NATALIE BURTON OLY
If you were to ask me 2 months ago what the key ingredient to achieving success as an athlete was, my answer would have been confidence. Without a doubt. Yes, you need talent, and yes you need the drive and motivation to work hard, among many other things. But the unwavering belief in one’s abilities seemed to be the common denominator in the most successful, resilient athletes.
It would take me a long time to realise that confidence was not the holy grail I believed it to be.
Considering I never saw myself as an especially confident player, I was sure that if I could gain a higher level of confidence then I would achieve the higher level of performance I was continuously striving for.
So, I constantly tried to convince myself of the unwavering belief in my skills as a basketball player. I focused entirely on how I felt about myself when playing basketball, always taking note of when I felt ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When I felt great I would be brimming with confidence and I was able to play relaxed and strong. But in the next moment I could feel ashamed and stupid, all the confidence zapped from my body leaving me plagued with self-doubt and playing with fear. And then there were the most confusing times, when I felt fantastic yet still played poorly, or when I felt off but still managed to play some of my best basketball.
My self-confidence was on a continuous rollercoaster. I never felt truly, deeply confident.
I had failed to realise that confidence is too easily influenced by feelings and beliefs, both of which don’t always tell us the truth about our abilities and performance.
Just because you believe or feel something is true, that doesn’t necessarily make it so. You may think a particular feeling is real, it may feel real, you may believe it is truly real, but it is just a feeling. Emotions are normal, but they are not always based on facts.
If I’m relying on the way I feel about my abilities to give me more confidence, but the way I feel isn’t necessarily based on a truth and doesn’t always match my execution or performance, then the foundation for my confidence is extremely unstable and unreliable.
I now understand that chasing higher confidence does not give you all you need to achieve success. Instead it can come from building Self-Efficacy: holding a truth about your abilities to perform without doubt. This theory is about knowing that you have the skills necessary to perform because you have worked on them tirelessly. If you have established this truth about your capabilities through endless hours of practice and extra workouts, then this should be your focus. It’s not about how you feel; it’s about drawing strength from the hard work you have devoted to increasing and developing your skills.
Self-Efficacy is centred around facts, not feelings. It is based on truth and knowledge instead of what you feel or believe.