Athlete Self-Confidence Articles

How To Achieve Proactive Confidence

Eli Straw
How To Achieve Proactive Confidence

High confidence will take your skills to the next level.

It’s the fastest way to elevate your performance without spending hours and hours training. If you could simply flip a switch and magically increase your self-confidence ten fold, imagine how much better you’d perform.

No matter how talented you are, if you lack belief in your skills, you will always perform below your potential. High self-confidence has taken less talented people further than physical skills have taken low confident people.

In theory this means it’s better to have high confidence than it is to be highly skilled. Now, I’m not advocating for you to be delusional. What I’m wanting you to realize is the importance of self-confidence.

Without it, your performances will never match your skill set. But with it your talents are taken to a whole new level.

Self-confidence is fragile and can often seem elusive. If you lack self-belief and trust in your skills, it may feel hopeless. Especially when you see others who are less talented but possess higher levels of confidence.

The good news is that self-confidence is not a trait reserved for those lucky enough to have been born with an increased belief in themselves. Anyone can gain the skill of high confidence, if it’s developed in a proactive manner.

High self-confidence has taken less talented people further than physical skills have taken low confident people.

What Is Proactive Confidence

For the longest time, my view of confidence was that it was more of an ingrained trait.

Growing up, I saw guys who appeared to be incredibly confident (at least much more confident than me). This led to feelings of jealousy as I began questioning why they were gifted with self-belief and I was destined to doubt my skills.

There’s no denying some people are more inclined towards certain attitudes and personality traits than others. I don’t doubt confidence is one of them. However, just because some seem to have more confidence naturally does not mean we cannot build this belief within ourselves.

Which is how we arrive at proactive confidence. Dr. Patrick Cohn defines proactive confidence as “The idea of fueling your confidence prior to competition…”

A huge mistake many of us make is waiting and hoping to feel confident. Some of my best games came on days when I felt the most confident. Now, this makes complete sense, as the more confidence we feel the better we will play.

But it was a mystery as to why some days I felt more confident than others. This left me desperately hoping each day when I woke up that today would be a day where I felt confident.

Viewing confidence proactively strips away such hope and guessing. Once you learn how to proactively build your confidence, you no longer have to wonder on which days you’ll be lucky enough to feel confident.

So how can you make use of proactive confidence and take back control of the trust you have in yourself and your skills? It first starts by identifying why you lack confidence in the first place.

Identifying Your Negative Beliefs

You need to begin questioning yourself, seeking to understand why you lack confidence.

In order to build confidence proactively, you first must identify what are the negative beliefs you currently hold towards yourself. These are going to be the fuel for your self-doubt.

To make this easy, compile a list of all the aspects of yourself and your game where you lack confidence. From there, be as mean as possible. Write out how you currently (and honestly) see yourself in regard to each area.

Part of taking control of your emotions involves questioning the way you currently feel. Why should you experience low confidence? Why is it you second guess and doubt yourself?

After you write out your negative beliefs, begin to question each one.

Let’s say you identified that you believe you choke under pressure. Why is this? What are you worried about happening in these moments? Are you afraid of being judged, or failing in front of your coaches or teammates?

Just start digging deep to uncover some causes and reasonings behind your negative beliefs. This is not going to eliminate them, but helps to get you viewing them objectively and really starting to analyze what it is that’s driving you to lack confidence.

With this understanding in place, it is time to begin proactively building your confidence.

In order to build confidence proactively, you first must identify what are the negative beliefs you currently hold towards yourself. These are going to be the fuel for your self-doubt.

3 Tools To Build Proactive Confidence

In order to proactively build your confidence, you have to view building this skill just like any other within your sport.

Let’s say you’re a basketball player and you want to get better at shooting free throws. What will you do? Likely, you’ll decide on a number of shots to take each day and get to work.

Or if you’re a soccer player and you want to improve your touches, you’ll find a wall and a ball and kick it off the wall to practice your touches.

