How To Change Your Internal Narrative Even If You Suck At Staying Positive
Updated: Feb 24
It was the 2019 Indoor Nationals 600m final.
I was about to compete in arguably the best heat of my entire career up until that point (still?) and racing an event that I wasn’t very familiar with.
I still feel my heart pounding in my chest as I warmed up under the stadium stairs and glanced shakily at the intense, powerful women doing drills around me. Nine times out of ten, I find myself in these situations questioning my *entire life* as a professional runner.
Sometimes I even wish that I wasn't about to race at all. "If only I hadn't qualified for this race." I think to myself.
Yeah, I will be literally within the moment that I trained countless hours and sacrificed so much for...wishing I hadn't qualified to get there. How crazy does that sound?
Something was different about this race though and I find myself returning to it time and time again when faced with situations I'm dreading. This time I was still nervous, but the whole vibe of that nervousness carried something else with it...
Excitement to put myself on a national stage in front of thousands of eyes, against a handful of extreme talent and ya know... just see what happens?
So what was so different about this time around when I was in that oh-so-familiar situation?
Replacing Limiting Beliefs With Positive Narratives
What was different about this situation was that—at this point—I had gotten really good at changing the narrative in my head.
This isn't something I'm good at always, which is probably why the first memory that comes to me is from a race several years ago.
But I want to talk about using positive affirmations to replace limiting beliefs and quite literally change the narrative...and what that can do for your happiness and productivity.
Which is what I did here!
Changing The Narrative
In the changing the narrative example above, I had found a way to switch my usual PANIC mode into a semi-relaxed, almost joyous and excitement-filled mode.
Actually implementing this strategy might not be so simple, but on paper it is. \ All I did was tell myself that what I was feeling was something else.
In this example, I was experiencing what we know as the feeling of nervousness:
feeling like blood is running out of your face and arms
tired and yawning
What's interesting about these biological responses to being nervous is that they're super close to the same responses we have when we're excited.
Think about a time you were really excited.
Was your mind racing a mile a minute with blood and adrenaline moving so fast through your body that you could physically feel it?
All I did to change the narrative in this situation was tell myself that what I was feeling wasn't nervousness. It was excitement!
And honestly, it worked.
I vividly remember walking to the starting line for that race with my head held high and an uncharacteristic pep in my step.
I looked at the audience instead of down anxiously at my feet.
And I ran well.
And the whole day was not as traumatic as it usually is.