The Inner Voice (Managing Your Self-Talk in eSports)

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Throughout all of our blog posts we always try to maintain a core theme. That core theme being the act of focusing on what YOU can control. We know all of the variables that come with competition. Your independent learning curve, the wild nature of each game, your opponents, etc. So we write about Goal Setting, Benchmarking, and most recently Ritualization. However, something always occurs when you start to dial in on your own performance. You awaken The Inner Voice.

Everyone’s inner voice may show up differently, but the most common connotation is that of a negative one. Self-Talk is often the product of a reaction. On this journey of progress and improvement, it’s common to do more losing than winning. Which is why having emotional resilience is key. However, losing more so than winning, may always illicit this type of negative self-talk reaction. If left unchecked it can create a cycle of negative reinforcement that can derail progress from players of any skill level.

With these factors in mind, the Inner Voice can be an incredibly destructive presence to your performance. To remedy that let’s dig deep into what Self-Talk is, when it shows up, and how you can gain control over your Inner Voice.

Self-Talk

Traditionally Self-Talk manifests itself in three different ways. Instruct, Motivate, and Evaluate. Our minds commonly default to these three actions throughout or normal lives. When we are going step by step with something we Self-Talk in an instructional manner. If we are trying to hype ourselves up for a game, or activity, then that’s motivational. Lastly after we make decisions and experience things in life we evaluate and so on.

Pre and Post Competition

When looked at through an eSports competitive lens, we tend to only seek exterior motivation, and interior evaluation. This can be very damaging to performance and lead to blind spots, and an overall poor mindset. For example, how often do you motivate yourself before a match? Tell yourself that you are going to play well, and that your opponent doesn’t matter, just your performance? How often do you reflect on your past victories and remind yourself of how clutch you are, or how solid you are? Or even just how good you are feeling?

Alternatively, how often do you spend time after losses going over a match in your head? Telling yourself how it should have gone? Convincing yourself that, despite losing, you’re still the better player? Worse even, reminding yourself of why you don’t like doing this, or that you shouldn’t even bother. Hesitating to go to your next tournament because of your previous placements.

This mindset comes to a lot of us naturally. Unfortunately it’s incredibly counter intuitive, and is almost setting us up for failure. Among the best players in the world, and best performers in any field, the mindset is the complete opposite. They take the time to motivate themselves and inject confidence into their performance. They seek feedback and evaluation from outside sources, and combine that information with their ability to enhance every performance. When the natural self evaluation occurs, it is done with a level of self trust in their own ability.

Taking Control

The first step in taking control of your Inner Voice is examining what your voice is telling you, and not telling you. Try to become aware of your pre game ritual. Are you confident in your practice? Did you spend time to visualize your performance? Are you just simply feeling good? Then insert motivational Self-Talk into your match.

There are tons of study’s that prove the effectiveness of positive Self-Talk before an activity. Some vocations absolutely rely on it, such as firefighters and first responders. The best type of motivation boosting Self-Talk is short sentences paired with an awareness of your breathing. Phrases like “Let’s do this.” “Game Time” “Focus” “Play Solid” “This will be fun”.  Overall giving yourself a level of readiness and confidence goes an incredible distance in how you perform.

There are ways to do this incorrectly though. You don’t want to use any negative Self-Talk. Obviously don’t say phrases like “I can’t win” etc. But there are other phrases that can seem harmless, but have a huge impact. For example, “Don’t lose this game.” “We can’t go into losers bracket.” “Don’t drop any combos.” “I really hope they don’t do this” “I don’t know what to do against this.”

Telling yourself what not to do, is likely what will end up happening. Since your brain focuses more on prevention and reaction, it can cause you to freeze or choke in the very moment you were Self-Talking to prevent.

When it comes to the evaluation side of your mind, your negative voice will still show up. It’s natural for this to happen and I would be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. Remember to take your losses as opportunities. A reminder of where you are for the moment, and where you want to be. If negativity finds its way into your mind, acknowledge it and move on. It’s very difficult to fully tune out all negativity in the brain, and it’s more than likely unhealthy to do so as well. However the best way to not dwell on it is to acknowledge it, move on, or substitute it with something positive. This may take time to get used to, but it will absolutely help generate self trust in your performance and your overall goals as an eSports competitor.

Go outside of your own inner council to find evaluation. Ask your peers, friends and players who are above you or below you. Not only will you be surprised at other peoples perception of you, but it will continue to help you grow as a player. As you do this over a large amount of time. Your brain will slowly switch into that winning mentality that the players at the top share. It will open you up to take chances, celebrate your wins and losses, and go places you didn’t think you could.

“The best players don’t just stroll  into their performance. They don’t allow themselves to recklessly react. They take action, and build upon every experience.” ~Coach Czech

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