoughts of self-doubt and regret? NOPE.

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Now I am going to go over the techniques I use to combat this inner critic and how I choose to believe the things I want to believe.

The first thing I want to say about combating the inner critic is that this negative inner voice is something that will always be a part of who you are. The following techniques will not make the negativity disappear, but they are meant to assist you in changing your view on your inner critic.

The main thing I do whenever any sort of negative inner voice enters my head is that I address that it is happening. So many times I hear people offer up the solution to “just ignore it” when faced with their own inner critic. I get it. It would be so much easier if you could simply not hear the negativity and self-doubt that goes on in your head. But the reality is that you cannot simply stop your inner critic from being critical. Some people are jerks and there’s not anything you can do about it.

Instead of just trying to block out the negativity, embrace it.

Take a moment to hear that inner critic and all the lies it tells. That voice isn’t fighting for time in your day to hold your attention, it is fighting for you to believe. Acknowledge that what you are hearing in your head is not true and fight back with positivity.

I would even suggest saying the positive response out loud if you can. Sometimes I feel like I have better control of my words as opposed to my thoughts. I can think a lot of negative thoughts in a row in the blink of an eye. But by saying the positivity with my own breath, I am giving the power back to myself. Go ahead, say these responses aloud wherever you are and see how you feel. You might feel corny, but trust me on this one.

Phrase 1: “You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* You are wrong. I can do this. I am strong and capable. I have worked so hard to get to this moment and have earned the opportunity to have success. I am more than good enough. I am not here by accident. I was meant to be in this situation. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. 

While I say these things audibly, I am playing my own highlight reel of success in my mind. I think back to all the adversity I overcame to get to this very moment in time. By simply being alive, I have already accomplished so much. The feeling of anxiety and pressure building is a sign that I am on the right path. I think back to all the times that I wanted an opportunity to perform, but didn’t have a chance. This is my moment; I am going to choose to enjoy it.

Phrase 2: “People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* I am great at what I do. I have worked extremely hard to be in this position. How can I be a fraud when I know I am not lying? I studied, passed, and excelled at every academic challenge I have been faced with. I have already had a positive impact on those around me and the athletes I have worked with so far. I have a bright future in this business. My best days are ahead of me. I am already so blessed.

Nothing changes here in this response. As soon as I say these words with high intentionality, I gain a sense of peace that everything is going to be alright. Call it what you want, but I personally believe that it is me falling into the arms of the Good Lord and believing that He is always in full control.

Phrase 3: “You weren’t even good at your sport!”

Response: *inhales* *exhales* I gave everything I had to that sport. I can rest easy every single night of my life because I know that I didn’t hold anything back. The lessons I learned are bigger than sports. My purpose is in the present, not the past. I have value. I am wanted. I am at peace with my career because I have no regrets.

This example of negative inner voice/response is very specific to me. But whenever I am faced with these thoughts, I think back to how I get to lay my head on  my pillow every single night without any sort of remorse, bitterness, or anguish. I feel like that is a unique feeling and I am glad to have it.

Phrase 4: “You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”

Response: I will never give up. I am smart and intelligent. I will never give up. I can do this. I have made up my mind that I will never quit. I will keep going. I will get stronger. I will never stop learning. I am strong. I’m the man. I have a ferocious drive to be my best. I have an unstoppable work ethic. I will never give up.

You have probably noticed this already, but some of my responses have repeated sayings. This is intentional because the more you say something over and over again, the more you will believe it. Don’t believe me? You have probably heard that negative inner voice repeat the same things over the years, at some point you started to believe it.

This whole blog is real and raw. Besides a few colorful four-letter words, I have held nothing back from my reflection on my own inner critic. I encourage you to do the same thing. I want you to know that you are reading these words not by accident. You are more than able to fight your own inner critic. You have the strength to take it by the throat and refuse to believe the deceptions it tries to feed you. This is a skill that will require lots of practice and some days will be better than others. This change will take time, but you can choose to start that change today.

You are stronger than you think.

Matt Crawford, MA
Matt Crawford, MA

–Schedule a free mini session with Matt.–

Shuffle: What to Consider When Creating Your Pre-Game Playlist

Recently, it’s been difficult for me to find motivation during my workouts. Starting and finishing them — no problem. Maybe it’s because I’m used to going to the gym. So many distractions there. Music to blare in my Beats. People to watch. More machines to choose from. Heavier weights to lift. Home workouts were never my thing.

Well, it’s day 80 and counting of consecutive at-home workouts for me. Something that I never accomplished when going to the gym. And although I’m completing my workouts everyday, I’m really missing the enthusiasm I had in the gym. I could push myself through that last grueling set. I could run the extra mile. 

