Need a Confidence Boost? Follow These Steps
Self-confidence is a term you’ve heard often. It means “a feeling of trust in one's abilities, qualities, and judgment.” Do you have self-confidence when you play sports? Or is there usually a voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it, that you’re not as good as your teammate/s? We all lack confidence sometimes.
But for those of you who spend most of your time and energy worrying that you’re not good enough, boosting self-confidence is an important component to improving your sports performance. When you believe in yourself, you’ll be more willing to try new techniques and to practice more efficiently without worrying about messing up. If you mess up, your self-confidence will allow you to keep pushing yourself and that will allow you to improve your game. When you feel confident in yourself, you’re able to devote your energy to the task at hand. So in short, the greater your self-belief, the better you'll perform. Easier said than done, though, no?
Unfortunately, most athletes make the mistake of waiting till after they’ve lost confidence to work on developing it. Athletes constantly train their bodies - be it through running, lifting weights, or something else. They don’t wait till they get hurt to do physical training. An athlete works on their technique to prevent a physical problem from occurring. For example, you don't wait to break your back before developing a proper push-up form. Can you say the same for your mental techniques? Similarly, athletes need to preempt psychological problems, not simply react to them. Building confidence is a mental exercise that should be performed regularly along with physical training.
Here are a few ways to boost self-confidence:
Walk like a winner. How you walk and move affects how you think and feel. When your body is down, your thoughts and feelings will be down too. If your body is up, your thoughts and feelings will be positive. Even if you don’t feel great during a game, walk with your head high, chin up, eyes forward, shoulders back, arms swinging, and a bounce in your step. You'll both move and look like a winner, and that will improve your confidence in seconds.
Talk like a winner. Talk to yourself in positive ways. Don't say, "I’m going to do badly today" but rather, "I'm going to try my hardest today." If your talk is negative, your thoughts will be too. Research has found that negative experiences, such as negative body language and emotions, carry more weight than positive experiences. It takes 12 positive experiences to equal one negative experience. So for every negative expression you make, you must have 12 positive experiences to counteract that one negative expression. So, be positive!
Stop the negative thoughts. List the negative statements you commonly say to yourself when you're competing. Then, list positive statements that you can replace them with. When you start to think or say something negative, catch yourself, and think "positive." This will cue you to replace the negative statement with a positive one. One study found that motivational self-talk has a more positive effect on self-confidence than instructional self-talk. Inspirational self-talk such as “Come on, you can do it!” or “I’m pumped for this game” increases confidence more than telling yourself to “keep your eye on the ball.”
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparing your level of ability to your teammates' can be of some benefit. However, this could also backfire if you tell yourself that you are the worst player on the team, for example. Comparing oneself to others is a delicate practice. Exercise self-comparison instead; compare how you did today to how you did a week or a month ago.
Practice mental experiments. When your mind says you can’t, imagine yourself succeeding in your sport. Visualization is a powerful confidence booster. Mentally picture yourself making the shot and keep that image and feeling when you go into the game. We will go into further detail about visualization in the future.
Do not fear failure. Confidence is ultimately a battle between faith and fear. Fear is a powerful emotion, and fear of failure can paralyze a player if they allow it to change the way they play the game. Professional athletes know they will miss shots and make mistakes but they don’t let fear stop them. They have faith that their skills and abilities will come through.
Start easy to build confidence. Tiger Woods starts his golf practices by making easy 100-feet putts. A basketball player might practice easy shots a few feet from the basket. In other words, find your rhythm, get your confidence going, and work your way from there.
In summary, following these steps will help to build your confidence, and ensuingly hone your performance. Act and think positively, and make this a habit that goes along with your physical training. Check out our podcast with Dr. Semendinger where he talks about confidence and determination here.
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Hinch, Will. “Self Confidence in Sport: 9 Steps to Improving It.” Pitchero Blog, blog.pitchero.com/self-confidence-in-sport-9-steps-to-improving-it.
Vealey, Robin S., et al. “Developing Self-Confidence in Young Athletes.” Sport Psychology for Young Athletes, 2017
Amy Morin, LCSW. “5 Ways to Start Boosting Your Self-Confidence Today.” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-boost-your-self-confidence
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