The confidence conversation is one of the most important we will have with ourselves throughout our lives. Our confidence is constantly battered by doubts, fears, anxieties, and ‘what ifs’. Sometimes our confidence peaks, sometimes it dips, and other times it plateaus. However, with consistent practice, we can guide our confidence on an upward trajectory over time.
Here are eight different ways you can develop your confidence this season.
1. Start Training
The fastest way to gain confidence is to get (back) in shape. Can’t swim because of an injury? Begin your physical therapy and rehab, today. Took the summer off? Start back up with your strength and conditioning, today. Working out helps us gain momentum in our fitness routine. Even a single workout can provide immediate results and immediate traction.
2. Take risks
This can be one of the biggest factors holding you back from unlocking the next level of confidence. So often in practice and at meets, we don’t take that risk – whether that is committing to the underwater kick count we’ve been practicing, attempting our first race crossover, taking it out FAST in our main set, or sticking to our race plan. Not taking risks is like swimming with a sweatshirt on–it has an immense drag on our confidence.
There are two major confidence-building benefits to taking risks. The first is realizing the risk we took worked! The second is popping our fear bubble: the fear of judgment, fear of failure, and fear of success. If we can identify where our risk-taking fear is based, building confidence becomes a whole lot easier.
“Believe in yourself!” The words are so easy to say to a nervous teammate, but how do you do it yourself? How do you believe in yourself?
Start small and simple. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself–the words and voices in your head throughout the day in response to life. Our unhelpful mental chatter is extra high when you’re nervous, fearful, intimidated, or doubtful. Simply changing the way we talk to ourselves can have a huge impact on our awareness of the contributing factors to our self-belief paralysis.
4. Take Action NOW
What we get wrong about confidence is that we must wait to have some incredible performance, wait to feel good to put it all on the line, or wait for the perfect conditions to attack our goals. Wrong. Our self-confidence comes from skill acquisition and skill mastery. The only way to get there is to take action now. Don’t wait for a big meet to binge your confidence, drink small doses of confidence daily.
5. Embrace Mistakes
This one is simple. It can be scary to make mistakes – especially when we try things for the first few times. It can be even scarier when we become entangled in the idea of ‘messing up’ things we’ve performed successfully hundreds of times. The fear itself prevents us from taking the risk. It is only through attempts that we learn what works and what doesn’t work and how we can do better the next time.
Learning–progress–can’t happen without mistakes. The most important thing here is to remove any notion of shame from the word. Mistakes are to be celebrated, not discouraged, because they mean we have crossed off more ways not to perform. Eventually, with a little faith and perseverance, we will perform.
6. Seek Uncomfortable Situations
For the same reason we should celebrate mistakes, we too want to seek uncomfortable situations so we can grow. A couple of key benefits here are that we become adaptable and build resilience–which translates into confidence. If you only ever train sprint, you’ll become confident in your sprinting. But if you attempt a distance practice here or there, you could build your finish confidence even more for those sprints. And vice-versa.
By training sprints, a distance swimmer can become more confident in their get-out speed. Seek opportunities that challenge you just outside what you’re used to.
7. Create A Plan for Success
It can be easy to feel intimidated by the challenges we face as swimmers, no matter what age or level we compete at. Take any obstacle, break it down into parts, then into even more parts, and if it’s a really big goal, even more parts. Soon enough, these new micro-challenges or goals, begin to look easily achievable.
8. Review Your Efforts Daily
After a workout, before you fall asleep, spend a few minutes reviewing your efforts for the day. What did you learn? Where did you fall short? How could you do better tomorrow?
Beginning a simple routine of self-evaluation goes a long way. Just as we might track our best times to see our improvement over time, evaluating our effort on a daily basis will do the same for our confidence.
Find small ways to celebrate your efforts and attempts at growth each day in your review, over time the small things add up to big things.