Likewise, to build confidence, you need to decide on some tools you can use each day to gradually build the skill. There are three tools that are easy to use and will work wonders at cultivating proactive confidence: self-talk, mental rehearsal, and journal writing.

Using Positive Self-Talk To Build Confidence

Those negative beliefs you outlined in the earlier exercise are not limited only to the words on paper. They were written because they describe how you think about yourself. They make up your current self-talk.

Self-talk is simply the way you speak to yourself in your mind. It comprises the thoughts you have on a daily basis, and in terms of confidence, the way you think about yourself in terms of your skills and capability of achieving success.

While negative self-talk works to lower your confidence, positive self-talk does the opposite. It provides you with a higher belief in yourself, resulting in elevated levels of confidence.

This is not going to happen simply by repeating a positive phrase to yourself every once in a while. You need to apply the mindset you have with training your physical skills to altering your self-talk.

To build proactive confidence, you must retrain your brain to be full of positive thoughts that empower you and raise confidence rather than self-deprecating negative thoughts.

An easy way to do so is by taking the negative beliefs you outlined and creating a positive alternative for each one. Now, repeat each phrase to yourself at least once a day.

While negative self-talk works to lower your confidence, positive self-talk does the opposite. It provides you with a higher belief in yourself, resulting in elevated levels of confidence.

Using Mental Rehearsal To Cultivate Confidence

Seeing yourself succeed is one of the fastest ways to boost confidence. Nothing leads to higher self-belief faster than witnessing yourself perform well over and over.

But you may be wondering, isn’t that a reactive approach?

It is, if you are waiting for it to happen in the actual game. What we can do to train proactively is employ the use of mental rehearsal.

Mental rehearsal allows you to close your eyes and simulate yourself performing. While you aren’t actually seeing yourself succeed in a real game, your mind still responds in a very similar manner.

What this means is you can create that experience and build the memory of success in your mind which is so impactful on confidence.

To perform mental rehearsal, take a look at your list of negative beliefs. What specific skills do each of them pertain to? Those skills will be what you want to visualize and rehearse in your mind.

Get yourself relaxed, finding a quiet place where you can visualize. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. This will calm your mind and help make the mental rehearsal that much clearer.

Once you're nice and relaxed, bring the skill you want to train into your mind. See yourself performing well, feel confident while doing so, and then feel successful once it’s finished. Do this each day, and you will be proactively building confidence.

Using A Journal To Build Confidence

This third exercise combines the concepts of the previous two. It serves as a way to solidify the work you’re doing on both the physical and mental sides to build your confidence.

Writing is really a triple threat when it comes to training your mind. First, you are writing down your thoughts, as you do, you are repeating them in your mind. Your internal dialogue is reading back what you’re writing.

Secondly, you are seeing what you’re writing with your eyes. As each word is written down, your eyes scan it over. Thirdly, while you are writing, your mind is crafting images. So you are essentially visualizing while you write.

Now, how can this concept be used to proactively build confidence?

Think of it as a daily reflection journal, aiming to really emphasize the new confidence you are building. Each day you train, practice, or play, write about everything you did well. Even if you feel like it was a crappy day, identify some positives.

What you’re doing is reminding yourself and further instilling this idea that you are capable of success and this will work to build confidence both in yourself and your skills.

Final Thoughts

Confidence is a needed asset for you to reach peak performance. No matter how talented you are, if you lack self-belief, you’ll be destined to fall short of your potential.

While it may seem like an inborn trait, confidence is not something you need to be born with. Neither is it something you should hope to feel on game day.

Confidence needs to be trained and done so in a proactive manner. By using positive self-talk, mental rehearsal, and a daily journal writing practice you will build proactive confidence.

Another way to make all this happen faster is by working with someone who can tailor a mental training plan to your specific situation. By doing so, you can build proactive confidence and take your skills to the next level that much quicker.

If this is something you’re interested in, click here to learn more about 1-1 mental performance coaching.

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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