Injuries impact not only a person’s physical ability, but also a person’s psyche which can create long term perceived limitations and can end up becoming part of their self identity. Have you ever heard someone say, “I injured myself years ago and I haven’t been the same since,” or “I can’t do that activity anymore because of my past injury”? These sorts of self-limiting statements, which may have been true at the time of injury, are so commonly accepted that they can begin to influence that person’s identity well after healing has taken place. Every time this person is confronted with a physical challenge because of their injury, it reinforces those self-limiting statements, further entrenching those limitations as part of their new identity. Physical barriers that were present during the recovery process will linger in the psyche for much longer if the psychological aspect is not considered which could extend those limitations after healing has taken place.
Changing one’s perception of an injury to view it as something that is creating limitations in the present, but does not necessarily mean that it will forever cause limitations in the future is a crucial concept that is often missed. Saying things like, “I will be able to do that soon,” is better than saying, “I can’t do that anymore.” Separating yourself from your injury so as not to allow it to define you as an athlete will alter your experiences during recovery. These are fundamentally different states of mind that will change your ability to recover and prosper in the long term.
In no way am I an expert in the realms of psychology, but I know first hand the damage that can persist due to the beliefs held by someone recovering from an injury. Those beliefs may have stemmed from a diagnosis from a health professional, from the passing comments made by friends and family, or they could be held voluntarily in an effort to maintain the attention that came with the injury. Regardless of the source, it will serve to perpetuate the state that was never wanted in the first place and can create unnecessary barriers to performance. Identifying yourself through an injury or limitation will do nothing but obscure the perspective of your potential.
It is important to consider the words you tell yourself when you are recovering from an injury and it is even more important to consider the words you say to someone else who is currently injured or recovering. Even though it may seem innocent and may come from a good place, saying things like “you need to be more careful now,” or “watch-out or you’ll re-injure it,” are all limiting statements that perpetuate a state of caution and avoidance. Contributing to someone’s injury identity can inadvertently end up hindering their healing process.
To avoid developing an injury identity, focus on the positive side of the healing process for yourself as well as others. Changing your perspective will create a better opportunity to overcome not just the physical barriers but also the psychological barriers that come with injury in order to prevent them from continuing after your body has healed. Most importantly, if you are still physically affected from an old injury be sure to address it with the appropriate health professionals; your body strives for health in all capacities so if you’re having difficulties then find someone who can help!