Transcending Sport

Living Brave with Samantha Livingstone

Olympic swimming gold medalist and high performance coach Samantha Arsenault Livingstone shares a series called Living Brave of personal skills that we need in sport and in life

This series was live on our Facebook page between November 27, 2018 – January 3, 2019.

Scroll down to watch all five videos and read the accompanying notes below.

AIR DATE: November 27, 2018

AIR DATE: December 4, 2019

AIR DATE: December 11, 2018

AIR DATE: December 18, 2018

AIR DATE: January 3, 2019


To cultivate high-performance – to achieve AND feel fulfilled – in any arena along the way requires a certain skill set, support, tools and a willingness to do hard things.

PART 1: Beliefs:

  • Overriding message of my childhood: “If you work hard enough, you can be ANYTHING you want to be.” Became a deeply rooted belief. A gift (why not me?) + a liability (I can control all the things if I work hard enough).
  • Trauma around M’s heart surgery forced me to rumble with the belief that if I just tried hard enough, I’d be able to control the outcome. Exposing this illusion of control.
  • “Believe in Yourself” – What does that mean? What does that look like? What does that feel like? (There’s this idea out there that ‘those’ successful people have unwavering belief – and don’t ever experience fear and self-doubt. I’m calling BS. They do – AND – they have the awareness + tools + support to release the grip of both.) I could share stories from the Olympics or now as an entrepreneur. This illusion is SO rampant with social media!!
  • We all have an inner dialogue – for some of us that dialogue can be overly critical a large majority of the time.  i.e. inner mean girl, inner critic, inner bully – thoughts are streaming through our mind – subconsciously + consciously. What’s the soundtrack of your mind sound like? Is that inner dialogue an ally?
  • What’s underneath the harsh beliefs? Where do they come from? How they form. The illusion of the Right Way, aka the birthplace of judgement.
  • Unearthing + rewriting root beliefs that are BS – sets us free to start living our lives with authenticity out front. Stimuli – external and internal are experienced through this ‘lens’ — we make meaning from it – impacting our thoughts which impact our emotions which impact our actions and over time our results.
  • Our beliefs (lens with which we view the world) impacts how we see each other, ourselves and the world around is – it’s not a matter of if they impact it – the question we ask is HOW.

    • How might my experiences shape the way I’m seeing this?
    • Are there alternative explanations?
    • Is this belief serving me?
  • What can we do about it?

    • Increase our awareness of the stories we’ve subscribed to, i.e. asking for help is weakness.
    • Look for Red Flag words. Can’t, shouldn’t, should, need to, have to, must, etc.
    • Add the word BECAUSE at the end of the sentence. Because why? Says WHO?
    • If you’re at war with yourself, who wins?
    • Look for all the reasons WHY
    • Look for all the ways you ARE enough


PART  2: Rising: Quieting the noise of the inner critic  

  • Recap last week
  • Common belief / framework in athletics the way to get back up, get stronger, try harder, improve, achieve happens when we beat ourselves up. FALSE!! Research tells a different story. When we look at resilience – one of the fundamental components is self-compassion.
  • What is self-compassion / What it’s not / kindness, mindfulness and common humanity = key to RISING FASTER
  • Quieting the noise – share one exercise to help
  • Rising Skills — mention Zones of Resilience overview

Releasing Grip of Inner Critic / Inner Mean Girl / Inner Bully:

Name it.

The voice of the inner critic is not our voice – even though it’ll try to argue that it is. It’s a voice born out of fear – and in a strange way – it’s trying to ‘protect’ us. Name it. Give it a name – as if it was another person talking to you. If anyone in ‘real life’ tried to talk to me the way my inner critic did – I would NEVER have tolerated it. So, why was I allowing this internal voice to cut me up

Name it. Seriously. It’s the first step to taking away its power.

Release the need to win.

Because, there is no winning here. I spent years trying to argue with the voice of my inner critic. Trying to be logical. There is no rationalizing with the irrational. No matter how hard we try – there is no winning.

There. Is. No. Winning.

FREEDOM comes when we release the need to engage with the thoughts. So, dive into mediation and strengthen that releasing muscle!!

Turn on the lights.

Silence is its best friend. Because, where there is an inner critic, there is shame. So, SHARE. Get the words / thoughts / comments OUT of your mind. Share with you inner circle – your coach – your therapist. I’ll often use this sentence  – “This is what my Inner Critic is saying to me…” Chances are as soon as the words hit the light, you’ll start to feel / hear the nastiness and manipulation at play.

One HUGE nugget of wisdom I’ve learned over the years – do not ask your inner circle, partner, spouse, best friend to validate or argue with the voice of the Inner Critic. They. Will. Never. Win. Doing so only sets everyone up for a shit storm of shame.


