Confident thoughts don't win medals
A new way of looking at confidence
Since starting my program in Sport and Performance Psychology, it hasn’t taken long to realize how many people would ask me about confidence. More specifically, how to feel and be more confident.
So, I started to dig into the topic and came across The Confidence Gap by Dr. Russ Smith… and it changed the way I view confidence. Much of what I’m writing about today is influenced by this book.
In this week’s 3 Point’s I’ll be discussing confidence, what it is, and why we might be chasing the wrong kind of confidence.
1. What is confidence? There are two definitions. The first definition is one you’ll likely be familiar with:
A feeling of certainty or assurance.
However, I want to focus our attention on another definition today:
An act of trust or reliance
By choosing the latter definition, confidence is then defined as an action instead of a feeling. If you break down the word’s origin, it is from Latin “com” meaning with, and “fidere” meaning to trust, put together and it means to act with trust or being true to oneself.
2. So why am I splitting hairs about definitions of confidence? Well, I think all of us want to be more confident and it turns out acting with confidence is a whole lot easier than feeling confident all the time.
Thoughts and feelings are difficult to control. A recent study found the average person thinks about 6200 thoughts per day. How could we possibly be in control of all of those? It helps to experience this as well:
Try it: Don’t think a thought for as long as you can.
We know we can’t stop our minds from producing thoughts, we also know we don’t have much success at suppressing thoughts. The late Harvard psychologist Dr. John Wegner was famous for his work on thought suppression. “He developed his theory of ‘ironic processes’ to explain why it's so hard to tamp down unwanted thoughts. He found evidence that when we try not to think of something, one part of our mind does avoid the forbidden thought, but another part "checks in" every so often to make sure the thought is not coming up—therefore, ironically, bringing it to mind.”
Try it: Try as hard as you can to NOT think of a white bear.
3. See, we can’t stop or suppress our thoughts. Great. Now what?
“You don’t win medals by having great and confident thoughts (feelings and sensations). You win medals by doing the actions required in a competition. Confidence (and comfort) as a feeling doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you must stick to the things you want to do, not on how you feel.” – Kelly Dekker, Dutch Sport Psychologist.
Before a big game, we often feel nervous, fearful, and full of doubt and we believe they are problematic to our performance. And often, instead of focusing our attention toward our preparation, scouting report and game plan, we’re spending all of our time and energy trying to convince ourselves that we feel or need to feel confident.
Good news, that’s A-OK. In fact, it’s normal for unpleasant thoughts and feelings to arise when we’re faced with a situation that we care deeply about and we don’t know the outcome. Even Kobe Bryant experienced this (see below). Instead of trying to control and suppress our fears and doubts, try to recognize and accept them. Here’s one way how: