Athlete Journal: Valerie Worthington, Entry 2 – My Inner Voice Has a Big Mouth

If I’m not dialed in mentally, the rest of my training goes out the window. I’m working on communicating positively with myself!


Welcome to the Athlete Journal of world-class grappler Valerie Worthington. Follow Valerie as she trains and competes in various events over the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition season. Val’s journal will be posted every Thursday.

You can catch up by reading her previous journal entries!

Happily, I’m back on track with my training after my illness, which was accompanied by that tantrum about my illness. I’ve been back to a normal training schedule for about a week, and this week I’ll be tapering before the PanAms, which I wrote about on Sunday. I’m headed to California later this week to compete.

This week, I will have trained hard Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then on Thursday, while you are reading this story, I’ll be in a plane for most of the day. Friday I’ll probably go to the tournament to case the joint and cheer some people on, and then Saturday and maybe Sunday I’ll compete, both in my weight class and in the absolute. The absolute is all the women of my belt rank who want to compete against each other regardless of their weights. So I could compete against someone much larger or much smaller than myself – or both, if I play my cards right.

On Friday night, I will likely want to roll around, because by then I will have convinced myself I don’t know squat about jiu-jitsu. And I’ll need to prove to myself that I do know some things. This is an indication that my inner voice, negative version, is opening its fat yap and I need to rein it in.

When I first started competing, it terrified me. I would start to freak out weeks in advance, and as the event neared, I’d sleep less and less well. I’d not-so-secretly wish the floor would open and swallow me up so I wouldn’t have to follow through, and since I was frequently competing in earthquake-friendly Southern California, I thought my odds were pretty good. (So far, no such luck.)

Nowadays, I am not afraid of competing anymore. I’ve become used to the feelings it engenders in me – excited, anxious, depressed, eager, sad, happy, dopey, grumpy, and yes, sleepy. What happens now is the self-talk, the inner conversation. If I’m not careful, it spirals out of control. Historically, I have had a tendency to catastrophize anyway. For example, I might have this thought process:

I made a mistake => this negates every good thing I have ever done in my life => I am a worthless person => I don’t deserve love, or anything else I want.

I don’t do that nearly as much as I used to, but old habits die hard. When I’m preparing for a competition, the self talk goes something like:

I had a bad training session => my jiu-jitsu sucks => I suck => I should just stay home.

So, part of my pre-competition preparation has to do with getting my inner voice to pipe down on the negativity, with refocusing the conversation toward a more self-loving and affirming one. I wrote a story about how I’m trying to be kinder to my body. Same goes for my brain and my mind. Rather than beating myself up before someone else has the chance to do it, now I do the positive affirmation thing. I don’t quite say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me,” but I do repeat positive things about my game, my preparation, my frame of mind. And it helps!

So the next time your negativity starts using its outside voice, whether before a tournament or just in general, tell it to shut its turducken hole and start listing the ways you kick ass. Better still, list them in the comments section!