Getting past shame

Getting past shame

Mental Training to get past shame in sportsdunce

A while back I wrote a post on shame. It is one of the areas that we rarely address in sports. It got a lot of hits back when I originally posted it. It was uploaded to a site in the UK this month for a new audience and again it’s garnered a good deal of attention. I thought perhaps I would talk about a few exercises people can use to get over issues were they feel shame. For some it is a feeling of failure associated with letting team or family down by not performing to their own or others expectations. In many ways it is associated with fear of failure. In other ways it goes perhaps deeper. Shame affects confidence, motivation and so much more. From an emotional intelligence point of view, along with guilt, it is certainly one of our more useless emotions. Please keep in mind, as usual; I am not talking about people who have really deep seated issues, as I only work with healthy people. There are times when we all have trouble dealing with something however, and these exercises can help.

Using CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy type exercises can help athletes reduce this feeling and perform at higher levels. Some are very simple. Some will take a bit of work. Some come from what are known as Shame Attacking exercises.

My new favorite one however comes from Clown School. Don’t discount this technique because of its unusual origins.  I picked this one up from a friend, Leif Hansen,  who runs a group called Spark Interactions [ SPARK ]. A lot of what Leif helps people do is re-learn how to play through interactive activities. A good deal of which is Improv.   I’ve attended 4 of his clinics, always interested in new growth activities for myself and those I work with. It was Leif who talked about Clown School. I love this one as in part it helps people deal with failure in a way completely removing shame.

Clown Redemption (my name not his).Another approach to dealing with failure

In clown school when a clown makes a mistake in a routine instead of apologizing or telling everyone they are sorry for their mistake clowns are taught to do something very different. After making an error, instead of saying sorry, the clown takes an exaggerated bow and says in a loud voice, Thank You Very Much with a smile. Taking credit for their mistake and rejoicing in the opportunity to learn something from their mistake. Athletes drive me crazy with the two-word apology I hear so often, “MY BAD”.  What the athlete is stating is I made a mistake; I do take responsibility for it. But it is also an acknowledgement that there was something bad in their behavior. This can reinforce feelings of shame, rather than the idea that failure leads to learning and ultimate growth / success. I think if more people would bow and say thank you very much, they would overcome so many inhibitions.

Shame attacking Type Exercises:

The idea here is to do some things which make you very uncomfortable in public some can be done in private too. By choosing small steps in behavior change people come to understand that the consequences they were so afraid of, only exist in their own minds. Understanding this on a real level allows a person to be more comfortable in their own skin. Trying new things that allows them to realize that their shame or embarrassment is not real.  So here are a few non sport exercises to help you understand their impact. You can try them yourself as of course there are no consequences.

The basics are to do something that makes you feel foolish and uncomfortable.

– Start dancing as you walk through a store

– Start laughing while waiting in a line

– Sing while you are waiting in a line

– Tell a random stranger that is in line by you that you didn’t take a shower today.

– Ask a random girl/guy passing by if they would want to do something later

– When you are in a store start running frantically while looking behind you as if something were chasing you.

– Make funny faces to people who are stopped beside you in traffic

In sports it could be something as simple as these.Shame in sport

– Something as ridiculous as trying to kick a soccer ball and falling down on purpose

– During practice make odd faces

– Ask a really stupid question of a team-mate or coach

– Make a funny noise while catching a ball

– Smile during practice – assuming you are one who believes you must wear a game face

Now these are just a few simple things and I’d love some comments back on Shame Attacking ideas in sports. I’ve got some others I’m holding back because I want some creative ideas not variations. You might notice that all of the things I’ve listed are common behaviors at most every practice. But not for everyone. If you were to say to yourself I would never do that, maybe you should.

So if we enter my world of sport and we observe athletes held up by their anxiety and as we lift the veil and help them cope with their sports anxieties and still something is missing, we may need to understand their greatest fear.  I often ask the question, “What is your greatest fear?”  Maybe it is the wrong question.  What is it that makes you feel shame?  Can you talk about it?  We tell people not to put their self-worth in a sport outcome or result.  What if they do that because somewhere along the way, instead of finding joy in sports, they found shame?

If this post fails to help you understand how to help yourself or someone else then I failed to explain it well.  All I can say to that then is:

Thank You Very Much (with a bow of course)

Why take the bat off your shoulder

Why take the bat off your shoulder

Why take the bat off your shoulder and other cliches

This is just a very short post. I saw this posted on Facebook today and it reminded me how important it is to make use of every opportunity.This is “Why take the bat off your shoulder”

Lou Gehrig began his streak of 2,130 games played on this date in 1925 when he pinch hit for Pee Wee Wanninger. Most people remember Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp at first base the next day.

Why take the bat off your shoulderBaseball












What might have happened if Gehrig had looked bad at the plate the day before? You never know what will happen.

One at bat and a historic career gets off the bench. Interestingly, Wanninger is best known as the player who ended one consecutive-game streak and helped start another. As a rookie, he replaced Everett Scott at shortstop for the Yankees on May 5, 1925 to end Scott’s then major league record of 1,307 consecutive games. On June 1, 1925 Lou Gehrig started his famous 2,130 game consecutive streak when he pinch hit for Wanninger.

Wanninger missed his chance, Gehrig made history, The Hall of Fame and a lifetime of memories for himself and baseball fans.

What will you do with your chance today? That is not only the big question, but it begs another. When do you know that the opportunity of a lifetime is knocking on your door? If you don’t swing at a pitch because you are afraid of making an out, you may end up as a historical footnote. We get pitched to everyday of our lives. I don’t mean that in terms of offers to buy things (which of course is true too), but things happen in our lives everyday giving us the chance to step up to the plate and hit it out of the park. Yes we may often swing and miss, but the effort is critical. Baseball players even of Lou Gehrig’s stature only at best hit the ball safely less that 4 out of 10 times. You never hit unless you take the bat off your shoulder.

So I imagine I’ve used enough baseball clichés to make you shout enough already. I’m trying to make three points at once here. First of course we never know when the chance of a lifetime will present itself to us. Second is that unless you take a risk and put effort into the things we do, we have little chance for success. My third point is more devious. I wanted to show just how much the language of sport is infused into everything we do. It doesn’t matter if we are talking baseball (or other sports), business or our personal lives, the language of sports and all its clichés and metaphors have become inseparable in our daily lives. My tag line on this blog is “How Sport Psychology Explains the World”.  My meaning is that mental training for sport applies to more than just our actions on the field or court. It applies to everything we do. It may be cliché  but success in all aspects of life is related in similar ways to that of successful athletes. The lessons learned from competition at the highest levels apply to business and even or relationships. How we use our emotional intelligence, how we deal with stress are all factors in our life. I teach athletes that they are the one’s in control. They have the power to become what they want, to dictate the terms of their careers in sports. Is it any different for you, the lawyer, business person, chef, engineer, mechanic, etc? If you want to change your life the secret is inside you. You may be missing the tools right now, but they are available. Now just as I can’t help an athlete win a gold medal if they are missing the right genetic makeup, I can help them become the best that they can be. This is true for all of us. We may have educational limits. We all have attributes that make us who we are. We can be the best we can be, all we need to do is not pass up opportunities, be willing to risk swinging the bat and perhaps, just perhaps seek out the tools that will make us happier in our lives using the mental tools to bring things together.

So take that bat off your shoulder and swing for the fence, grasp life in your hands and risk failure. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to play the game than to sit on the bench, just ask Pee Wee Wanninger and Wally Pipp.