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  • Writer's pictureJoanny Valerio

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

 As a sport psychology consultant, I hold the practices of this field near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I am originally from the Bronx, first generation latinx. Sport was always seen as an outlet, a key to a successful future out of the ‘hood’ in order to escape violence, a corrupt educational system, for a better life. With such emphasis on sport I realized our community did not acknowledge mental health, and that athletes are much more than the sport they play. As a person of color, we are more than the stereotype that we are natural born athletes. Just like everyone else it takes dedication, hard work, effort, and perseverance to make it happen. For me this all starts with our mental, our capability to push through racism, biases, financial boundaries, and lack of resources. The real work begins internally, and that is where my interest began to develop. Why are we not encouraging confidence, motivation, and self-compassion? Sport Psychology opens the door for these conversations to take place, begin to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. 

Why not start on a huge platform such as the world of sport? Athletes are expected to perform consistently and at an optimal level regardless of any adversity, pressures, or injuries they may experience, they are required to achieve, excel or else... That is where motivation comes into play; from the lenses of sport, it is a prerequisite of an athlete in order to have the ability to perform at their optimal level. Motivation is also defined as an internal focus and desire which influences aspects of behaviors. The term motivation is much more than an internal focus, but it results from a change of attitude while adopting a positive mindset. 

The discussion of motivation in my realm focuses on two types, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is internal, such as participating in a sport because it provides pure enjoyment to the individual. As athletes, one should ask themselves 

Why am I doing this?

What makes me happy?

How can I get to the next level?

 The answers to these questions can change throughout your journey in sport and that is OKAY! It is the answers to these questions that help improve skill set and influences personal growth. Intrinsic motivation improves behaviors, you become more focused, less stressed, and increase confidence. Part of sport is also the satisfaction one gets from extrinsic rewards, these become extrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivation are behaviors that are influenced by rewards such as impressing your coach, gaining a scholarship to a Division I university, or winning the championship game. The problem with extrinsic motivation is that it creates a false narrative in the mind of the individual, that they are not good enough if they do not impress or perform. This ultimately creates more anxiety and results in limited control over emotions. 

So how do we reinforce intrinsic motivation and push out false narratives of not being good enough? One way is to reframe these negative thoughts, through positive self-talk. The practice of positive self-talk reframes the way we think, pushing out our negative biases and emotions by replacing them with purpose, gratitude, and belief in self. Goal setting is another practice that can increase intrinsic motivation. Goal-setting should be seen as an action plan for personal development, turning into a vision of success into reality. Start by answering a few questions:

1. such as what does success look like for you?

2.  How can you benefit from these goals? 

3. Most importantly why is this goal important to YOU? 

As important as motivation is to sport it is more important to the personal development of the individual. With that said I challenge you to keep track of your thoughts, when you catch doubtful thoughts how can we change and adapt them? I challenge you to be kinder to yourself and recognize your journey and acknowledge your successes and those that are to come. You got this!

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