Mental Blocks: Fear of Failure
A common problem in gymnastics is having a "mental block." But what is a mental block? Simply put, a mental block is a fear that is preventing you from performing a specific skill. Why is this important? Because if you are limited in the number or type of skills that you can perform, your overall potential in the sport of gymnastics is limited! This is a big problem if you plan to compete at a high level or progress to the next level from where you currently are.
So if fear is the cause of a mental block, then we must look at what scares you. This will be the first blog in a multi-part series that helps you examine your fears and gives you some practical advice on how to manage them when they occur.
The first common fear that we'll discuss is the fear of failure. Many athletes are performing under a lot of pressure. That pressure is often created by high expectations of performing well, both from yourself and other important people around you (e.g., coaches, parents, teammates). You begin to wonder what will happen if you don't perform well enough to meet those expectations, or "fail!" Once you think about all of the negative possibilities, you become more and more afraid that they might come true. As a result, you begin attempting to defend yourself from this negative outcome and start behaving in a way that allows you to avoid making mistakes. The way that you can tell that you are afraid of performing a skill, is when you replace it with an easier skill (because you are less likely to mess up doing an easier skill) or do not fully commit to doing it. The end result of fearing failure is that you actually do fail.
The fear of failure is a natural part of being an athlete. Every gymnast has encountered fear, and highly successful gymnasts have been forced to face their fears over and over to reach those higher levels. I want this point to be very clear and encourage you to begin believing that fearing failure is natural, but also unacceptable. To be successful, you cannot allow this fear to limit your potential. In other words, you must face and overcome this fear rather than let it determine how successful you can become as a gymnast.
Check out the video titled "Kristina Baskett is Afraid of Bars" to hear her talk about her fear of the bars and how she faced her fears.
Be sure to check back in a couple weeks for the next blog in this fear series, when I will discuss the fear of injury. Meanwhile, leave a comment here on this blog about fears that you would like me to discuss or times when you overcame a fear you had. Trust me, everyone reading this has had a fear and currently has a fear, so you are not alone!