8 ways to lose your confidence – your best asset in sport (part 1)
Self-confidence is the most precious mental asset that athletes can bring to the competition. Regardless of competition level, when you are fully confident, you know you can do well and good result will come from your hard work and skills. When you lose self-confidence, it is like you have lost 50% strength or more. Many athletes that I worked with (golfers, footballers, cricketers) shared how they struggled to cope with competition pressure when their confidence are were gone. I also notice that many young athletes and rising-star athletes do not have a good habit of keeping their self-confidence intact.
I list down below 10 most frequent ways that athletes tend to lose self-confidence. Hopefully, you will avoid all these bad habits to protect the most precious mental asset- self-confidence.
1. Set too high expectations/ goals
This is the number one killer for confidence. When an athlete sets a big goal, it needs to be followed by a realistic timeline and strategy. For a golfer with a HC of 15, wanting to drop 5 shots to HC 10 in 3-6 months is a very challenging goal. It becomes almost impossible when that golfer says to me he only wants to commit 2 sessions a week for golf (1 practice and 1 game). I frequently see a lot of golfers struggle with this type of expectation. The most challenging part is that they set big goals without considering how much time they can realistically use to improve their golf game. Or some may expect to improve straight away after seeing a coach or sport psychologist for just one session.
Another example is a cricketer who has just moved to a higher-level league and a new club and set a goal for 500 runs. While it is possible to set a higher goal, that batsman needs to breakdown the big outcome goal into smaller goals – process goals that he can do. Without knowing all the factors in the new club and new league level, it becomes a risky goal, one that gives this batsman more pressure than necessary.
My suggestion is to always set goals following the SMARTER Principle. Make sure you set both outcome and process goals. If you are not sure what they mean, please check out my previous post about goal setting here…
2. Keep scolding/ blaming yourself for every mistake made
This issue is very common among hard working athletes who always demand a high-quality performance from themselves. Every time they make a mistake, they tend to use very strong and even degrading language on themselves. I have heard of many words like “f*ck me”, “why am I such an idiot?” …. The interesting thing is that we all will be furious if someone uses those words on us because that is an insult. But when we insult ourselves verbally, we seem to think it is ok, and we can be better from that. While you consciously think talking negatively to yourself is normal, it affects your self-confidence and motivation at a subconscious level, which is harder to recover from.
3. Keep replaying the failure scene in your mind
This is another bad habit which kills the confidence in athletes. For example, as a golfer, have you ever walked to a certain hole on your home course and instantly felt like you were going to be in trouble? That is because sometimes golfers tend to replay the scene of their bad hole to analyse and get upset with their performance. If you really need to analyse the game, you should be using third person’s point of view when visualizing the bad games/ holes. Using the third person’s view takes away the emotion attached to a situation and allows you to analyse the situation more objectively.
4. Use outsiders’ opinions or social media to define your success.
Some athletes tend to take other people’s compliments or judgement as their sole measure of success/ failure. Other people’s opinions are external factors which the athletes have no control of. By overly relying on these external factors, athletes have to keep working harder to try to please an invisible crowd.
For example, a lot of people on social media only post their best pictures, their best clothes or the most outstanding achievements while conveniently ignoring the not-so-successful or ugly part of their life. Athletes who compare their life to others’ on social medial like Facebook and Instagram can easily feel discouraged, or disappointed with their life, because others always seem to have better things than they do.
My suggestion is that athletes need to have their own standard which they use to measure their success. Through proper goal setting, they will have a strategy to achieve their goals, without being affected by any external and uncontrollable factors. And avoid making comparison with your friends on social media as it does not truly reflect how their life really is.