The Internal Governor Model of Self-Doubt


“The only thing to fear, is fear itself.” – John F. Kennedy

“I can do this”  I think to myself over and over again.  I’m practicing throwing handstands – something I never did as a kid but want to be able to do as an adult.  I know I have the pre-requisite strength, stability, and ROM in my shoulders.  I’ve done the progressions – holding against the wall, kicking up into the wall, etc. etc.  “I can do this.”  But in my gut, there is a kernel of doubt.  Whenever I try to throw in open space, I can feel myself hold my breathe.  I’m not relaxed.  I tell myself it’s just the nerves of the unknown.  When you don’t spend much time upside down, it’s pretty disorienting to go there.  “I can do this.”  And I do.  Kind of.  I can throw for a couple of seconds.  Sometimes, the planets align and the moon is full and I can even break 10-15s in a single go.  But it’s inconsistent.  I can tell something is holding me back, though I’m not sure what.  My wrists start to ache from practice, and I don’t feel like I’m really getting any better.  I’ve hit the dreaded plateau.

So, I back off.  I wish I could say it was strategic, that I went back to work on the basics, but really, I just realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere doing what I was doing.  I let my attention drift to other things.  It was pure luck that one of those things was the Original Strength system.

OS workshop Chicago

Teaching at the Original Strength workshop in Chicago with Paul, Tim, and Sarah.

OS + Hope

If you haven’t heard of Original Strength before (we talk about it all the time on The Human Animal Podcast), it is a movement restoration system that focuses on the developmental blueprint we are born with.  In order to learn to walk, we must first master breathing, head control, rolling, rocking, and crawling.  Original Strength retrains those skills in order to restore our original movement operating system.  Essentially, we’re hitting the reset button.  I won’t go into too much more detail here, but there is one final point I need to make about Original Strength.  The most important part of OS isn’t the movements: it’s hope.

Original Strength gave me a set of tools that was approachable and effective at changing movement and pain, both with myself and with my clients.  With the confidence that you are not made to be broken comes another kind of confidence – that you are capable of learning to move well.

And so, almost 6 months later, I decided to try handstands again.  I noticed a change before I even threw it.  In my mind, I didn’t think “I can do this.”  I thought “It’s going to be fun to hang out upside down for a while.”  And I did.  And it was easy.

So, the question is, did Original Strength help me move better by fine-tuning my vestibular system?  Probably.

Or, did finally believing in my gut that I had the handstand – that it wasn’t a question of if I could do it, but that I wanted to do it – unlock my potential?  The only answer I can give is YES!

The Lightbulb Turns On

Experience has proved this point, both for my own practice and in my coaching.  I like to call it The Internal Governor Model of Self-Doubt.  Most of us know about the governors in our car engines that keep you from going above a certain regulated speed.  There’s also the Internal Governor theory for the nervous system – that your brain acts as an governor to control muscle tension and length, as well as energy expenditure so that you don’t push too hard too far.  In both of these situations, there’s still a little left in the tank, but it’s close to the limit so the governor keeps you within a safe range.  But what if that governor was set too low?  What if you were leaving safe but effective potential on the table?

The Internal Governor Model of Self-Doubt works in much the same way.  Namely, it’s the principle that your beliefs about yourself become your limitations and restrictions.

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PS You can find Spencer on Instagram/Twitter at:

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