The Confidence Crisis in Sports
Imagine you've been playing really well recently. How confident are you going to feel going into your next game? Pretty confident, I'd imagine!
That's because confidence in sports centers around experience. You need to have the experience of seeing yourself play well in order to have a high level of self-belief going into your next game.
That's why you trust in your skills more when you've been playing well, but may tend to doubt yourself if you've been playing badly recently.
This concept makes a lot of sense. Of course you're going to feel more confident when you've been doing well as of late.
But challenges arise when the opposite is true; when you've been playing badly, but know that you need confidence to turn your performance around.
This struggle is known as the confidence crisis in sports, and can be a terribly frustrating situation to find yourself in as an athlete.
The Confidence Crisis Explained
You know you need the experience of seeing yourself play well in order to build confidence, but you need confidence in order to play well...that perfectly sums up this idea of the confidence crisis.
The confidence crisis is not only frustrating to experience, but it can also have a negative effect on your level of play. The main reason being the fear and anxiety it causes.
When your confidence comes solely from the buildup of good performances, if you lack confidence, yet are playing well recently, you may begin to grow fearful and tense moving forward.
Why? Because you are afraid of having a bad game and being reset to zero in terms of your confidence.
So as the games go on, and you're playing well, instead of fully trusting in yourself and feeling confident as a result of your good games, you grow anxious over whether or not you'll be able to keep this up.
That shows that even these good performances are not truly building your confidence...not stable confidence, that is.
So what can you do if you're dealing with this confidence crisis? If right now, you know you need to keep playing well to build your confidence, yet you know you need confidence in order to play well.
Well, the solution is to focus on proactively building true self-confidence.
The Cure for the Confidence Crisis in Sports
It is true that you need the experience of seeing yourself succeed in order to build confidence. However, this doesn't mean you need to have a string of perfect games.
That's what happens to a lot of athletes, and is why this fear and anxiety begins to develop.
They think that in order to truly build their confidence, they need to have a bout of exceptional games. Only then will they believe and trust in themselves.
But here's the thing...when you demand perfect games from yourself you are almost guaranteed not to get them.
Yes, it's good to strive to be your absolute best. But demanding perfection inevitably means you will look for reasons why you weren't perfect.
This also shows why, when you do have a few really good games in a row, you begin to grow fearful and anxious over being able to keep them up.
You aren't confident that you can keep playing at such a high level, since it takes almost a perfect game for you to feel like you played well.
Knowing this, the cure for the confidence crisis is to learn how to cultivate the memory of seeing yourself succeed and build that experience yourself. Meaning, you leverage this idea to proactively build your confidence.
There are two exercises you can begin using that can take this idea of building the experience of seeing yourself succeed and making it something you can control: visualization and identifying what you did well.
Visualization to Build Confidence
The first exercise you need to be performing if you want to proactively build your confidence, especially if you are struggling to play well in games, is visualization.
The way visualization builds your confidence is the same as how a string of good games does: by instilling a memory of success.
When you're playing really well recently, you create a bunch of images in your mind you can think back to that prove why you should feel confident. These images mean you have built a memory of success.
As you move forward, it is the remembering of these images (so the good plays/games you've had) that instill confidence going into the next game.
Well, we can take that same idea and ensure you are building that memory of success, no matter how your games have gone. We do this through the use of visualization.
Visualization in sports involves imagining yourself performing. You create a scene in your mind, going into as much detail as possible.
By visualizing yourself performing your skills, you build the memory of success. The reason this happens is because your mind does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. So there is a similar reaction in your brain to the visualization as there is to a real life game.
So the more you visualize, the more you ingrain in your mind the memory of having performed your skills well.
Here's a simple structure you can follow to perform visualization for confidence:
- Get into a comfortable seated position.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down and clear your mind.
- Begin imagining yourself performing. Go into as much detail as possible.
- As you see yourself perform, work to feel confident.
- After you see yourself succeed at the skill, make sure you really feel successful and proud of yourself (just like you would in real life).
By performing visualization on a regular basis, you are making sure that you are instilling the memory of seeing yourself succeed, no matter what happens in your games.
Identifying What You Did Well
The second exercise you can use involves how you see your actual performances.
Knowing that you need the experience of seeing yourself succeed in order to build confidence, you need to be sure you are giving yourself that opportunity after each practice and game.
It's easy to get too caught up in the outcome and only feel good about how you played if you played perfectly. But you must remember that after a game, the most important thing is how you are working to build or destroy your confidence moving forward.
The game you just played is finished. Now all your attention needs to be on the next game. The only real way the past game has any influence on you anymore is the impact it plays on your confidence.
Is it going to hurt your confidence because you feel like you played badly? Or is it going to help your confidence because you feel like you played well?
The good news is, you can ensure it's helping your confidence by performing a simple post performance evaluation.
Whether it's after a practice or a game, the first thing you want to do is list out everything you did well. And trust me, sometimes you're going to have to search hard for this!
By identifying what you did well, you are providing yourself with the opportunity of seeing yourself as successful each day.
The more you do this, the more you are instilling the memory of success.
Now you don't simply stop there. The second question you ask yourself is where can I improve?
What this provides you with are specific things you can work on. And the cool thing is, when you find something you can work on, put it into practice, and then get better at it, your confidence is going to grow as a result.
So, if your goal is to increase your confidence, after every game and practice you want to be sure you are identifying what you did well in order to build that memory of success.
The confidence crisis in sports happens when you know you need to play well in order to increase your confidence, but you need confidence in order to play well.
It's an incredibly frustrating situation to find yourself in as an athlete.
The good news is, we can take this idea of needing the experience of seeing yourself succeed, and leverage it to proactively build your confidence.
To do so, there are two exercises you can use: visualization and identifying what you did well.
By applying these two exercises consistently, you can overcome the confidence crisis and proactively build true confidence as an athlete.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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