It’s been a long while since I’ve written to you all, I think I’ve been waiting on a topic that seems relevant.
This one is a little long but its worth the read.
Invariably I get an email from a young swimmer who is suffering from something we have all experienced at one point or another during our swimming careers…
I’ve known it well…
It’s the low ebb, the valleys, the low times when we are feeling a disturbing lack of confidence in ourselves, our swimming, and the hard work we have done in the pool.
We look up at our swimming heroes and imagine that they aren’t plagued by doubt or low self-confidence.
But they do.
Why Self-Confidence Matters
Seems obvious, but it is worth quickly going over the advantages that present themselves when we are feeling like a boss—
You are more likely to chase opportunities that present themselves.
Gives you greater degrees of certainty when decisions need to be made. Limits second guessing.
Confidence keeps you moving forward, always looking to increase momentum.
Swimmers with high levels of confidence chase down their own goals, not those of others, or the dreams that others dictate upon them.
Self-confidence gives you the courage and enthusiasm to take risks and chase the outer reaches of your limits.
Those moments where we are feeling low in self-confidence are no joke.
After all, they leave us feeling…
Constant need for outside approval or recognition.
Resentment and jealousy towards competitors and teammates.
Acute fear of failure, of coming up short.
Overly critical of personal image.
Over-reliance on how others perceive you.
Difficulty in letting go of mistakes and failures.
Resistant to trying new things.
How do we start turning these thoughts and feelings around so that we can get moving in the right direction again?
1. Act positive.
Thinking positive is good stuff, and has been shown to provide a heap of health benefits including lower rates of depression(heavy stuff I know), increased well-being and even increased life span.
(I’ll take two, please!)
Take this a step further and employ positive action.
The steps don’t have to be massive or life-changing; quite often it is the small actions, the little steps that get the ball rolling, until eventually you’ve got so much momentum that the big stuff starts to come down with little effort or thought.
2. Get to the root of what makes you bursting with confidence.
Think back to the last time you experienced an episode of gut-busting self-confidence…
When you felt in control, your emotions in check, and your swimming was steady and effortless.
If it was a moment where you had a great race, think back to the circumstances that led to that amazing race and focus on emulating those, and not necessarily the race itself.
When you identify the things that lead you to feeling confident in yourself it becomes possible to replicate the scenarios in order to get that feeling on demand.
Getting into the nitty gritty of what makes your swimming work when looking at the process is an easy way to give you a sense of control with your swimming.
(And as a result, inject some confidence as well.)
3. Stretch yourself.
The most comfortable place in the world to be is your comfort zone.
It’s warm, fuzzy, and we know exactly what to expect.
Within our little sphere of safety we clutch on to our familiar habits and attitudes, even if they are detrimental to our long term success.
Doubt and insecurity are generally what keep us in there, and in order to bust out and gain traction on our goals we have to be willing to stretch our boundaries and seek out challenges.
Nothing grows legitimate confidence and destroys self-imposed limitations faster than doing something you’ve never done before. The resulting confidence will grow on itself, spurring you on to chase even more challenging limits.
4. Stop caring so much about what others think.
How many times could you have stepped up in practice or a workout but you were too timid or scared?
Odds are good the reason you stayed in the shadows has nothing to do with ability, and more about harbouring a concern of what others might think of you.
In an age where we are constantly checking our smart phones to see if anyone has texted us, liked our Facebook status update, or retweeted our gem of a comment, it’s a refreshing and freeing moment when we stop seeking validation from others.
Putting yourself first, and above the expectations you believe others to have of you, is not selfish or brash.
It’s empowering, not only for yourself but also the people that surround you.
Don’t waste a moment chasing someone else’s dreams; make your goals completely and uniquely yours and motivation and resulting confidence will pour fourth.
Once you stop putting too much stock in what others say about you, or what others think, you liberate yourself to chase the things you truly love.
5. Failure will not destroy you.
Being wrong isn’t a game-ender, and neither is failing.
No matter what your overactive imagination or others will say, the sky will not fall down if you stumble.
Failure becomes an invaluable learning tool once we decide to use it as such. In the immediate after-math of a stumble, take a breath, and then look around and figure out where the lesson is.
(There is always a lesson. You just have to open yourself to looking for it.)
Not only will tripping up occasionally make you mentally stronger, you’re gaining valuable experience that couldn’t otherwise be appreciated, while also getting one step closer to your goals.
Once the sting and timidity of stumbling is removed, and you learn to value them for the lesson and direction they provide, you can charge forth after your swimming goals with confidence and purpose.
Self-confidence is something you can work on. You don’t need to live by its whims on a day to day basis in the pool (and in life).
Try out the above tips for a bit and let me know how it goes.
And when you are ready to level up your swimming, you know what to do.
See you at the pool,