Don’t Let The Turkeys Get You
Down

At the ripe old age of 26, Mikaela Shiffrin is arguably the greatest alpine skier – male or female – in the history of the sport. If you look at the long list of her accomplishments up to this point in her career, she clearly has nothing to prove. Unfortunately for Mikaela, there will always be haters, or “turkeys” as she refers to them, and given her struggles at the winter olympic games in Beijing this past month, their gobbling was louder than ever. 

Shiffrin failed to medal in any of the events she qualified for despite being the favorite in the majority of them, which made her an easy target for her critics, and potentially an easy target for herself. However, Shiffrin didn’t become the greatest of all time listening to her critics whether they be external or internal. Shiffrin, like all great athletes, knows that how you respond to failure,  the judgment of others and internal negative self-talk ultimately determines your fate as an athlete. She knows she has a choice.

After a barrage of harsh and hateful posts on social media lambasting her for her poor performance at the olympics, Shiffrin chose the following response:

Well kids… feed ’em what you wanna feed’ em. Self pity, sadness… let the turkeys get you down. There will always be turkeys. Or get up, again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Get up because you can, because you like what you do when it’s not infested with the people who have so much apparent hate for you. Just get up. It’s not always easy, but it’s also not the end of the world to fail. Fail twice. Fail 5 times. At the Olympics. (Enter me…)

Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately. I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be and I’m stubborn as s**t. 

The psychological skill that Shiffrin is employing in the above response is called positive self-talk, or motivational self-talk. The theory behind the practice is grounded in the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy, or the notion that whatever our expectations are about what other people think about us, or what we think about ourselves, we will unconsciously alter our behavior to make the expectation come true. For example, if you’re standing on a tee box with water on the right, and you say to yourself, “I always hit it in the water when there is water on the right”, you will unknowingly change your behavior so that the prediction will more likely come true. If you’ve played enough golf in your life, I’m sure you can relate to that example. However, the good news is that the theory works the opposite way as well in that if your expectation is one of positivity, positive outcomes are more likely to occur. What are your expectations of yourself? What is the quality of your inner dialogue? What would you say to yourself if you failed in front of others? Would you focus on being resilient like Mikaela Shffrin? Or, would you give in to the judgment of others? Whatever your response, consider the impact that it has on you. And, if you want to take the advice of one of the greatest athletes on the planet, don’t let the turkeys get you down especially if you are one of them.