What barriers are you facing as an athlete? What exactly is holding you back from accomplishing your athletic goals?
When young tennis players are asked about their biggest hurdle, a large majority of these players identify some type of mental obstacle…
- “I lose my confidence when I play highly-ranked opponents.”
- “I talk myself out of winning, especially if it is a close match.”
- “I always choke when I have a set lead.”
- “I can’t seem to control my emotions after a bad line call.”
- “I lose my focus after a few unforced errors and can’t seem to get my head back in the game.”
These mental hurdles that young players face are based in fear: fear of losing, fear of success, fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointing others, fear of feeling like a fraud, etc.
When professional players talk about their mental barriers, the term “inner demons” sometimes surfaces.
“Inner demons” are like fears on steroids. Inner demons start out as negative thoughts but grow into formidable fears and mental images that continue to grow the more a player tries to repress those fear thoughts.
Your future accomplishments will be limited by the degree in which you allow your negative thoughts, mental images and inner demons to remain unchecked.
2020 Australian Open
Roger Federer mentioned battling his inner demons after his tough match against John Millman 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8) at the 2020 Australian Open.
FEDERER: “I had to stay focused, make the right decision and [Millman] was doing all that stuff in the beginning of the breaker. I thought: ‘ok, I guess I tried. I didn’t play too bad after all.’ I was getting ready to explain myself in the press conference. The demons are always there, they’re always lurking. But anyway, what a match, John [Millman] sure deserves half of this one.”
Even being one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Federer had to overcome his inner demons of accepting defeat and the feeling of giving up, in order to push through discomfort and pull out the victory.
Inner demons were a topic No. 5 Dominic Thiem discussed after beating top-seeded Rafael Nadal 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Australian Open.
Thiem displayed immense mental toughness by winning three tiebreakers in a match that lasted 4 hour 10 minutes and concluded after midnight. The win was Thiem’s first victory over Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament after losing to him in the last two French Open finals.
Thiem talked about how his inner demons seeped into his mind slightly knocking him off his game and causing a few double faults and unforced errors during the match.
THIEM: “It’s a little bit of demons in the head, like Roger [Federer] said, it’s true. Everybody has it, and I was just rushing way too much, changing a little bit the tactics all [through] the match, and that was wrong.”
You can win the battle over your inner demons just like Federer and Thiem. You have the power to prevent those inner demons from running wild deep within you and rearing their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.
How do you overcome your inner demons?
There are several steps you can take to conquer your internal demons:
- Stop dragging the past around with you into the present. Inner demons arise when memories of past failures replay in your mind.
- Recognize it’s not the situation that is keeping you from performing your best; it’s your thoughts about the situation that are interfering with your play and limiting your potential.
- Make a commitment to face your inner demons. Confronting your fears chips away at their intensity.
- Deconstruct your inner demons. By examining your internal assumptions, you can break free from those false beliefs that interfere with your potential.
Tardio Tips: Deconstructing your Inner Demons:
Fact-Check your Negative Beliefs – Ask yourself, “Is this belief 100% true?” “Why do I feel this way?”
By creating reasonable doubt, you will begin toppling down those irrational demons.