There is no doubt that performers in sport thrive on high levels of confidence. Examples exist where performers score a goal and then continue to score as a result of renewed levels of confidence. A batter in cricket may start scoring runs freely after a few tricky spells. In individual sports a tennis performer may all of a sudden start to gain belief having being 2 sets down. A golfer may start to reach the fairway and greens with a smoother technique. These are just a few examples that we can use where self-confidence can be the difference between success and failure given the fine margins that exist in sport. Despite this, we must acknowledge that self-confidence is like a rollercoaster that will mean levels of confidence can fluctuate between high and low. This blog identifies 12 key steps in raising your own levels of self-confidence.
- Remember that somebody believes in you. This somebody could be a coach, manager, trainer or fellow performer. They will have the belief in your ability that you currently may not have. There is no harm in asking them for purposes of re-assurance.
- Think in positive ways at all times. Positivity can be developed by assessing each day (training) and game/competition sessions. Assess your own positivity through forms of achievement through technique, practice and movement. Thinking positively leads to better mind and body balance. Positive thinking enables the neural pathways within the mind to operate with clarity and purpose. For example, a cricketer can look at line and length when bowling and use positive self-talk to guide them when carrying out the action.
- Understand that it can be done. Embark on each task as a champion by having a clear and defined plan. Achieve your task step by step. Do not take on a big task and expect to complete it quickly. Have patience and believe in yourself. Rome was never built in a day. For example, golfers have 18 holes to play and each shot and hole should be looked at from a strength and area to improve opportunity. Performers should become talkers in the mind to appreciate and become aware of how it can be done.
- Stay in control of the controllable. Maintaining the controllable builds self-confidence because it provides you with a sense of focus and directive. Remember that you can never control what others are thinking/doing but you can control what you are achieving. There are a range of variables within sport that can lead to performers losing sight of the controllable. External factors/influences will only hinder performance and must be beaten. For example, in team games there is no need to get involved with the mind games that sometimes are played in public.
- Engage in mental preparation. One should work on engaging their mind onto each task they embark on. Mental preparation can follow many trends like, mindfulness, imagery, reflective thinking, positive self-talk, goal setting, meditation and concentration training amongst others. One should find a strategy that works for them and then use this to provide that inner desire to build confidence. There has been plenty of evidence within elite sport of the use of mental preparation. Mental preparation is useful as it can support the levels of self-confidence required to perform. For example, a gymnast will need to have balance and resilience to perfect routines. By engaging in mental preparation practices the performer can start to use routines to help them relax and perform on the task at hand.
- Recall previous success. A mantra that I use is related to distance travelled. Think about previous successes that you have had. What did that feel like? How were your emotions during this time? Further, how confident did that make you feel? Recall is a positive mechanism to enable one to re-build confidence as it associates with belief. One just needs to look at body language during competition of teams in winning positions against those in losing positions. These positions are actually good experiences that can be used when required.
- Performance must be consistent. Successful people will build confidence because they are consistent and appreciate the value of success. Consistency is like a habit that is formed through experience of situations. In other words the more you do the better you become at the task in hand. Elite performers will work hard and do whatever to achieve their ultimate aim. Look at Andy Murray and his recent success which arguably is built on consistency and stability.
- Be constructive in own self-evaluation. Through self-evaluation one can become more effective at building self-confidence. Building your own level of evaluation will enable you to become critical. But it also enables you to build on this critique to create higher levels of confidence. Alex Ferguson suggested that he learnt more from defeat than success. This is true of most successful performers as they use defeat/backward steps/rejection to fuel the fire to comeback stronger.
- Reflect positively following performances. There is no doubt that the more you reflect the better you become at practice/competition. Reflective practice relates to becoming aware of your strengths and identifying areas that you can improve. Therefore, logically the more you reflect the higher chance you will increase your self-confidence levels. For example, performers should use training and competition settings to reflect robustly.
- Continuously set short-term goals. Most performers suffer from low self-confidence because they allow the issue(s) to prolong and as a consequence fail to deal with problems head on. To overcome these issues, set short-term goals that will enable the flow of confidence (no matter how small) to start. Through constantly achieving your short-term goals you will build your levels of self-confidence like a snowball growing bigger. Short-term goals should be related to processes that can be achieved.
- Respect yourself and don’t be too harsh on own performances. Life is about trial and error. Performers should learn from the many challenges that they face. However, performers must not be too harsh and should take regular breaks when needed. Performers should eat well and sleep well. Performers should respect mind and body. It is through respect that performers can learn to rebuild confidence.
- Focus leads to natural confidence. When focused there is no doubt that body language is good. Therefore, performers should develop focus through appreciating what is required and build this through application. Performers should address concerns and tackle any issues early. Confidence building is about remaining resilient in the face of pressure.
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About Gobinder Gill
Gobinder is a lecturer in Sport Psychology and Research Methods at Birmingham Metropolitan College in the West Midlands.