PART 3: Awareness: Releasing judgement

Noticing noise / stories / beliefs

Noticing our emotion

Noticing our coping skills / behavior

Are we meeting ourselves with judgement or love

  • Recap of last week / did anyone watching take self-compassion survey on Kristen Neff’s website? Any new awareness of go-to coping skills?
  • Awareness = critical first step in high-performance / tackling change / working through challenges
  • Athletics – physical manipulation of our body to complete a technical skill // Mind / body connection
  • Growing our awareness of internal dialogue – and ability to notice what’s going on in our bodies – around us – and HOW that impact us.
  • Relevant areas to grow awareness:

    • What is it we really want?
    • Awareness of our own energy / energy of teammates, coaches, etc. How that impact us.
    • How are our beliefs impacting our experiences? And our performances?
    • Noticing the stories we’re telling ourselves.
    • How are we responding to feedback?
    • How are we meeting ourselves when we fall?
  • Giving ourselves the space + tools to grow our noticing muscle

    • Mindset coaches
    • Therapists
    • Meditation
    • Alone time
    • Journaling


PART 4: Vulnerability: Embracing help

Identifying areas of strengths / what’s going well

Identifying areas for growth / where we can use help

Bust myth – help is not weakness

Learning how to sit in the space of uncertainty

  • Check in RE last week – phone challenge
  • What IS vulnerability??
  • 3 parts, according to Dr. Brene Brown (researcher + prof at UHouston)

    • uncertainty
    • Risk
    • emotional exposure
  • BB, “To feel is to be vulnerable – it’s the core of all emotions.”

    • There’s this cultural current that perpetuates the idea that feeling = weakness / women = too emotional = ‘bad’ thing
  • Why are we afraid of feeling vulnerable?

    • Judgement + criticism of others
    • Sense of belonging at risk

      • Who’s feedback matters?
  • We judge others in areas we are most vulnerable to shame

    • When we feel good about ourselves / body / parenting / leadership – we don’t judge
  • Asking for help = vulnerable = COURAGEOUS
  • High-performance / presenting / taking leap of faith in biz, parenting, life (!) has some level of vulnerability
  • Vulnerability hangovers are real!!

    • What can we do to ride the wave?
  • List of 3 things can do to ride the wave


PART 5: Empathy:

There are a lot of places we could take this — keeping in mind that it’s a FB live convo. I’m thinking we could keep it focused / centered around shifting the culture in our homes, workplaces, and teams to one of COURAGE + CONNECTION.

I can use an example of an athlete I work with – I’ve gotta keep it SUPER vague – but she’s in a sport that’s judged… TOXIC coaches who sling shame We work on building empathy all.the.time. Because in toxic cultures – it breads FEAR + judgement + disconnection. And empathy is a critical part of courageous + connected teams + organizations!!

Shame is one of the most powerful (the most) emotions we feel – and it has the power to debilitate us. It’s so toxic – and can cripple a team / organization – overtly or covertly (just under the surface). Shame has strong links of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders, suicide, addiction, self-harm… Corrodes the dynamics of a team.

^^ REAL issues facing coaches + parents + educators + business owners. Not to mention the sexual abuse / harassment that continues to exist within organizations.

What do we do about it? If we want to LIVE BRAVE – How do we equip our children / athletes / leaders with the skills they need to combat shame? How do we create shame-resilient teams / organizations / communities?

ONE way :: Explicitly teach shame. Understand it. See it.

AND. Explicitly teach empathy. Model it. Practice it.

Empathy = antidote to shame.

Theresa Wiseman’s four defining attributes of empathy:

  1. to be able to see the world as others see it
  2. to be nonjudgmental
  3. to understand another person’s feelings
  4. to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings

What gets in the way? Can give examples. Empathic misses:

  • Sympathy — “Oh, you poor thing!” “Bless your heart!”
  • Shame warranted — “I can’t believe you did that!!” “You should be ashamed!”
  • Disappointment — “I’m so disappointed”
  • Judgement / righteous anger — “How did you let this happen??” OR (blame) “WHO was that guy?” “We’ll kick his butt.”
  • Minimizing — “It wasn’t that bad.” “At least…!!”
  • Comparing / competing — “Well, you should hear what happened to… “

VS. Empathy = I see you. I get it. I feel you. I’ve been there.


  • Growing noticing muscle RE self (receiving) :: Where / what are our shame-triggers? Who in our inner circle has the skill set to meet us with empathy?
  • Growing noticing muscle RE others (giving) :: Next time someone shares something, notice how you respond. Were you able to tap into empathy.
  • Strengthen skill set through practice AND the willingness to sit with hard emotions

Shame is a silencer (shut down or act out). Feel isolated + alone (it’s just me). Feel broken (something is wrong with me).

  • Self-judgement self-kindness
  • Over- identification mindfulness
  • Isolation common humanity

When shame drives = fear leads. Blame. Judgement. Disconnection manifest.

RE feedback :: Shame is over-personalized Instead of I swam slower than I wanted to (behavior focused). Shame says, I swam slow = I suck.

“The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Examples of thoughts that might accompany shame include: “I am bad.” “I am a mess.” The focus is on self, not behavior, with the result that we feel alone.  Shame is never known to lead us toward positive change.”

Most common shame trigger in women = I’m not enough

Most common shame trigger in men = perceived weakness

*We all have shame triggers. Growing our awareness of those triggers  — how it feels in our body – will allow us to respond.
Shame cannot survive sharing. And it cannot survive EMPATHY.

Goal — What can we control? creating cultures that are toxic to shame – open up space for deeper connection – allow our athletes (and in other fields too) to THRIVE!




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