People can naturally get caught in a negativity bias. We tend to focus on the bad stuff. And sure, there is always room for improvement and constructive self-criticism is necessary. There are also some things that are necessary to believe about ourselves in order to be quality humans, quality runners, and maintain a head space that allows opportunity for growth.
Some Things to Believe Are True About Yourself:
1. You are doing the best you can.
You really are. Even if you get disappointed in yourself for not pushing harder, going further, for giving yourself a break…at the moment, you did what you could. Your reflection of a situation will help you push harder, go further, and keep carrying on the next time…not the last time. In any isolated moment, we are doing the very best that we can given the circumstances. Sometimes we do need a break. And then once we've given ourselves that reprieve, we come to a realization in the next moment that we can keep going and continue pushing.
2. You want to improve.
We may not always believe this about other people, and many times peoples' actions don't show us that they want to get better. But deep down, somewhere, they do. And everyone is doing the best they can. Sometimes people don't have the capacity just yet to believe they are worth the effort to be better. This may pertain to running, or anything in your life. Doing better, feeling better, living better, running better.
3. You need to do better, put in more effort, and be more motivated.
This may seem to contradict the first two points. But this must also be believed about ourselves. Many things can be true at the same time. It can be true that you’re doing the best you can, you want to be better, and trying harder is something that will make that happen. Believing that we're doing the best we can does not mean that we can become complacent. We can all benefit from growing our motivation to keep going, get up and out of bed in the morning, not skip the strides at the end of an easy run, nourish ourselves in a fulfilling way.
4. You didn’t cause all your problems…but it is your responsibility to solve them.
You need to change your own response to situations in order for things to get better, for improvement to happen. It may not have been your fault, but it is definitely your responsibility to pick up the pieces and move forward. We can't expect anyone else to do the work for us. You may have gotten injured. The weather may be terrible. The race may have been canceled. And now it's your responsibility to do those rehab exercises, to figure out how to move through the torrential rain, and to pivot to another goal.
5. New behavior needs to be learned in context.
In order to get better at something, it must be practiced in the situations where the new behavior is needed. Practice getting up earlier, practice building a routine, practice mental resiliency during your long runs. You can't just sit around and think about what you're going to do. You need to actually do it. You need to practice it. You can read about all the mental strength tricks there are, but until you actually utilize them in a workout, they will do you no good.
6. Actions, thoughts, and emotions are caused by something.
There is always a cause. Even if you don’t know what it is. Self-reflection can help you find out what that reason is, and better aid you in improving your situation. Sometimes emotions are caused by thoughts. Sometimes a bout of negativity in a race is caused by just a fraction of a second in which you think you might not do it, whatever it is. Maybe you went out too fast (or too slow) because you didn't feel quite as confident in your ability to achieve your goal as you would have liked. Maybe somebody cut you off, and you were tired physically, so you were less resilient mentally, it was just something you couldn't recover from mentally.
7. Figuring out the cause of a reaction, then changing it, is more helpful than judging and blaming.
Sure the weather may be bad. Of course, some people may be able to put in more miles than you. But judging others for what they do, or blaming the situation of bad weather on your performance is not helpful although it may be easy. The reality is, that judging and blaming might be reflective of a negative self-view. Maybe you are mad at yourself for not trying as hard as you believe you have the capacity to when you see someone else doing more. Giving up before you've even begun when there's a snow storm is a heck of a lot easier than persevering, pushing through, and seeing what may come...even if what may come is not a PR but just a really tough workout. If you want to create a sense of satisfaction within yourself, you must acknowledge your own individual chain of events that causes unwanted behaviors and events, like skipping a workout, or a poor race performance.
These are the core assumptions for dialectics. A huge component of this is the understanding that things that may seem to be opposites, are more related than we initially give them credit for. And things that seem to be opposing, can both be true simultaneously. The biggest thing to understand about opposites being true, is that you can want to be better, and also know you are awesome the way you are.