For the past few months we’ve been talking about limiting beliefs, those unintentional negative thoughts that have a nasty way of limiting our ability to think in a confident way. While limiting beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, most of them come in the form of blindspot biases - negative thoughts we don’t think we’re thinking even though we’re thinking them (whew… that’s a lot of thinking!). In short, blindspot biases are any negative thoughts that lie below the surface of our awareness (thoughts we’re blind to). Unfortunately, just like a car hiding in your vehicle’s blindspot, these thoughts can get you into a ton of trouble.
In my previous two articles I told you about bandwagon bias (adopting the beliefs of others even though they might not be true) and telescoping bias (seeing your mistakes and failures as if looking through a telescope so they seem bigger than they actually are). This month I’m going to tell you about another blindspot bias called the bad guy bias.
So just what is bad guy bias and how can it affect your ability to act in a positive way? Well, think of a memory from your past when you were a bit worried about what others might have been thinking about you as you rode in a class, clinic, or competition. Regardless of the situation, there’s a pretty good chance those thoughts might have made you a touch nervous. After all, those onlookers could have be thinking some really bad stuff about you! And there it is. The reason you became nervous was because you unintentionally thought that everyone was thinking bad things about you (meaning they’re bad people) even though it probably wasn’t true!
In short, the bad guy bias occurs when riders develop the subconscious habit of believing that everyone watching them are bad people - critical of everything they do and looking to pick them apart for their weaknesses while ignoring their strengths! But here’s the bias part - it's not true! The majority of people watching are more likely to be kind and people who’ve been in the same situation as you - and in some way - are actually hoping you’ll do well.
And here’s another unusual layer to the bad buy bias; if a bad guy was actually watching you (overly critical of everything you did, picking you apart, and hoping you’ll do poorly), you’d probably agree it’s not really worth your effort to worry about them anyways, right?
So, in the end, the bad guy bias can cause you to feel like you’re no longer in control of your emotions because you might have unintentionally given that control to the (seemingly) bad guys around you, by simply believing in the common mental bias that those around you are saying bad things about you (even when it’s not true!)
This month, really think about the relationship you have with those around you. From the spectators to the judges - and from your opponents to their trainers - always remember to treat them like they're as good as you know you are instead of how bad you think they might be.
Please consider joining me at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs or Lake Placid, or at the IMG Elite Athlete Institute in Sarasota, Florida, this fall for an Equestrian Athlete Training Camp where we’ll be spending four days discussing rider fitness, sport psychology, athlete nutrition, team-building, yoga, injury prevention/recovery, and much more. Riders of all levels and disciplines are welcome and members of the USEA receive a $255 scholarship. For more information, click here.