Silencing Your Inner Critic

Written by: Kevin Cann

Powerlifting is viewed as an individual sport at the end of the day.  However, no one gets great alone.  We all need help along the way.  This can come from a coach, a mentor, or training partners.  Powerlifting in this sense can be a great community.

Powerlifting is also a sport that we compete ourselves.  Yes, for a select few, they are competing against each other for cash prizes and world championships.  However, for the vast majority of the sport, we are only competing against ourselves to test our physical and mental capabilities.

Our biggest opponent in powerlifting, and in life, can be our own inner critic.  This is the voice inside of our heads that tells us that we are not good enough, that we can’t perform this task, and we don’t deserve success.  

This inner critic knows your deepest and darkest secrets and fears and will exploit them at times.  The inner critic is the perfect enemy for each individual.  This opponent never goes away either.  It will challenge you relentlessly to continue to get better.

So how do we deal with this seemingly perfect opponent?  It starts by answering the question “Who am I?”  We need to do a lot of self-discovery to truly answer this question.  We need to arm ourselves with passion and purpose to fight off that inner critic successfully.

This may seem ridiculous as you read these words and many will not do this work to get better because it seems spiritual and wishy washy.  However, every great that I have heard in an interview always has a deep and powerful answer to the question “What drives you?”

They all have an overreaching vision that drives them to outwork their opponents, outsmart their opponents, and to silence those that say they can’t do something, including the inner critic.  

Conor McGregor said these words in an interview before he was in the UFC, he said “If you believe something strong enough to say it out loud it will come true.”  In this same interview he said he would become the UFC champ.  Not only did he become a UFC champion, but he was the first to hold two championship belts in two different weight classes simultaneously.  

This does not mean that you can just say words out loud.  Those words need to be backed by passion and purpose that drive relentless hard work over the course of many years to achieve true greatness.  You need to believe those words to your very core and they need to have enough internal power to make your inner critic cower with fear and hide in the background.

This is only done through self-reflection and answering the question ‘Who am I?”  My personal philosophy of “Stand your ground” means that I will face every challenge head on.  I will not run or retreat from it, but instead I will face it with courage and with every ounce of my being.  

Saying those words to myself can have a strong effect on my actions when things do not seem to be going my way.  Everyone is motivated and willing to give 100% when things are going great.  What will you do when you get hit and knocked down?  Complain on the internet?  Blame others for your lack of success?

Look around.  You see those negative reactions to perceived failure all of the time.  Lifters blaming programs, coaches, judges, weight cuts, you name it and a powerlifter has blamed it for their perceived lack of success.

The inner critic gets you to play the blame game because it does not want you to achieve greatness.  When we blame others, we cannot see the weaknesses within ourselves that need to be worked on.  If we do not have a strong vision and a deep understanding of what drives us, we will not be able to improve.

Once we take control of our own actions, we become very powerful.  There is no better feeling in the world than seizing control of your life and its outcomes.  Then if view success as giving your best effort at all times, there is no failure.  There is only success (as long as you give it your all).  Failure becomes learning opportunities that you actually welcome at times because you know they are necessary to get better.

Confidence is nothing more than our self-talk, but that self-talk needs to be believable.  You earn the right to do difficult by challenging yourself mentally and physically.  The start of training this confidence and earning the right to do difficult starts with an understanding of who you are.

As a coach my vision is to make every lifter of PPS great.  That gets me fired up to think about.  There is passion and purpose in that statement.  Once we get that vision we need to work backwards and see where we can improve upon to actually get closer to that vision of achieving greatness.

This is where the pyramid came from and why I have been diving into sports psychology head first for the greater part of a year now (as well as learning what other great coaches do).  Being great is not defined by a total, but instead it is getting every ounce of potential out of every lifter I have.

This can become very frustrating at times.  Lifters will respond differently to the same intervention, they will miss lifts, they will not take control of all of their actions.  I needed an understanding of this and a solution to this problem.  All that I can control is myself.

My inner critic hear will tell me that I will never get through to this person and that what I am trying to do is impossible.  I recite “Stand your ground” to myself and look at the problem.  This is where the individualization of training comes into play.  Meeting people with where they are at.

I let the pyramid guide me here.  If someone needs to develop mindfulness, the ability to train in the present moment judgment free, that becomes the priority over harping on technique.  These are the small wins we can build for that person.  Once their mindfulness is developed, then we can really concentrate on the technique.

Sometimes the focus is on sleep.  We can’t have the mood, or energy to train well if our sleep is off.  We will still focus on things in training, but it will be made clear that this is the priority we need to get right to really pursue getting better.  

As our coach it is our job to help the lifter deal with their inner critic.  The lifter will inevitably have failures on the way.  We need to highlight that failures are opportunities and guide them to learn from them.

We need to highlight when they make improvements in small areas as our communication can portray a different message.  Always sharing PRs on the internet sends a message to the lifters that this is all you care about.  You can say focus on the process, but your actions are saying something different.  This gives each lifter’s inner critic power.

This is something I am really trying to work on as a coach.  To lead my example and do all of the small things necessary to get each lifter to achieve their own individual greatness.  It starts with having a vision that creates passion and purpose, identifying weaknesses, and attacking every challenge head on.  This is the only way that I can silence my inner critic and help my lifters silence theirs.

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