Updated: Jul 16, 2019
One of the hardest parts of equestrian sports is dealing with the endless criticism we put ourselves through. Often we don’t mind it (heck we even pay for it) when we put ourselves in the position for someone to coach us, offering constructive criticism in order for us to improve. But then there is the other side of it, from the sideliners, or the people with the big voices who like to announce their opinions on your riding or your horse. It can be tough out there!
I know exactly what it is like to feel like it is easier to just hide yourself away at home, put your highlights on social media and steer well clear of going in any space where there could be someone who can judge you. In fact, I spent over a year of not competing my dream horse because of this, because one person told me I can’t, I let it affect me to the point I gave up on going to shows. Of course when I finally did pluck up enough courage to enter a show, I would find an excuse not to go. I have entered more shows than I have been to because of this! How ridiculous! Then I finally did enter a show and committed myself to it and guess what. Those feelings that I had surrounding showing had manifested and I was shaking in my boots thinking about getting out there. The difference is, this time I did get out there! I got last which I was so afraid of but it was the best thing that could have happened to me because the worst case scenario happened and the world kept on turning. I even showed up the following weekend for another go! And I kept going back and going back and now I finally feel like I have found my feet at this new level! On top of that its exciting and amazing and I just can’t wait to go out again and again. Even more exciting for me is that for the first time in my life competing is ENJOYABLE! Anyway enough about me! Here is what you can do to get your mojo back, take on board good criticism and shrug of the bad. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
For a time I thought that I was just weak, that I couldn't handle the truth. I got bitter, I got angry and I became jealous of people that didn't even really matter to me! That person isn't me, I am not a weak person who just needs to harden up, I am just a person who needs to learn how to channel this energy into something productive. The last thing we need on this earth is more tough riders who lose their softness. Softness is a fantastic trait to have when training animals, we want them to be soft to us so in turn we need to be soft with them (and I am not talking about letting your horse do what he wants and walking all over you). It is okay to care, it is okay to feel sad about things but it is not okay to just pack up and move to that negative space. You have to keep just putting one foot in front of the other and carry on making progress.
The problem is when we pack up and move to that place and let people dim our light and try to walk all over our dreams. Just because one person thinks something, doesn't make it true. Don’t let yourself get to a point where you are giving up on your dream because of a negative outside force. Let your internal forces, that you can control over power the bad, so that you can keep on keeping on.
Do more, every time you put yourself in an uncomfortable space you accustom yourself to it so it becomes more and more comfortable, and even enjoyable! Every time you let yourself avoid something, you just manifest your feelings towards said activity so it makes it even harder next time. There isn't a person in this world, no matter how successful that hasn't had some form of failure over time. I have had people criticise me for getting a high 50 score at a new level in dressage that are often out there getting the same scores on more experienced horses, and they are more experienced themselves! It’s totally hypocritical and I used to pay attention to their voices but now I realise the words they are expressing to me is their disappointment in themselves, not in me, they are trying to boost their own ego by pulling me down. I am speaking from my own experience here, but I know that everyone has had an experience similar that is totally relatable.
The more you move out of your comfort zone, the more you grow as a rider and a human. Your performance in your sport will translate into your everyday life and thats why having a happy and focused mindset is so important. Take on board good criticism and tell yourself you aren't interested in the negative, putting it straight out of your mind is going to ensure it doesn't fester later on and you can keep your eye on the prize.
Often its not the criticism itself that has you spinning its when it appeals to your own insecurities about yourself when it becomes negative. If you go out thinking you aren't good enough, then when someone offers you some advise it is going to affirm your belief that you aren't good enough, because if you were they wouldn't be criticising right? Wrong. The criticism that was there to help you has just tapped into the part of you that was feeling fragile to begin with and you have spun it into something that it was never intended to be.
There will always be disbelievers out there, its a fact of all parts of life. Accept that and move on. The problem isn't criticism, the problem is our own insecurities and destructive beliefs we hold of ourselves. When something crops up that appeals to those insecurities then they manifest and the more we feed them, the bigger they grow. Not everything is a threat!
Criticism will never go away so reprogram your mindset so you can get to the point where you feel amazing about what you do, that you can see that your journey is your own and you are satisfied with the process. Get to this point and you will find that criticism no longer overwhelms you because your thought process is clear and you can control how you feel about these things.
Protect your own mind and nurture yourself with the same softness that you would with your horse. Build your own self esteem and coping mechanisms so outside factors will no longer send you spinning!