• Dr Lottie Miles

Cracks in your confidence? 9 Tips for unbreakable self-belief

I decided to break up my mini-series about perceptual skill to talk about self-confidence – I feel we’re due a few good-old positivity tips!


Cracks in your Confidence

Self-confidence can be fragile. Sometimes just a single, well-directed 'shot' can shatter it in an instant - I'm sure you can think of a moment when you took a hit like this?

Confidence can also be worn down gradually by small but repeated failures: Being constantly put down, regularly falling just short of a target, persistent unfavourable circumstances or failing to meet expectations (no matter how reasonable). Eventually these things grind down even the most confident people.

If left unchecked, failure, low confidence and more failure becomes a downward spiral that can be very hard to break free of.


You can learn more about what self-confidence is, and how it works in this article. Right now, we're going to look at some strategies for giving you a quick boost...

1. Return to your 'WHY'

There was a reason you started your sport and I'm willing to bet it had nothing to do with medals, accolades, social media followers or fortune. Don't lose touch with what you really love about your sport and why you keep coming back - when in doubt, do it for you.


2. Put your energy into the 'controllables'

If you can't change it, try not to waste time and energy worrying about it. Easier said than done I know, but this is perhaps the most important lesson you will learn about performing. Look at the task you face, and identify what you have control over - your effort, your preparation, your attitude... now what are you going to do about those things? You cannot change your opponent, the task, the environment or the weather, so let them be.


3. Practice hard, perform easy

Practice is the best way to prove to yourself that you are capable of success. But practice with your performance in mind - look for ways to recreate the challenges of a performance setting and then go further; get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Overload distractions, opponents, pressure, and train in all weathers. If you can succeed in the hardest conditions, you'll know you're capable of success!

4. Get your mindset right

There are two ways to look at a task - is it a threat to you, or a challenge for you to overcome? Lock yourself into the challenge mindset. If someone throws a 'curveball' at you, it's just an obstacle. Attack problems with effort and hard work, don't shy away from them. And if you fall short, get up and try again because you will be a bit better, a bit more experienced, and even more determined next time!


5. Positive influences & social support

Having good people with a positive attitude in your corner is so important. If others believe in you, you can too. Identify your social network and use them - listen to their encouragement and take a moment appreciate that they will be there for you no matter what happens.

6. Focus on your effort, not your success

When you are in it purely for success, you only value success. This causes a fear of failure. Switch your focus to working hard. Be the person who tried their hardest every single training session - turn up early, leave late. Enjoy success when it comes, but don't rely on it. Whatever the outcome, concentrate on what you did, how you did it, and how can it make you better next time.

7. Positive self-talk goes a long way

Self-talk is far more powerful than you might think - we not only listen to the little voice in our heads, but we give it a lot of credibility too.


Your self-talk (or internal monologue) is a direct reflection of your mindset. Use it to your advantage: Memorise a few phrases you can resort to in times of need. Phrases like, "I have what it takes", "I've done the hard work" and "I can cope with this" will go a long way to boosting your self-belief.


8. Mental rehearsal: visualise how you can achieve it

Take a moment, close your eyes and picture the scene. Run through the movements of your performance, feel the sensations, hear the noises, even smell the aromas that you might encounter. Visualising your impending success or remembering past successes is immensely powerful for boosting confidence. It also plays a role in physically preparing you for a performance. Make sure you practice your visualisation too!


9. If all else fails, 'fake it till you make it'!

This actually works, and is very helpful when doubt or anxiety threaten to overcome you. Consciously adapt your physical behaviour to lead a change in your mental state. Mimic the body language of a confident person - chin up, back straight, chest out, make eye contact, be assertive with your words and movements. Some athletes talk about their 'alter-ego' on the sports field - CrossFitters will have heard of Sara Sigmundsdottir's 'Beast Mode' or Katrin Daviddottir's 'Sled Dog'. These characters are based upon a mix of the athlete's personality, their skillset and the traits they want to exude at the time of competition - they transform into their alter-ego to ready themselves for competition. This also helps dispel the doubt that swirls around during these pressurised situations.


Summary

Self-confidence fluctuates depending on your perceived ability to succeed at a task. You can change these perceptions and thus build your confidence. When confidence is low, do it for yourself. Take control of the situation by making the best of your preparation, working as hard as you can, and putting yourself in the right mindset. View difficulties as challenges you can attack and practice performing under adversity. Lean on the people you have around you for support and trust them to stand by you. Keep the voices in your head positive, even if that means scripting what they say. Visualise performing well and remind yourself of your capabilities and past successes. If all else fails, get in character and fake it until you make it!

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by dr Lottie miles