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How to Stop Worrying About what Others Think about Your Game

golfers on a green

Are you constantly worrying about what others think of your golf game in golf tournaments? Do you dwell on the things that could go wrong and how your coach, parents or other golfers will react?

It is not uncommon to get the “thumbs up” from those we care about to know we are heading in the right direction. Sometimes that need for approval can dominate a golfer’s thoughts and lead us on an insatiable search for even more approval. During these times, any criticism or negative comment can devastate your confidence.

This need for approval can change your strategy during tournaments to the point where you play safe to avoid major mistakes and the possible ensuing comments. While you are playing your mind runs wild imagining every conceivable negative comment everyone is thinking about you and your ability. When you worry about what other people think about your game, you will enjoy the game less and performance will suffer.

Think about every single player on the PGA Tour and European Tour… everyone of them is scrutinised for practically every shot. Tiger Woods has probably experienced more negative comments about his golf game than any golfer in the history of the sport. Top-ranked golfers Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have had their share of negative opinions flung in their direction during the course of the season. If you want to succeed at a higher level in golf, you need to understand that yours is the only opinion that matters.

When you worry about the opinions of others, it distracts you from focusing on your game, your strategy for a tournament and how you play each shot throughout a round. Obsessing about the opinions of others increases the sense of pressure you experience making it impossible to play your best golf.

Why are some golfers so concerned about what other people think?

Caring about the opinions of others is a heavy weight to lug around as you move from shot to shot, yet many golfers concern themselves with the judgments of other people. Some golfers seek outside approval from coaches, their parents, media and other golfers to validate their worth or abilities as a golfer. These golfers rely on the “pat on the back” and seek to avoid any negative commentary about their game as a means to feel they are not “horrible” golfers.

The problem with seeking approval of others

 Your worth as a golfer should never be tied to the opinions of others…. it puts you on an emotional rollercoaster. With any positive compliment you receive, you believe that you are good at golfing but one negative comment can decimate your confidence and ruin your performance. You become trapped in a habitual state of seeking approval and hypothesising about the possible thoughts of others.

The fear of disappointing others becomes so strong that you no longer play golf for yourself but for the approval of others. This fear of disappointing others, or failing, places you in the mindset of competing to avoid mistakes or bad shots. This negative mentality causes you to play a cautious game instead of going for your shots and never produces positive performance.

If you do not view yourself in a positive light, see your strengths as a golfer or believe in your abilities, you may to try to receive those positive emotions from other people… which usually never happens! It is a negative and self-perpetuating cycle that keeps you trapped in a negative mentality that inhibits your play.

When you worry about what others think, you make several faulty assumptions:

  • You can read minds – When you concern yourself with the opinions of others, you are trying to guess what they are thinking. You most likely, believe they are thinking the worst about you. The reality is that they are probably not thinking about you much at all.
  • Other people’s opinions are accurate – Just because someone has an opinion or a thought about you, doesn’t mean it is true. It is merely an opinion and, very often, not accurate.
  • Other people’s opinions matter – People form opinions based on their own baggage and personal bias. So the opinions of others have less to do with you and are more about the past of those people. Opinions are just opinions and nothing more.
  • The opinions of others will help you play better – Actually, focusing on what others might be thinking causes you to switch your focus from the process of taking a shot to the prospects of making the shot. When you fear you may be judged harshly for missing shots, you will with a conservative strategy trying to avoid major errors.

Your opinion is the only opinion that matters

You have to let go of what others may or may not think about your golf game. As Bringham Young once said, “Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?” To play great golf, you need your head in the game and focusing on what is truly important during your round.

Your opinion should be the only opinion that matters. You are the one on the course playing, everyone else is merely observing you. You, the golfer, are experiencing each shot, each round and each tournament  differently from anyone else who might be watching you play. In the overall scheme of things, the opinion of others is far less important than your own personal experience.

You need to be able to give yourself what you need. Remember, you are the one who is playing and you are the only one who can improve your game. You should learn to look at your game objectively, give yourself your own “pat on the back” for the many little successes you achieve throughout a round and seek ways to improve your game. Remember, opinions of others usually infect your game but you are the only one who can positively affect your game.

“An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.” (Anonymous)

The key is to develop a mentally tough mindset. A mentally tough mindset will help you block out distractions and focus on the things you can do to improve your golf performance.

5 Keys to Develop a Mentally Tough Mindset

You are no hypnotist – You cannot control what other people think. People will think what they’ll think. You do not have to let the thoughts, comments or criticisms dominate your mind.

You are not a mind reader – Most of the time we make assumptions about what other people may be thinking about our play. When you see other people watching you play, you are projecting your thoughts on them. The critiques you think you are receiving are usually a figment of your imagination.  In essence, it is your fear of failure and harsh self-criticisms that are the real problems. And, in most cases, most people are probably not even thinking about you anyway.

Indifference is your friend – Other people’s thoughts of you will not improve your golf game, so let them own those thoughts. Who cares what they think. You don’t need to buy into other people’s opinions. In fact, most opinions have little to do with you anyway and more to do with the personal history of those who conjure up those thoughts.

Put on your ear muffs –You need to block out the outside noise from others. Focus your attention on what does matter… your opinion of yourself. What do you need to do to play your best golf?

Turn ‘what if’ into ‘what now.’  Stop the ‘what ifs.’ “What if I miss this shot?” “What if I play poorly if the next tournament?” “What if others think negatively about me?” Instead, create a plan or strategy for what you can do now to play at your highest level.

You have nothing to prove.  You are enough right now.

Care less about who you are to others and more about who you are to yourself.

So next time someone says something about unhelpful about you and your golf game, shrug it off because it’s just empty words.

You can make a conscious effort to stop giving a damn; to let yourself free. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, like meditating.

Every time you interrupt your automatic response and respond differently, you are re-wiring your brain to think more effectively.

ACTION DRILL: Making your Opinion Matter Most

Give yourself a voice – Listening to other people’s opinions about you, both good and bad, are like kryptonite… They weaken your ability to golf at your highest level. You can’t drive a ball on a tee when you are looking behind you and that’s exactly what you are doing when you give too much weight to the opinions of others.

Get into the habit of saying, “That may be their opinion, but I think…” Be objective about your play. Your ultimate goal is improvement over time. You can lessen the hold of other people’s opinions when you get into the habit of asking yourself, “What do I think about this situation?” or “How can I change it?”

What other people think of you really doesn’t matter that much; whether it is good or bad. Your personal reality is the difference maker.

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