Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘High Self-Esteem

I’m often asked what I believe to be the secret for living a longer, healthier life, and based on my experience these past 85 years here’s what I’ve found. First and foremost it helps if you are born into a family where there is a loving, nurturing home environment and as a child you receive unconditional love. But this love can come later in life from a spouse, a coach, or even a teacher. It translates into high self-esteem and the most important characteristic for someone with high self-esteem is they deal directly with their issues and do not allow them to fester and hover above them like a dark cloud. People who have low self-esteem and withhold (and by withholding I mean keeping their feelings and emotions bottled-up inside themselves) create stress for themselves and this stress results in their bodies giving off hormones that impair their immune systems. In addition, a regimen of exercise is important. In my case, I played baskeball and handball for more than thirty years, five days a week, 3 hours per day, and never used drugs nor abused alcohol. The way you treat your body when you are young will show up in your older years. That’s why exercise is so important. But even more important is high self-esteem. And a strong belief in the almighty.

Myth #1: Some Coaches are Great Motivators.

Contrary to most beliefs, you really can’t motivate another person.  Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within and over the past 27 years I’ve found that the higher a person’s feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) the more motivated he or she will become.  If I were speaking to a group of people in a room and my job was to motivate them, the first thing I would do would be to organize them into a support group so they could talk about personal issues they may be keeping bottled inside themselves and as they talk about their issues and vent their feelings, they’ll start to feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated.  The most successful coaches are those who provide an internal mechanism for players to communicate with their teammates and discuss their issues together.  And once they do, their performance levels will increase.

Which brings me to a discussion of a book entitled:  “The Motivational Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child.”  But unfortunately, I couldn’t disagree with the author more.  He maintains that if you want to motivate children in school, you need to use the six P’s: Praise, Power, Projects, People, Prizes and Prestige.  From my perspective, if you want to motivate children in school, especially those who are highly unmotivated, you need to do what I’ve described above as applied to sports teams.  That is, put them into support groups and allow them to talk about issues in their personal lives and what is going on at home.  Once they open up and discuss their feelings and emotions in a support group setting with their peers, they will enhance their own feelings of self-worth and will automatically become more motivated.  There’s a correlation between High Self-Esteem and High Motivation and Low Self-Esteem and Low Motivation.  You have to work from the inside out, not the outside in.  And the same goes for so-called “Motivational Speakers” who I believe are a hoax. They should be called “Inspirational Speakers.”

Myth #2: The More We Believe We’re Part of a Team the More Successful We’ll Become.

I call this “The Myth of the Team,” and here’s how it works:  The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. I want to repeat that because it’s so important. The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. The general belief is that the opposite is true but it’s not. You see it very clearly on a team where one player is superior to others. The players who perceive themselves as less superior allow the more talented player to take over and lead the group. In the case of a basketball team, they allow the one player to rebound, to shoot, and to, in effect, be the team. As a result, their individual performances are inhibited. To counteract this, I always encourage coaches to take each player into their office and privately tell that player what he the coach expects of him or her in the coming game. Twenty points, ten rebounds, and so on. This sends a message to each player that he or she is perceived as an “individual” and has goals to achieve as an individual, rather than letting someone else take over his or her function. It also establishes expectations.

Myth #3: Positive Affirmations Always Work.

I once read a book that espoused a theory concerning positive affirmations.  This particular book, written by a sport psychologist, maintained that if you say the phrase over and over again “I am a courageous, risk-taking warrior” that you can overcome your fear of taking a risk.  This may work fine with people who have high self-esteem, but for those with a low sense of self-worth you’re speaking on deaf ears because risk-takers they are not.  There is no affirmation in the world yet devised that can get them to take a risk, until they deal with whatever issues they have in their lives that are affecting how they feel about themselves.  Then, the higher their self-esteem, the more likely they are to risk.

Athletes who want to begin feeling good about themselves must identify and begin resolving important issues in their lives before the results of being happy will surface.  Relying on positive affirmations is like wagging the tail of a dog and expecting the dog to be happy.  The dog must be happy first, and then its tail will wag…automatically.

