I had coach after coach tell me to be more confident. I could always practice, but game day always felt impossible to do my best. An Olympic development coach told me that I had an inferiority complex and although, it would be hard, I could work through it. After going to small schools and transitioning to becoming an elite athlete, I still had a small school frame of mind.
From there, I spent years reading positive self-help books, listening to podcasts and googling "how to become more confident." These are ways that I've found can help build confidence in your life that will filter down to whatever sport, adventure, or hobby you want to tackle next.
This photo above is from a SONY photoshoot that seemed to happen overnight. I was at a training facility in Spain, and I was asked by the director if I could take some photos for a SONY event that was happening so they could photograph a track athlete. I was a little afraid, but after posting on social media for years, I understood what would photograph well and went for it. All those years of practice being in front of my phone helped me become more confident but I wasn't NOT afraid. So what I want to say is...
This is not an easy overnight shift.
BUT it is possible and it's incredible that you are here reading this to grow mentally. So here are ways you can build your confidence. They might not all work for you but try them out. Use what works and leave what doesn't.
1. Discover Your Strengths While Your Work On Your Weaknesses
Most will emphasis only working on weaknesses. Making steps towards working on things you are not great at will over time build confidence but it takes time. While you are working on your weaknesses you can also identify and celebrate your strengths.
Do you remember a time where you felt very confident? Something from a long time ago. For me, I felt confident as a child when I did something that people celebrated. Not for something that someone criticized and told me I needed to work on. Working on weaknesses can build resilience and eventually confidence, but if you want to create confidence from within, it's time to start noticing strengths.
So what are you really good at? This doesn't have to only be in your sport. As human beings, when we improve one area of our life, it can transfer to others. Are you creative? Do you have amazing balance? Are you able to read a book cover to cover? Can you make music? Whatever you are good at write it down, think about it, celebrate it and continue to lean into it. Start celebrating the things you are good at.
2. Set Achievable Goals: Break It Down, Build It Up
Achievable goals sound boring and small. But when you have BIG goals, you also need steps to get there and those become the achievable goals. Once those are all completed, you tackled the big goal without overthinking and anxiety which kills confidence. Each time you complete an achievable goal, your brain gets a hormone reward that keeps you wanting to come back for more.
As athletes, if often helps to see our progress. To see progress, visual gratification is a must. Once you break down your achievable bite sized goals that when added up get you to your BIG goal, write them down and create a space where you can mark them off as you achieve them. Some people like journals with checklist, others like bingo cards with stickers, and other make giant vision boards. Pick what works for you, but make sure you have something visual to mark off as you achieve your goals. Each time you mark it off and you can see it fill up, your confidence will grow.
3. Positive Self-Talk: Start Saying Nice Things To Yourself
"Cultivate positive self-talk and affirmations." How do we do this? Self help books talk all the time about talking positively to ourselves, but do we really even have control of what our minds tell us. Of course! It might feel impossible at first, but you have the power to create a warm incredible positive space in your mind.
Start by identifying where this hard voice came from in your mind. Did you parents used to talk to you like this? A frenemy? An old coach? Once you identify where this voice is coming from, you can separate yourself from it and realize the negative thoughts aren't even yours.
Start to remind yourself of your strengths, achievements, and capabilities regularly. When Avoid harsh self-criticism and negative thoughts emerge, take a deep breath and tell yourself something that motivates you to change how you talk to yourself.
Embrace a non-judgmental mindset, both towards yourself and others. Remember that how you talk about and perceive others is often a reflection of your inner dialogue. By fostering a compassionate and understanding attitude toward others, you create a more positive and supportive environment for yourself, reinforcing a healthy self-talk loop.
4. Visualization: Picture What You Want To Become
Human beings are so special. We can visualize something happening and our body and mind will start to respond and make space for our ideas as if they have already happened. But this goes both ways. If you visualize negative things happening to you, you body and mind will make space for this and go towards it, but if you visualize yourself doing the work, creating opportunities and enjoying the process of hitting your goals, your mind will also make space for this and go towards it.
Visualizing success is a powerful confidence-building technique. Close your eyes and vividly imagine yourself performing at your best. Picture the technique, the moment, and the feeling of enjoyment. When you talk through the visualization in your mind, say things in the present tense.
5. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity: Fail Often and Fail Fast
Failure can feel like the end of the road. Turns out, it's not. Rather than being the opposite of success; it's a part of it. We've often heard this but let it sink in. To fail, is to learn. When failure occurs there is usually a clear reason of what happened.
Instead of viewing setbacks as defeats, see them as opportunities to learn and grow. Analyze what went wrong, adjust your approach, and use each failure as a stepping stone toward improvement. This single mindset shift will help your confidence grow as you learn your way to success.
6. Consistent Preparation: The Confidence Foundation
Preparation is one of the best ways to feel confident going into a situation where you know what you will need to it ahead of time. When it comes to a sport, you can know ahead of time what will happen and also know there will be things out of your control.
Planning what you will need to do and consistently working on it in training breeds confidence. Test your practice routines and build trust in your specific process. Knowing you've put in the work that directly affects the outcome cultivates a deep sense of belief in your abilities, especially when the pressure is on. If you need help preparing, find someone who you trust that can help you plan as your reach for your goals.
7. Surround Yourself with a Positive Support System
Build a circle of positive influences. Surround yourself with friends, family, coaches, and teammates who uplift and encourage you. A supportive network fosters an environment where confidence can flourish. If everything is negative all the time, it and quickly start to weigh on your positive self talk or drain your energy. When you are around positive environments, things seem to flow.
If you find yourself constantly dealing with negative influences around you and can't physically remove yourself from them, try to carve out space for yourself even online where you actively look for and foster positive influences and relationships. Even what we watch on YouTube and Netflix can affect our positive environment. So be picky with what you consume to foster positivity around you which will ultimately lead to more confidence.
Building confidence is A PROCESS that involves growth in different areas of life. By seeking challenges, developing new skills, creating positive self-talk, and maintaining a supportive environment, you can unlock your full potential.
Want more ways to grow your confidence? Check out Part 2.