As we begin to examine confidence in greater detail, it is important to know what confidence is, and what it is not. Confidence is a state of assurance, a belief in one’s abilities. It is the result of how one thinks, what one focuses on, and how one reacts to events in life. Here are five misconceptions about confidence:
1. Either you have it or you don’t.
Unlike your DNA which is fixed and there is nothing we you can do to change it, whether you desire to or not, confidence is not an inherited disposition or trait. It is something that can be changed by training, practice or experience. Confidence can be gained in the same way of any other skills or attributes, which is through practice and repetition of proper habits. Confidence is the result of a constructive thinking process that allows you to do two things: 1)hang on to and thus benefit from your successful experiences, and 2) let go of or de-emphasize your less successful experiences.
2. Only positive feedback can build confidence.
Yes, positive feedback can certainly help to build confidence, but so can negative feedback. It is possible to selectively perceive and reinterpret criticism, sarcasm, and negative comments as stimulating challenges. Has anyone ever told you that there’s no way you could run a marathon? Did you use this comment as fuel for motivation or did you head to it and give up? Look to reinterpret the comments in a constructive way to actually build confidence.
3. Success always builds confidence.
One would think that confidence follows competence, that after having performed and accomplished at a certain level, confidence inevitably follows, but this is not always the case. Have you ever ran a personal record, yet all you can think about are the things that went wrong? This is a prime example of how our thinking, things like self-doubt, thinking that concentrates only on weaknesses or failures, and pressure can eat at confidence.
4. Mistakes inevitably destroy confidence.
Humans are imperfect, to demand ourselves to always perform with perfection is unfair. Athletes that respond negatively to their mistakes actually lose confidence as they gain experiences playing their sport. When you choose to selectively attend more to the mistakes and errors, this results in being more cautious, tentative, more fearful. Other athletes build confidence despite repeated failures because they choose to selectively attend to whatever small improvements and positive experiences occur. If you ran a race and did not run as well as you had hoped, what are the lessons you have learned to carry forward with you? Perhaps it’s a change in pre-race nutrition or the need to implement some thought-stopping techniques for a mental blockade (thinking such as “I want to quit, I am so tired, this is not worth it”) that crept in during the last 2 miles. Learn from these mistakes, and ask yourself what can you change for next time. And remember there is always something positive that happens, however small. It may be that you got a really good start off the starting line and avoided a lot of early traffic or that you passed a pack of people on an uphill.
5. Confidence equals outspoken arrogance.
Think of powerful quiet confidence. You can be every bit of confident on the inside while conveying politeness and modesty on the outside.
Did any of these misconceptions resonate with you? How do you look at confidence differently after reading about these misconceptions?
Next week we’ll look at four prerequisites in order to build confidence.
Adapted from: Applied Sport Psychology, Personal Growth to Peak Performance by Williams, 2010