How to apply self-empathy to padel

Self-empathy is useful in many areas of life. Here is an example of how I applied it to my mistakes while playing padel.

When I play padel, I have very high expectations of myself. I spend a lot of time improving my game, limiting the mistakes I make, and trying to learn the more complex shots. BUT, I make a lot of easy mistakes. Sometimes I try to make a harder shot than I know how to control, and sometimes I just miss. In both cases, I get angry at myself. Here are a few words I hear myself saying:

  • Look at the ball, idiot!
  • Bend your knees!
  • Why do I never learn?
  • I’m stupid – why did I do that?
  • I know I shouldn’t do that, yet I do it anyway.
  • OMG, good that I didn’t video type my game today.

To sum up: What’s wrong with me?

I go through this self-criticism about 25 times per game. Hmm, yes, I probably make 25 mistakes in a make. You can imagine that something that should be fun isn’t the best for my self-esteem after all that self-trash talk. So how can we use self-empathy in this situation?

Do you remember the self-empathy process?

  1. Observe what you say to yourself.
  2. Ask yourself what feelings were involved in the situation (before the mistake occurred)
  3. Ask yourself what needs you tried to reach when you made a mistake.
  4. Ask yourself what needs you failed to meet.

The first step, we’ve already done. (I can still hear myself saying it.) In the second step, I noticed it was more difficult. What feelings were present in the situation? After some hard thinking, I wrote down the following:

  • I’m stressed because I wanted to win the point
  • I’m stressed because I usually get fewer balls to me than my teammate, so I want to make a difference when I get the ball.
  • I’m stressed because I want to show that I can. (I believe there is something deeper here, something about being accepted in the group. I can’t really explain it, but I think it goes way back in my life.)

What needs did I try to meet?

  • I want to contribute to the team.
  • I want to show that I can

What needs did I fail to meet?

  • To feel that I have developed my game and all training pays off.
  • Show that I learn from my mistakes
  • To be patient

Usually, I feel angry, frustrated, ashamed and even worried when I miss the point or make a mistake. Today, when I played. I tried to see the errors for what they were: missed chances to contribute to my team.

Instead of being angry and frustrated, I felt disappointed and sad for the misses I made (yes, I did miss sometimes today too.) Normally, my temperament takes the better of me when I play, and I might lose focus. As a result, I make more mistakes. Today, I managed to stay quiet. I didn’t trash talk myself. Instead, I tried to focus on the next point and improve it.

With this changed approach to my mistakes, I managed to have more fun on the court. I didn’t lose my temperament, and I think I made fewer mistakes. In any case, it felt better after the game, even if we lost.

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