The Impact Self-Talk Has On Your Confidence

Confidence is crucial to success. A leading factor of confidence is self-talk. Learn the impact both negative and positive self-talk have on your confidence!

There is little more important to an athlete than self-belief. You can be the most talented player out there, but if you second guess and doubt your abilities, the physical talents you possess will never shine through.

No matter how skilled you are, if you lack self-confidence there will never be congruence between your talents and level of play.

Not only is this a frustrating matter to deal with, but can be incredibly disheartening. If every time you step on the field or court, your performance is always short of what it could be due to low confidence, the love of the game can easily escape you.

On the other hand, when high self-confidence is present, your talents are on full display. Even if you are slightly less skilled than another player, your level of self-belief will likely result in more consistently successful performances.

Self-confidence can be a tricky and often fragile trait. One that seems elusive to those who lack it, and a lucky gift to those experiencing it at high levels.

What makes the difference between someone with low confidence and high confidence? Experience and seeing yourself succeed does play a large role, however, there is something much more personal that contributes to the confidence you feel at any given moment.

It’s that little voice, the one speaking to you every day and night. This voice, known as self-talk, has a major impact on the level of confidence you feel.

What Is Self-Talk

Self-talk is a topic I cover a lot, due to its powerful impact on emotions. Your self-talk, referred to sometimes as internal dialogue, is simply the words you repeat to yourself within your mind.

We all experience self-talk, pretty much every second of every day. Your internal dialogue is not limited only to the times you are consciously repeating phrases to yourself or reading a book.

24/7 thoughts and ideas fill our heads. All of this is self-talk, and can often happen without us even being consciously aware of it.

If you begin to pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice that at any given moment, you’re speaking to yourself. But this does not mean every thought is specifically targeted towards you.

By gaining a better understanding of what self-talk is, we can break the concept up into two different categories: direct and indirect self-talk.

Indirect Self-Talk

The first category within self-talk refers to the general thoughts and ideas you have throughout the day. These are not specifically targeted at yourself, but they still fall within the category of self-talk.

While you may not be repeating phrases to yourself such as, “I’m the greatest,” or “I suck; I’m always a failure,” what is going through your mind can still have an impact on your emotions, specifically confidence.

To help understand indirect self-talk, think of it as describing and responding to the environment around you.

For example, if you’re a basketball player sitting on the bench, you may be thinking, “I hope coach doesn’t put me in the game,” or, “Why did coach put so and so in. She’s been playing terribly recently.”

Neither of these statements were directly spoken towards yourself, however, they are still considered self-talk. The dialogue was occurring within your mind.

Another example would be a football player warming up for a game. He looks at the opposing team, noticing how big and intimidating they appear. His internal dialogue begins to set in: “Look how big they are. They’re going to kill us. What do they feed these guys?”

You see, it’s not a direct statement about himself, but is rather a reaction within the mind to the appearance of the opposing team.

Direct Self-Talk

Speaking to yourself in the first or second person is what I am referring to as direct self-talk.

Now you’re not discussing what you see, who’s around you, or anything of the sort. Your internal dialogue is directly focused on you.

Let’s look at the example of the basketball player from above. Sitting on the bench hoping the coach doesn’t put her in, she may be thinking, “I’ve been so bad lately, I couldn’t even make a shot yesterday at practice. I don’t want to mess up in front of my friends.”

Or, as she sees the girl who she doesn’t think should go in, she may be thinking, “I’m so much better than her. I’ve been killing it in practice. I deserve to go in.”

The way she is speaking is very targeted towards herself and her own characteristics and skill level.

The football player may think, “I’m too small to play those guys. I’ll never be able to tackle them.” He is taking what he sees, but turning his internal dialogue onto himself.

When thinking about direct self-talk, affirmations come to mind. Affirmations are direct statements (often beginning with “I am…”) that we repeat to ourselves. When used correctly, they are a powerful tool for elevating confidence and shifting our mood.

But why? What makes self-talk, either indirect or direct, so important?

How Thoughts Drive Emotions

There’s a very basic reason self-talk can either raise or lower confidence. Our thoughts have a direct impact on emotions.

Thoughts are associated with certain memories, images, and feelings. As we think a certain way, our minds respond with the emotional reaction that we’ve grown accustomed to.

When you’re in a situation where you feel angry, sad, or happy, while you may not be readily aware of it, thoughts are taking place beneath the surface of your mind. These mental reactions are planting the seeds for the emotions you experience.

As thoughts become more direct self-talk, this process grows even more intense.

Try this exercise: repeat the phrase to yourself, “I am happy.” While doing so, try your best to feel angry.

Go ahead, give it a try.

