• Brad Stulberg

Even the Best in the World Have Doubts, Fear, and Anxiety When Performing

What goes through your head before a big performance? Regardless of if it’s a big race or cramming in work to meet a deadline when a challenging task is staring us right in the face, we are often met with doubt, anxiety, and fear. Negative emotions float to the surface while debilitating self-talk circles around in our head. We might try to mindfully accept them or push them away with a reminder of our goals and perseverance, but if you are human; you’re familiar with the flurry of feelings and self-doubt that precedes doing something difficult.

One marathoner recently posted a full run-down of what she was thinking, feeling, and experiencing, from the day prior to the event to during the race. We know what we experience but seldom do we get a peek behind the curtains of someone else’s mental game. It provides a fascinating look at the mental torture that we willingly put ourselves through. Some highlights:

The day before the race: “I am exhausted, but I can’t sleep in. I have no appetite…I am freaking out…”

The morning of the race: “I woke up Saturday morning, I not only had the pain on my quads and shin, but not the right hip too, I think I am definitely screwed.”

Before the gun goes off: “We walk to the start line, they won’t let anyone that’s not athlete into the athletes area, I cry, for no reason”

During the race: “In the past, all the races that I performed poorly had one thing in common, I start feeling the pain from the race, I focus on how I feel, for instance a tight and painful back/legs then I black-out. I stop living in the moment, I lose sight of the end goal, basically stop caring.”

Whether you are a runner or not, you can probably resonate with much of what this person expresses. Nervousness, anxiety, doubts, and a desire to throw in the towel. We’ve all been there.

But this person isn’t your ordinary jogger. It’s Aliphine Tuliamuk, the recent winner of the US Olympic Trials Marathon. In a series of tweets, she described exactly what she was experiencing leading up to and during her race to securing an Olympic spot.

When we watch great performers we tend to put them on a pedestal. We assume that they are some sort of superhuman who is immune to the mess of feelings and thoughts that the rest of us experience before doing something difficult. That’s simply not true. Even the best of the best experience the same nerves, doubts, fears, and desire to quit that the rest of us do. They struggle to deal with them the same way that you and I do.

That’s not to say that they aren’t great at what they do, but it’s worthwhile to remember that whenever doubts creep in, your inner dialogue goes negative, or anxiety makes it where you can’t eat or sleep, that you aren’t alone. That’s normal, not some sign of weakness. The best in the world experience the same thing. There’s comfort in that knowledge. Thanks for a reminder, Aliphine.

Steve

Brad Stulberg   |   bradstulberg.com   |  bradstul@gmail.com