June 18, 2014
By: Olivier Poirier-Leroy / June 18th, 2014 via Swim Swam
We all have those moments, both as athletes and as individuals, where we feel like we are stuck going nowhere fast. We aren’t progressing fast enough in the pool, our goals aren’t coming together as planned, and we are having trouble figuring out why the success we desperately crave is not happening for us.
The elite swimmers in our midst don’t seem to be afflicted by these doubts, do they? At least not outwardly. But rest assured, everyone experiences crises of confidence. The difference between those who rise to meet the limits of their abilities and the rest is not that they don’t have moments of low self-confidence – they are human, too – but they have an ability to bounce out of them quicker.
Like quicksand, low self-confidence slows us, keeps us in place from moving forwards, setting us in a panic and a frustrated resolve that we will simply not be successful, we don’t deserve to be successful and so on.
Why Self-Confidence Matters
Seems obvious, but it is worth quickly going over the advantages that present themselves when we are feeling like a boss—
- You are more likely to chase opportunities that present themselves.
- Gives you greater degrees of certainty when decisions need to be made. Limits second guessing.
- Confidence keeps you moving forward, always looking to increase momentum.
- Swimmers with high levels of confidence chase down their own goals, not those of others, or the dreams that others dictate upon them.
- Self-confidence gives you the courage and enthusiasm to take risks and chase the outer reaches of your limits.
Symptoms of Low Self-Confidence
- Constant need for outside approval or recognition.
- Resentment and jealousy towards competitors and teammates.
- Acute fear of failure, of coming up short.
- Overly critical of personal image.
- Over-reliance on how others perceive you.
- Difficulty in letting go of mistakes and failures.
- Resistant to trying new things.
How do we start turning these thoughts and feelings around so that we can get moving in the right direction again? Just like any other skill, self-confidence is something you can work on, hone, and eventually wield when you need it most.
And here we go:
1. Act positive.
Thinking positive is good stuff, and has been shown to provide a heap of health benefits including lower rates of depression, increased well-being and even increased life span (I’ll take two, please!).
Take this a step further and employ positive action. The steps don’t have to be massive or life-changing; quite often it is the small actions, the little steps that get the ball rolling, until eventually you’ve got so much momentum that the big stuff starts to come down with little effort or thought.
When chasing self-confidence, remember that you will only find it at the end of goals that are important to you, and not necessarily those you have to or should do.
2. Get to the root of what makes you bursting with confidence.
Think back to the last time you experienced an episode of gut-busting self-confidence. When you felt in control, your emotions in check, and your swimming was steady and effortless.
If it was a moment where you had a great race, think back to the circumstances that led to that amazing race and focus on emulating those, and not necessarily the race itself. When you identify the things that lead you to feeling confident in yourself it becomes possible to replicate the scenarios in order to get that feeling on demand.
3. Stretch yourself.
The most comfortable place in the world to be is your comfort zone. Within our little sphere of safety we clutch on to our familiar habits and attitudes, even it they are detrimental to our long term success.
Doubt and insecurity are generally what keep us in there, and in order to bust out and gain traction on our goals we have to be willing to stretch our boundaries and seek out challenges.
Nothing grows legitimate confidence and destroys self-imposed limitations faster than doing something you’ve never done before. The resulting confidence will grow on itself, spurring you on to chase even more challenging limits.
4. Stop caring so much about what others think.
How many times could you have stepped up in practice or a workout but you were too timid or scared? Odds are good the reason you stayed in the shadows has nothing to do with ability, and more about harboring a concern of what others might think of you.
In an age where we are constantly checking our smart phones to see if anyone has texted us, liked our Facebook status update, or retweeted our gem of a comment, it’s a refreshing and freeing moment when we stop seeking validation from others.
Putting yourself first, and above the expectations you believe others to have of you, is not selfish or brash. It’s empowering, not only for yourself but also the people that surround you. Don’t waste a moment chasing someone else’s dreams; make your goals completely and uniquely yours and motivation and resulting confidence will pour forth.
Once you stop putting too much stock in what others say about you, or what others think, you liberate yourself to chase the things you truly love.
5. Failure will not destroy you.
Being wrong isn’t a game-ender, and neither is failing. No matter what your overactive imagination or others will say, the sky will not fall down if you stumble.
Failure becomes an invaluable learning tool once we decide to use it as such. In the immediate after-math of a stumble, take a breath, and then look around and figure out where the lesson is. (There is always a lesson. You just have to open yourself to looking for it.) Not only will tripping up occasionally make you mentally stronger, you’re gaining valuable experience that couldn’t otherwise be appreciated, while also getting one step closer to your goals.
Once the sting and timidity of stumbling is removed, and you learn to value them for the lesson and direction they provide, you can charge forth after your swimming goals with confidence and purpose.
6. Get to know yourself.
How much do you know about your main competitors? In the age of social media and instant results probably a fair bit. But how much can you say that you truly know about yourself? What motivates you? Where you keep falling short?
When you have a clear idea of who you are, what you want, and what you are capable of, a lot of the extraneous stuff gets filtered out, leaving you centered, focused and confidant.
7. Don’t wait.
Starting is always the hardest part. The first few steps are always going to be challenging, because to do nothing, to sit on your hands and not act is the path of least resistance. It is also the route that limits your ability to develop a deep and meaningful sense of self-confidence.
At the end of the day you should not be waiting on an outcome or result to give you confidence. Doing so will leave you feeling shortchanged and be anti-climactic. Instead, find confidence in yourself and your abilities within the process, by acting with immediacy and consistency.