Pretty difficult right? Why? Because our minds have grown accustomed to associating the word happy with the feeling of happiness. It goes against what’s natural.

Now try the same exercise, but allow yourself to simply feel the natural emotions that accompany the statement.

Felt pretty nice, didn’t it?

That exhibits how a statement repeated to ourselves triggers an emotion. But you may think, what about when an emotion causes me to think a certain way? We do not have the luxury of leading our lives with a blank slate of thoughts.

Constant impressions are taking place, leading to something known as the thought-feeling cycle.

Once a thought occurs, it triggers an emotional response, leading to further thoughts. These thoughts, unless directly influenced, are going to center around that same feeling.

This is the reason it can be so tough to pull yourself out of a bad mood. Each thought and subsequent feeling you have are feeding off one another.

Thought driving emotion is the very foundation for why self-talk can either be raising your confidence, or sending it into a downward spiral.

How Negative Self-Talk Tears Down Confidence

Both direct and indirect self-talk can be split into two categories: negative and positive self-talk.

When you struggle with low confidence, your internal dialogue is going to be based on negativity.

It’s not only outright negative thoughts that reduce confidence but uncertain ones as well. While these could be referred to as neutral thoughts, in terms of confidence, I believe they deserve to be lumped under the category of negative self-talk.

Here are some common negative self-talk phrases that are going to reduce confidence:

  • I suck.
  • I knew I couldn’t do it.
  • I hope I don’t mess this up.
  • Why is coach putting me in?
  • I deserve to be benched.
  • I don’t know if I’ll make the team.
  • The other team is so good; how can we compete with them?
  • I can’t make a mistake or my stats will drop.
  • I’m not that fast.
  • I’ve been off lately.

These are all examples of thoughts that are going to lead to a drop in confidence. Each one carries with it an emotion other than confidence.

Since our minds feed off repetition, if you continue to repeat these types of phrases to yourself, you will get caught in the thought-feeling cycle. From there, it will be very difficult to work your way to high self-confidence.

The only way to do so is through the application of positive self-talk.

Positive Self-Talk & Its Impact On Confidence

In contrast to the negative self-talk outlined above, positive self-talk works to raise your confidence.

The process used is the same, with your thoughts creating an emotional state. The only difference is the internal dialogue taking place within your mind.

Positive self-talk is going to work as your own motivational speaker. Instead of waiting for someone else to uplift you, it will be taken care of by your own thoughts.

Repeating phrases to yourself which engrain in your mind this idea of self-belief is powerful. Not only does it increase your confidence, but it will reduce fear and anxiety that feed on self-doubt.

Think about how you speak to your teammates or those close to you. When they make a mistake, do you tear them down, telling them they suck and how you knew they couldn’t do it? Or do you say things like, “That’s okay, you’ll get them next time,” and, “Keep your head up?”

We are so quick to uplift those around us, yet allow our own thoughts about ourselves to be incredibly mean.

To raise your own self-confidence, start speaking to yourself as though you were your own teammate or friend.

Here are some great self-talk phrases that will boost your confidence:

  • I’ve got this.
  • I know I can do this.
  • I am confident.
  • I trust in my skills.
  • I hope coach puts me in.
  • I want to make this play.
  • That’s okay, I’ll get it next time.
  • I believe in myself.
  • I’m ready for any opponent.

Self-talk phrases do not have to be complex in order to raise your confidence. In fact, the simpler the better. All your aiming to have them do is instill within you a feeling of self-belief.

Turning The Negative Into Positive

If right now you feel as though your self-talk is negative, you need to begin taking steps to change.

A self-talk routine involves crafting specific phrases you want to say to yourself. You then repeat those phrases, once or twice a day. Memorize them and repeat them before games, during games, and especially after a mistake when you feel your confidence dropping.

Utilize the power of repetition, as our minds will spit out what we continually feed it.

By deliberately speaking to yourself in a positive way, you can actually retrain your brain to speak to yourself in a way that increases confidence, rather than leading to more self-doubt.

Identify your current negative self-talk patterns, come up with a list of positive alternatives, and then begin going over them each day.

Final Thoughts

How you speak to yourself directly influences the way you feel. When it comes to confidence, your internal dialogue plays a major role in whether or not you believe in yourself and your abilities.

Negative self-talk will tear you down, while positive self-talk will lift you up. So, which would you rather have?

Start by paying attention to how you speak to yourself on a daily basis, and how you speak to yourself going into a game.

Once you identify any negative dialogue, begin replacing it with more positive, and uplifting phrases.

By doing so, you can leverage the power of self-talk and use it to increase your self-confidence.

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.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

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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The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

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