By Amy Gross
Peak Performance & Mental Coach
As self-improvement expert Dale Carnegie once wrote, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” You can’t wait until success happens to build confidence. You’ve got to get into the game. If you search within for the bravery to persist—step-by-step and day-by-day—your confidence will soar.
- Do your mental pushups.
To build mental agility, zero in on what inspires you instead of what scares you. Fixating on your problems amplifies them. Focusing on what you want and taking steps to get there will make you feel more confident. Preparation breeds confidence, so practice your craft in order to keep your mind calm, cool and collected.
- Visualize and be mindful. Brain studies show that mental rehearsal improves performance. Visualizing your way to success helps you deal with challenges and keeps your mind on track when you feel out of balance, stressed or agitated. (Bonus: It’s also a great preparation tool when tapering before a tournament.) Mindfulness enhances attention and awareness, which ultimately builds confidence, concentration and emotion regulation skills. You can practice mindfulness any time of the day (e.g. when you wake up, eat, breathe or take a break). The key is observing your thoughts and tuning into your body and sensations. For example, when you’re eating, you can smell your food or change the hand you eat with instead of being mindless by watching TV or reading (we’re all guilty of this from time to time).
- Back up your self-statements. Providing three pieces of evidence in support of an “I” statement builds confidence. On the contrary, boasting with false claims kills confidence because you can’t back up your words with actions. Furthermore, self-statements (“I’m extremely fit”) backed by broad and vague evidence (“I do sprints, workout and play matches”) won’t resonate as much as specific and personalized examples (“I’ve increased the increments of my sprints, the difficulty of my workouts and am able to play at least four difficult five-game matches in a row—a personal best”).
- Dig deep.
Self-esteem is an inner sense of self-worth. However, instead of looking within, we often look outside ourselves. Confidence is boosted if we receive praise or approval, but falters if we fail, get rejected or don’t live up to expectations. This need to please and dependency on external factors isn’t our authentic self—it’s our ego. Blame, criticism, doubt, fear, perfectionism and superiority are common ways our ego takes charge. If you don’t check your ego, it will hijack your emotions, problem-solving and self-reflection capabilities. If you want self-confidence that is unshakeable, focus on building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down.
- Identify core strengths and values. Take time to jot down your strengths and values by answering these questions: What’s most important to you? What are you good at? Clients often give me a laundry list of their weaknesses, but struggle to identify their strengths. If you don’t know what makes you tick, you’re going to have a hard time capitalizing on your strengths and being honest about what you enjoy and value.
- Listen to your inner guide. Learn to differentiate between your ego and inner mind. The secret to healthy self-esteem begins by noticing thoughts that make you feel unworthy, insecure, afraid or inadequate. Don’t fight your ego (that will aggravate it more), talk to it and move on. Acknowledge, accept and confront it. Maybe even laugh it by saying, “Are kidding me, Ego? You and I both know that I’m prepared and ready for this match.” Once you learn to tame your ego, you’ll unleash your inner guide, which is accepting, trusting, compassionate and kind. It’s the voice that tells you, “Everything is going to be ok. Breathe. I will figure this out.”
- Develop self-trust. Trust your work, your ability to learn, grow and cope with difficult situations. Instead of waiting for your lucky break, believe that you can win, improve, be successful, and learn from failure. Confidence requires trust—faith in yourself and your potential.