A few years ago in University, I was sitting in a psychology class when we started talking about this theory called the self-fulfilling prophecy, and I realized that a lot of my beliefs and actions were influenced by it. For those unfamiliar with it, the prophecy is (from Psychology Today)
Ideas that become reality simply because someone believes them.
Basically, if you think something is going to (or not going to) happen, that will influence your behaviour, which influences how others see you and their behaviour towards you, which can then reinforce your beliefs and behaviour. This can be a good thing if you start with the belief that you can do something, but it can be harmful if you start off believing you can’t.
In roller derby (because that’s basically all I do at this point it seems – besides school), I’ve been working towards becoming a strong jammer. The jammer is sort of the star of the show. They score points by getting past the opposing blockers – one point per blocker. If the jammer screws up, her team gets no points during that jam, or worse, the other jammer scores points against her. Sometimes I tend to crack under the pressure.
This summer I was playing on two teams, the BackSeat Betties and the Bombshell Brawlers, and the bench coaches often put me in as a jammer. The problem was, when it mattered most, I fell for the self-fulfilling prophecy cycle and found it difficult to break.
On August 23, the BackSeat Betties played against the Valkyries’ Wrath, which has always been a daunting team for me to play; there are some players on that team that I love to play with but dread playing against. So every time I would line up on that jammer line, I would look at my opponents in the eyes and see their death stares. I almost gave up before the whistle even blew.
The reason? I would convince myself by saying, “I can’t get past her,” and then I wouldn’t get past her. I didn’t take any chances and got my butt kicked, possibly changing (or maybe reinforcing) my teammates’ beliefs about my skills as a jammer.
So how do I get past the endless circle of “I CAN’T do it,” and then fail because of it? I’ve been struggling with this, but there are a few things I’ve started doing on the jammer line to try and help get over this that can still have some real world application if you ever find yourself in the same loop.
- Look to my teammates, NOT the opposing team glaring at me.
- In the Real World: Looking to something or someone that’s supportive can help remind you that you CAN do something. Others believe in you and are there to help you.
- Practice with the players I find the most daunting more often.
- In the Real World: Facing your fears or trying whatever it is you’re saying you can’t do is the only way to get better at it and to change the “I can’t do it” to “I CAN do it.”
- Joke around with my teammates by doing things like dancing around on the jammer line before the next jam starts.
- In the Real World: Do something to get out of your head and back into reality. The longer you dwell on your thoughts, the worse they can get.
- Set realistic game goals like not falling as often or not getting any penalties. I realize I will not be the next Bonnie Thunders.
- In the Real World: Having goals is great, but saying you’re going to be the next Superstar may be a tad unrealistic. Use realistic words for your goals as well, and get rid of exaggerations in your vocabulary like always or never.