Andy Murray competing in the 2016 French Open tennis quarter finals was heard to shout “Absolute Turnip” to himself as he fought to break the serve of big hitter John Isner. Apparently this is a phrase he has been using for a few years now, presumably for shots that were not his best and it certainly worked on this occasion.
However, how often during the day do we talk to ourselves and are we really listening to what we say to ourselves carefully? Pretty much everything we say to ourselves will have some unconscious effect on our perception of ourselves and our skills. It may not be enough for us to notice any immediate difference but the “drip, drip” effect of this self talk can easily make a big difference to our confidence and self esteem over time.
Now we may find it amusing to call ourselves or our tennis game “absolute turnip” but remember that your unconscious mind is listening to everything you say and may not be translating it the way you expect.
Have you ever told a child “now don’t drop those plates”? Seems to be very good advice and a very good suggestion. But what message does the unsuspecting youngster hear first? Drop the plates!! Why, because the brain will first do a quick rehearsal of “drop the plates” before adding in “don’t”. Too late! The plates are on the floor and broken before the conscious mind has a chance to save the situation.
There is a very good book “Your body believes every word you say” and if we think about it for a moment we cannot have an emotional feeling without a physical reaction any more than we can experience something physical without some sort sort of emotional experience. Plus, our mind is constantly making decisions for us before we know we have even thought of them. This is a very useful thing since this leaves the prefrontal cortex free to make our executive decisions and operate hopefully with our best interests in mind, while we carry on doing our everyday tasks like walking downstairs or washing up.
So it’s well worth paying a little more attention to your “self talk” bearing in mind that there are lots of different parts of you listening to what you say and interpreting that information perhaps not in the way you expect. Maybe saying our tennis is “absolute turnip” is no big deal but saying derogatory statements about ourselves and our skills certainly is. We all deserve better so make sure you do a bit of weeding around that unconscious vegetable patch and grow some more positive thoughts. It really will make a difference.