Dusting the Rust Off to Bring Your Confidence Back
Through my experiences and observation in sport and performance, I have become a firm believer in the saying it starts before it starts. If you’re playing the wait and see game with your confidence then you might be leaving more up to chance than you know. I’ve heard it so many times: “I usually wait to see if the first shot goes in to know if I’m confident or not that day.” If you take this mental approach to the game then you are reducing the amount of ownership you can have over your mindset and your performance.
The restrictions on full contact training and competition during this past year have created a lot of uncertainty in our ability to compete and play at a high level. We cannot ignore the way we are feeling right now especially if we believe we are not ready to play. How could we be completely ready without the amount of training and game experience it takes to play this demanding sport? Not only that but the fear that accompanies us when we jump right in at a high level earlier than we thought can be debilitating.
Needless to say, confidence comes in many shapes and sizes but it is one of those areas of mindset that people use to describe great athletes. Many people think that when they see a confident athlete walk on the pool deck or step up in crucial moments of play that they must always be confident. The truth is that confidence is a skill and it starts with the right work before the actual performance starts. I like to think of confidence in a few different ways that create an inside out or an outside in approach to confidence building. Both approaches bring confidence body language from your internal dialogue and behaviors but one usually is more sustainable than the other.
SKILL-BASED CONFIDENCE -> SPORT SELF-CONFIDENCE -> GENERAL SELF-CONFIDENCE
When I speak of the OUTSIDE-IN approach to confidence, I premise it by sharing the pitfalls of too much of this approach. If we primarily think we need to see evidence of success before we can believe in ourselves as an athlete and as a person, then our self-identity can be too tied to our sport performance. Our relationships might suffer outside of sport and our emotions might take us too much on a roller-coaster ride. However, starting with the skill sets in your role and position to build on small successes in improvement can be a useful way to expand our confidence in athletic selves. We do need to find a balance of belief between the results we see and the narrator we use internally to tell ourselves our own story and what we can achieve and sport and life.
GENERAL SELF-CONFIDENCE -> SPORT SELF-CONFIDENCE -> SKILL-BASED CONFIDENCE
When I speak about the INSIDE-OUT approach to building confidence, it starts with general self-confidence or who you believe you are as a person. This takes a lot of work and reinforcement even when results from decisions aren’t matching your expectations. Then you bring that self into your sport self-confidence to boost the type of athlete and competitor you want to be. Finally, you bring those beliefs into your skill based confidence such as fundamentals of the game, shooting, passing, defense, swimming, etc… The inside-out approach to boosting your confidence in your skills doesn’t start with proof in the game but it arrives there. It starts with the core values and beliefs you reinforce through the stories you tell yourself as a person. The way you interact with others and your general body language as your personal presentation are signs of the consistent work you are doing on the inside.
Where do both approaches to building confidence start?
Confidence always starts with the direction of our thoughts, also known as self-talk. Athletes who use process-focused and self-enhancing self-talk consistently pick themselves up when results fail to meet expectations. The internal dialogue is something that can be trained through awareness of tendencies and with pre-planned power statements. I like to call these “flex” statements. You’re flexing your mind like a muscle when you use them. Work on yours for each level of confidence and decide how to use a balance between the outside-in and inside-out approach for sustained belief in yourself as you work to dust off the rust you may have developed.