But I’m not doing that at home. I’m doing the bare minimum and checking my workout off for the day. Accomplished, yes. Have fun, no. 

So, I think I’ve figured out what I’m missing…MUSIC. 

WHAT TO CONSIDER & HOW TO CREATE A PLAYLIST FOR YOU

  1. ACTIVATION LEVEL    

Consider how you want to feel before a performance. It could be a big game, practice, lift, or exercise class. Heck, it can even be before an at-home workout. Do you want your heart rate to be low, moderate, or fast? How anxious do you want to feel? Relate back to some of your best performances. How did you feel before them? 

Now, what song(s) would help you get to your desired heart rate and anxiety levels? 

  • MOOD 

Consider your affect before a performance. Again, big or small performance. What kind of emotions do you want to come up beforehand? What kind of attitude do you need to have to bring your A game? 

Now, choose songs that would put you in your A game mood! 

  • BEATS PER MINUTE 

Consider the tempo of the songs on your playlist. Are all of your songs exciting you? Are the songs on your playlist, YOUR favorite?

Now, create your personalized A game playlist. Remember, if you get bored. Change it up. 

Me: “Siri, play “Ima Boss” by Meek Mill.” 

NOT SURE WHAT YOU NEED TO HIT SHUFFLE?

Let’s chat! We can consider what YOU need to bring your A game to every performance. While we might not share the same taste in music, I am here to support you in creating your personalized pre-game playlist that will help you achieve success more consistently. Sign up for a FREE mini session with me today!

Lindsay Berg, M.S.

Going All Out to Make Mistakes

I was lying on the couch reading a book about coaching when I came across this phrase that kind of stuck with me. It was something along the lines of, “mistakes are the stepping stones to achievements.” It’s such a small phrase, but holds big meaning behind it. One that can apply to both sports and life. Since it was a book about coaching it made me think about softball, the girls I coach, and my playing career. In softball, mistakes lead to errors. Which brings me to reflecting on my years of playing. 

Although there are many softball games that I cherish in my memory, there are two specific ones that I often look back on. So much so that I actually have the article and stats of those games printed out. One being a game that some may say is the best game I’ve ever pitch; the other is the last game I ever pitch. Both are very important to me, but their outcomes are complete opposite of each other. One led to a victory, while the other led to my career ending. However, the only one I want to focus on is the last game I ever played. So, let me just set the scene up for you:

It’s conference tournament, only us and two other teams are left. Only a few games away from winning the championship. It’s the bottom of the 12th, the other team has a runner on third, and there is only 1 out. I’m on the mound putting my heart into every pitch, like I have the whole game. Lefty slapper up to bat, hit, hard grounder to 2nd, error, runner scores, game over. Us: 4 runs, 9 hits, 6 errors. Them: 5 runs, 9 hits, 3 errors. Now, a lot of you could have predicted the outcome without me explaining the details just based on those ending stats. Which gets to my point…

 Errors. 

Those errors led to that loss. It happens, that’s life and I think it could make a good point to the girls I coach for a couple of reasons. First being an athlete’s reaction when a teammate makes a mistake or error. After my teammate had made that error and the run scored, I didn’t get mad at her and blame her for her mistake. Because it wasn’t all her fault we had lost, and everyone’s made an error before. Heck, there were 5 others made just in that game. Which gets me to the next point. Without those mistakes and errors how will we learn and grow to get better? If you’re going to make a mistake wouldn’t you much rather make one knowing you were giving it your all? I mean you’re more likely to make a mistake if you constantly worrying about making a mistake.

Oddly enough, I think that game is the best game I’ve ever pitched. I don’t look back on that game and see that we lost. I look at that game and see that I went all out and left everything on that field. I gave it my all, knowing that even though it could be the last game I play, I wasn’t going to be scared to make a mistake. Making the outcome of the score unimportant when reflecting back, and the experience memorable. If only you knew what the other game I had mentioned earlier was. Then you would question my thoughts on my best game. But that’s a story for another time and another blog. Until then, go all out in everything you do and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Ready to get that “go all out” mindset? Schedule a free mini-session with one of our consultants today!

~ Victoria

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom Blog Picture

If the world was a perfect place, you would be in every hall of fame. But I know even that wouldn’t be enough.

Despite all the coaches, trainers, and teammates we’ve had, you have always been my biggest supporter. 

You may have never had the opportunity to wear a medal, hoist a trophy, or even get your name announced over the loudspeaker, but I always knew that you deserved every ounce of recognition that was given to me.

