My Own Worst Enemy by Scott Schirmer
It’s been about a little over a year since I started my powerlifting journey and I just competed in my second meet with results I was proud of.
I still had the lowest total of the afternoon session but added 45 pounds to my previous meet total, so I am happy with that progress! What I wanted to write about, that I find to be the toughest and most important part of my journey so far is the mental part of lifting.
The reason I say that this is the toughest and most important for me is because I am my own worst enemy. I always have been and I am sure I always will be. I grew up thinking I sucked at everything and because of this I always had an excuse for not being good enough before I even tried something. This was especially true when it came to sports. I played baseball from t-ball to high school. Looking back I probably wasn’t that bad but I never gave myself a chance to see if I had any potential. I was a junior in high school pitching for the varsity team one game and was having a pretty bad inning, instead of buckling down and getting through it after every pitch I would look over and stare my coach down so that he would take me out of the game but that son of bitch just left me in. At the time, I was pissed but in retrospect I understand why he did it. He wanted to see if I had the mental toughness to get through it. I didn’t, I just wanted out!
Along with the self-defeatist attitude, I could over analyze every situation. Basically, I could mess up a free lunch. I would over complicate everything and screw it up. With all of that mental chatter, I didn’t stand a chance. If I was in a winning situation, I would get scared and start playing not to lose instead of just playing like I had been. I decided to play golf for a while. I was pretty evenly matched with my friends but they knew my Achilles heel. If I was winning towards an end of a round all they had to do is add up the scores and tell me I was winning and they knew I would get in my own head and choke; my own worst enemy. I could give you a thousand more examples involving women but that’s for another article!
The thing that I love about powerlifting is that it’s just me, the iron and those demons in my head. I don’t have to worry about letting a team down (although I don’t want to let my coach down). Nothing is won or lost for anyone else.
Whether it’s in training or on the platform it’s everything on my shoulders for my results. Those results heavily depend on what goes on in between my two ears. I can put in all the training and hard work I want but if I don’t work on metal side my progress will be stunted immensely.
Here are a few mental issues that have gotten in the way of my progress and PRs.
Being afraid to fail, being afraid of looking foolish in front of other people at the gym (if you read my last article you know that I should be over that by now), being afraid of squatting down with heavy weight on my back and not being able to come back up. Just writing this I know it’s crazy but it’s damn hard to fix.
Dwelling on failure:
We all miss lifts that we think we “should be able to get” but dwelling on it and not being able to stop thinking about it just makes it worse. It’s reinforcing negative thoughts, which turn into negative actions.
I over think everything, trying to figure stuff out that wasn’t bad in the first place instead of just lifting. Focusing on one little thing makes the rest of my technique go to crap.
Trying not to screw up:
Instead of stepping up to the bar with confidence and trusting the work I have done, I focus all my energy on trying not to screw up this squat or bench instead of just squatting or benching like had just done on a lighter weight. As soon as I focus on trying not to fail, the more likely the end result will be failure.
Lack of self-confidence:
This is a big one, if you don’t walk up to that bar with confidence that you are going to make the lift you are just setting yourself up for failure. I have missed lifts before I even unrack the weight because I didn’t believe in myself enough that I would make it.
Putting myself down to others:
In my head if I tell you I suck and make jokes about it I feel like I won’t be letting anybody down and they won’t have misconceptions that I’m good. Hell, I did it at the beginning of this article by prefacing that I had the lowest total in the afternoon. Why did I even have to write that?
What does this all amount to…NEGATIVITY. Negativity breeds negativity. If you have all of this and more going on in your head, how in the hell can you expect positive outcomes? I can be the glass is half full guy with a lot of situations in my life. When it comes to challenges like powerlifting, it’s definitely half empty. I know that if I want to perform better this has to change.
Another issue I have struggled with is I am a very mellow person. To be honest I don’t get very emotional. I do battle with low-grade depression. This is a tough issue all in itself on days when I am struggling. I really don’t know what it’s like to be able to get psyched up for a big lift. It’s funny, I remember when my coach was telling me to get mad and take it out on the bar. My response was “I don’t know how to get mad”. I don’t really know how to get excited either. I would see all these people getting amped up for a big lift and envy that. The good thing is that after talking to someone who is very mellow and crushes big weights, you don’t have to be that amped up person to lift big weight. He also pointed me in the direction of some professional powerlifters to check out who has the same mindset.
A few months before this meet, I did a test day. Training had gone great and from what I had got on the previous weeks triples, I had high hopes. Needless to say my test day didn’t go according to plan. It was the most disappointing training day I’ve had. I woke up the next day in a legit depression that lasted a few days. I couldn’t believe it. It was that day that I realized it was time to start training my brain just as I do my body. I knew that I defeated myself that day with my own thoughts. My mental toughness was practically non-existent. There is a saying that I heard Stewie tell Brian in the show Family Guy, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, your right!” How true it is? This is something that I am going to have to work on for a lifetime, but I know that the more I work on it the more successful I will be on the platform and in all other areas of my life. The reason for writing this, embarrassing as it is, is maybe there are some other new lifters who can relate to it. And by passing on my experience so far they will see they aren’t the only one whose mind is their own worst enemy.