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How Self Image Affects Your Riding

by Daniel Stewart



Julia asks, “I receive lots of compliments on my riding but have a hard time believing them. I rode in one of your clinics recently and you talked about self-image. I think mine could use a make-over. Is there anything I can do to feel better about myself and my riding?” 

Great question. As a rider you’re lucky because you get to do what you love – but you also have to love what you do. Improving your self-image is the first step in making that happen. Your self-image – who you believe you are, and what you believe you’re capable of – determines how you’ll behave and what you’ll try (or not). Every thought and action stems from the way you see yourself. If you see yourself as capable you’ll have a pretty good day, but if you see yourself as unworthy it might just turn into a long and frustrating one. Signs that your self-image could use a little boost include frequent self-criticism, jealousy and negative self-talk. Comparing yourself to others, difficulty giving and accepting compliments and feeling undeserving of praise are a few other common signs.

Improving your self-image begins with developing the belief that you’re capable of accomplishing great things. Creating, memorizing and repeating a positive self-image statement (a phrase focusing on your strengths) can improve your self-esteem because it reminds you what you’re capable of while steering your thoughts away from doubts and limitations. Building a self-image statement is a simple three-step process:

  • Identify one or more of your strengths like, “I’m good at transitions and have a great position.”
  • Identify what they can help you accomplish like, “They keep me balanced and help me score well.”
  • Combine them together into a two-part statement like, “My great transitions and good position will keep me balanced and help me score well today.”

The best self-image statements are voiced in the present using words like now or today; start with words like I have, I am, or my (or better yet we have, we are, or our – remember your horse!); and include physical and mental strengths. Here is an example for schooling – My strong leg, supple hips and positive attitude will help me get great lead changes today. Create a positive self-image statement and you’ll be well on your way to improving your self-esteem.

Remember what Aristotle said: You are what you repeatedly think.  Excellence is therefore not an act, but a habit.


Published August 2013 Issue


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