make or break confidence
Confidence: the double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the golden ticket to hitting flow state and achieving a peak performance in competition. On the other hand, ego can quickly sprout under the guise of confidence. In the last blog I briefly discussed what an ego looks like and how it can impact performance and team dynamics. I want to follow that up with a quick discussion on what confidence looks like and how to nurture it without crossing the ego-line. Spoiler: this one might be a bit of a longer read.
Confidence has two main purposes:
- The feeling that you have the skill and competence to complete the task at hand.
- The ability to rebound after failure due to the self-belief in your dedication and skill.
The question is: how do we build confidence? It’s the million-dollar question and one that I’m constantly pursuing an answer to. The tricky part is that there will never be an absolute answer to it. Our understanding of confidence and how to build it is constantly shifting and keeping up with it requires consistent adapting. Despite the tricky nature of building confidence, there are plenty of tools we can use to start building a framework of constructive confidence.
1) First and quite possibly most important: Previous peak performances and achievements.
It sound straight forward, but it's not simply thinking back to times you competed well. Imagine you're sitting on stage ready to load in, but you're starting to question if you're skilled enough to compete. It's great to remember those times you ran some scrims with these players and held your own. Let's be honest though, that's probably not doing a whole lot to calm your nerves. Not alone, at least. So, how does previous accomplishments/performances actually help? We need to take it a step further into the area of visualization (which we go into more later). Jump back into that same situation where you're on stage and ready to compete. Instead of just thinking and remembering about previous situations where you were successful, this time we want to go deeper. Think of your memories as a video tape that you're watching. Watch yourself play the match, experience the same emotions and feelings happening in that moment, and hear the comms. Your brain is a powerful machine and you can use it as an immersive VOD review system to fuel your confidence that you CAN actually do this and you DO have the skill to compete.
2) Verbal Hype and Positive Self-talk is another way to boost up confidence. It's both a great tool to get yourself in the zone AND to help get your teammates confidence boosted up. When getting yourself ready using verbal hype, you want to focus your self-talk on positive framing. Sayings things like "stop missing your shot," "my rotations are bad," and "I can't cs this game" are only helping you to affirm that you're doing something wrong. If we're hunting for a performance boost, we have to shift the default way that we think. When you catch yourself saying phrases similar to that, stop yourself and morph it into a positive. Go from "don't miss your shots" to "I'm going to hit everything." It's a small change but you've made a conscious decision on whether you're going to put yourself into a negative or positive mentality by just doing that.
3) Visualization and Imagery is the concept of using your mind to mentally create scenarios that you can utilize to boost up your confidence going into the next match. You're sitting at your station ready to load in. You know you're up against the rank 1 tournament favourites and it's making you panic a bit - if you lose this, you're out. Take a moment to breath in and close your eyes. Build the map in your mind and mentally put yourself into the game. Now, imagine going toe-to-toe with them and watch yourself play flawlessly, wiping the other team. Pay attention to your mechanics, your movements, your rotations. Imagine yourself doing everything you need to do at the exact moment it needs to happen. Doing this helps you recognize what you're capable of and feeds you with adrenaline. Yeah, it was only happening in your mind, but you just put yourself into a peak performance mentality and identified what excellence looks like, and it's going to feed you.
4) Perception of sensations is the final thing I want to discuss, but it'll be broken down into two sections: emotional sensations and physical sensations.
First, let's talk about the emotional sensations. When you're starting to feel less confident, what emotions pop up? Take a quick moment to think back on times that you felt your confidence dropping and what came along with it. It's essential you create awareness around what you experience emotionally otherwise negative emotions become a massive, vague monster that we never fully understand or how to combat it. The big one that happens to almost every athlete is anxiety. Remember, confidence is the feeling that you have the skill necessary to do whatever it is you're needing to do. So, if you no longer feel like you can do the task, you start panicking about the outcome. When you start panicking about the outcome, BOOM, anxiety. Here's the thing, though: anxiety and excitement are very similar experiences, but with different perceptions. Next time you're starting to feel that anxious sensation creep in, try to mentally shift your perception of it and start telling yourself "I'm so stoked, this is awesome!" or "LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO". You can even start yelling it or getting hyped up with your teammates. Use that anxiety sensation as fuel for your excitement.
The second part is physical sensations. In sport we know that the condition of your body is going to be a huge factor on how well you perform. Esports is no different. When you're losing confidence, the anxiety builds. The high level of anxiety is starting to cause physical reactions such as muscle tension, jittery fingers, body temperature changes, respiratory shifts, and loads of other changes that are going to negatively impact your ability to play your best. From hormones being released to clenching of teeth to shaking hands, everything can change when you lose confidence and it feels overwhelming. This is the point where I want to help reground you in the moment to take ownership of those physical changes. Close your eyes again and begin to scan your body. What's different now? What are you feeling in your limbs, skin, or head? Pay attention to the details and start describing them to yourself. Muscles tight? Let's try some progressive muscle relaxation. Fingers jittery? Let's give hand stretches a try. Breathing becoming irregular? Time for some breathing exercises. Just like emotional sensations, we want to create awareness around the things we're experiencing physically so that we can take the necessary steps to correcting the issues. Your physical sensations aren't always a debilitating factor, sometimes it's a signpost to what we need to try to work on. That sense of adrenaline and jitters can even be turned into something positive, much like we did with the emotional sense of anxiety. Use that as the fuel for your excitement. Get up and out of your chair. Start jumping around and hype yourself up.
As a final note on confidence, it's important to remember that you may not be the only one who is shutting down due to confidence failures. You're part of a team and it's your duty to make sure your teammates are game ready. Even if someone isn't at the same level of skill as you, pump their tires and tell them how amazing they are - they can only perform as well as their confidence allows them. If they're struggling to believe in themselves, telling them how bad they're doing will only make them do worse and further kill their confidence. Remove the barrier of low confidence and give them an environment where they can let their true skill shine.
As always, if this is an issue you're struggling with or have anything else you want to chat about, feel free to send me a message and I'm happy to chat.