You never openly told me, but I now know how hard it was to pay for my athletic career. 

I never went without. I was always able to do whatever my heart desired, and you made it work. And I know it would be impossible to try to measure the amount of time you spent driving me to and from practice, tournaments, and private lessons. 

Looking back on it now, I should have said thank you 100 times a day. The thousands of dollars of equipment you selflessly bought for me is now packed away in various boxes and collecting dust in the garage; most of it broken due to both overuse and underuse. I was too blinded by my own childhood dreams of playing forever that I never realized that you would be there for me long after the game ended.

Mom, you were always there for me even when I didn’t play. You would tell me “You did so well!” Even when the most action I got was drinking the two Gatorades you got me before the game. You didn’t care because you were going to support me no matter what I did.

Sports have taught me a lot about how to deal with adversity and how to push myself beyond my previous limits. But you, Mom, told me I could overcome anything. No matter how frustrated I was with the slumps, the disappointments, and outright failures, you told me to keep going when I wanted to quit. The encouragement you gave wasn’t empty or merely words to make me feel better. You always told me “You are stronger than you think. You can do this.” Those words have meant more to me than you will ever know.

You have loved me in so many ways. 

You told me I could when no one else believed; not even myself. You were always there to offer me a hand whenever I didn’t want to get up from whatever just knocked me down. You pulled me from dark places when I was injured and couldn’t play. Your support was bigger than sports. 

I thought you were preparing me to have a good next game, but I realized that you were preparing me for the next chapter of my life.

Sports didn’t make me a better person, you did. 

I love you, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Matt Crawford, MA
Matt Crawford, MA

From Athlete to Coach

From Athlete to Coach Blog

Everyone either knows a coach, is a coach, or has been a coach. Because of this I know each one of you have at one point in time thought, “What was that coach thinking!?” Hopefully I’ll be able to answer that question. 

From someone who was an athlete her whole life up until this point, I always knew that it took a certain kind of person to be a coach. Not just any coach, but a good coach. Although many have asked me if I would ever want to become a coach, I never thought of myself as one who could fulfill those big shoes. However, here I am talking to you guys; not as an athlete, but a coach. It has not quite been a year and I already see just how big these shoes are to fill. 

Now, you are probably already asking yourself the question, “Victoria, why are you making such a big deal out of this?”

My answer to this?

I don’t just want to be any coach.

I want to be a good coach. One whose athletes will look back on the things I taught them and say, “She helped me become better.” And I’m not just talking about becoming a better athlete, but a better person. As a coach who was just a college athlete only a year ago, I anticipate the young women on my team will look up to me . They will see me as a role model. They will see me, someone who has played at a higher level, and want to learn the skills I learned to get where I was. If I want to be a good coach to the girls on my team then I need to meet all of their expectations and more. This is why every day that I step into my role as coach, the shoes I am stepping into seem so big to fill.

An athlete to coach road block.

One of the first road blocks I have faced in my journey to become the best coach I can be has been a struggle I have always seemed to face without knowing it. That struggle is my youthfulness, or in other words, how young I look. 

Again, I already know what you’re thinking at this point, “Looking young is a blessing, how could that possibly be a struggle?” However, I work part-time as a cashier at a grocery store, and the number of people that come through my lane and ask if I’m old enough to scan alcohol is just past the point of being sad. 

Being a 22-year-old who has been mistaken on MULTIPLE occasions as being a 16-year-old, you might see a problem considering I coach a 16 and under travel softball team. I knew there would be an issue when I went to try-outs and one parent asked if I needed a player sign-up form…. You should have seen her face when I told her I was the coach. 

My biggest challenge as a former athlete and new coach.

Because of my youthfulness, being taken seriously has always been a challenge. I knew that my biggest task to face as a new coach would be earning respect from players and parents. When approached with this issue I knew the only way to show how serious I was about this role I have taken on was to create a list of expectations for myself, my players, and their parents. I recently held a team meeting where I gave everyone this list and went over each point in depth. Hopefully, these expectations set a good tone for how I want my team to be and show how serious I am about my role as a coach.

One of the first things I’ve learned from just talking with Dr. Sterling, was how much athletes need and want structure in their lives. And I can agree how true that is. Anyone who knows me knows my love for making lists. This list of expectations is the first of many that I have made towards my journey to becoming a good coach. And somewhere along this journey I hope to be able to answer the question, “What was that coach thinking!?”.

Ready to take a look at your own expectations and step it up? Schedule a free mini-session with one of our consultants at Sterling Sport Mindset today!

Victoria Haugsness, Head Softball Coach & Sterling Sport Mindset Intern

Victoria Haugsness - Intern