Myth #4:  Visualization Always Works.

I’m a strong believer in the theory that what takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.  When athletes are encumbered with psychological baggage (issues and problems) visualization and other mental techniques will be ineffective.  As a Performance Enhancement Trainer/Consultant I’m able to help athletes with their persona problems and issues and can also teach them visualization techniques. And I’ve found that when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, what they visualize will actually be created during competition.

Let me be clear from the start. Cancer survivors often ask me, “You mean I created my own cancer?” and my answer is an emphatic: “No!” But I also point out to them that they did create the stress in their lives that impaired their immune systems, allowing cancer cells in their body to multiply at a rate faster than their immune systems could devour them. And their stress was based on how they viewed their life’s issues.

Many physicians will agree that a relationship exists between high self-esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness.  Research has shown that many individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer are repressing their feelings, which not only affects their self-esteem, but also their health. Here’s how it works: When you withhold (or repress) your feelings and emotions it’s a form of lying that demeans you and lowers your self-esteem. As your self-esteem is lowered you begin to see the world around you from a negative perspective (“we see things as we are”) and create stress for yourself. As a result of the stress, your body gives off hormones, (such as cortisol) that impair your immune system. According to the “Surveillance Mechanism Theory,” which was first identified and named by Dr. Carl Simonton, we all have cancer cells in our bodies that are constantly being devoured by our immune system Pac-Man style. But when we encounter stress in our lives, our immune system becomes impaired and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. The result is: we are soon diagnosed as having cancer.

In the late 1980s I lived in Kansas City, Missouri and volunteered my services at the RA Bloch Cancer Support Center. On various Sunday mornings, with the encouragement of co-founder Richard Bloch, I would meet with newly diagnosed cancer patients in a support group environment. At the outset I would explain to them that even though they had been diagnosed with cancer that was not their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had a suppressed (or impaired) immune system. Since research has shown the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions, we would have each person in the group tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others in the room and, at the same time, bring their emotions to the surface. After talking about their issues (many for the first time) their repressed feelings began to disappear and they immediately felt better about themselves. Once they began talking about their issues, they experienced an increase in self-esteem resulting in an enhanced immune system. At that point they were then ready to use a “guided imagery” visualization technique where they would “see” their own healthy t-cells attacking their cancer cells. This exercise was accompanied by Patti LaBelle’s recording of “New Attitude.” At that time I had a story- board that I used in those sessions showing the t-cells coming together, mobilizing, and forming an arrow. The arrow would zoom toward a large glob that represented a cancer cell and the arrow would attack the glob, which would then deflate and dissipate.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to locate the storyboard. But I believe cancer patients reading this can create their own visual image of t-cells attacking cancer cells and use Patti LaBelle’s recording to accompany it. I’m sure Patti would not mind since she herself is a cancer survivor. Later, patients would listen to only the music track and the images that were embedded in their minds would recreate themselves, automatically. Also, it’s important to remember that when cancer patients enhance their own self-esteem, they automatically enhance the potency of their immune systems. One last point: What I have recommended should only be considered as a supplemental program. It should not replace any treatment prescribed by a physician or oncologist.

One of the most important characteristics of people with a high sense of self-worth is that they speak their mind and don’t keep their feelings and emotions bottled up inside themselves. Such was the case when Tom Brady’s wife, Super Model Gisele Bundchen blasted Tom’s New England Patriots teammates right after the Super Bowl ended by saying (after being teased by a nearby fan who told her “Eli owns your husband,”) “My husband cannot (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.” There were four passes dropped near the end of the game, one of the most important by Wes Welker who apologized to the media after the game that he dropped a pass he should have caught. (Another characteristic of high self esteem: taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming other people.) Tom Brady is lucky to have a wife who speaks her mind and doesn’t withhold her feelings and emotions. They make the best wives. And he’s also lucky to have a teammate like Wes Welker.


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