As a coach, I have often heard athletes say: “I don’t have confidence in myself, I feel that I have to prove my value, so I become stressed and make mistakes.” Or even: “If you had more confidence in me, then I would reach my full potential.

In these situations, my first response is always the same: confidence comes from you.

An upside-down world

Confidence moves in the opposite direction to what we think. Here are 5 guidelines to follow for gaining self-confidence:

1. The level of confidence you think other people have in you does not necessarily reflect reality.

2. You cannot believe that other people have a higher level of confidence in you than you have in yourself. This means that even if the person really does have confidence in you, they cannot convince you to change your perception of yourself.

3. The more confidence you have in yourself, the less time you will spend wondering what other people think, and the clearer your thoughts will be. Your perception of the level of confidence that others have in you is more likely to be correct. And you will be less affected by it.

4. The more confidence you have in yourself, the more confidence others will have in you. Without thinking, the people around you will perceive and feel the level of confidence that you have in yourself and will change in accordance with this perception.

5. Confidence is mostly a product of what you tell yourself.

When someone constantly reminds themselves of their mistakes, when they tell themselves that they are incapable of completing some task or other, that they will never reach their goal, that they lack talent…it is highly likely that this person will begin to seriously doubt their ability.

However, this is exactly what we inflict on ourselves when we harshly criticize and judge ourselves. Would you say to other people what you say to yourself during hard times? If your answer is no, then it is time to learn to respect yourself and to take care of yourself in your journey towards excellence.

Valuing yourself

When you play sport, your own approval of yourself is what counts the most. After having scored a point, or at the end of a competition, instead of wondering what your coach thinks, or what the judges will say, ask yourself: am I happy with my performance? If the answer is yes, and you are able to explain why, then hold onto that feeling. Do not allow other people to change your mind.

Receiving criticism

Of course, it is important to be open to comments and criticism in order to improve. However, when your self-confidence is fragile, criticism can have a negative effect. To allow yourself to open up, you should learn to receive criticism so that it guides your performance, and doesn’t affect you personally. A great strength of high-level athletes is their ability to consider criticism as a tool for improvement…in the same way that you use weights for training.

You can think of criticism as:

  • the bicycle which allows you to develop your endurance;
  • your energy drink which gives you the momentum to finish the race;
  • the music in your ears which pushes you that little bit further.

Each time you receive a comment or criticism, associate it with an image of your choice. Something which gives you a feeling of strength and a new desire to progress.

Accepting that you are not perfect

Nobody is perfect. We know that. However, every time we make a mistake, we tell ourselves that we could do better. That someone else could do better. That we should have known. We look at our news feed on Facebook, we see other people’s success, and we feel that we are the only person in the world having a hard time.

In a society which demands that everyone is always doing more and performing well in everything, we can end up becoming overwhelmed by demands and needs. At work and in sport, mistakes are rarely permitted. During a game, practice or competition, we are constantly observed and evaluated. Other people judge our performance. When we make a mistake, everyone knows. Even when we do well, we have this constant pressure that we are being closely followed.

When we have a tendency to judge ourselves, we imagine that everyone is judging us all the time. We feel that everyone is looking at us. One of the keys to developing confidence in yourself is learning to free yourself from what others are thinking by freeing yourself from your own judgment.

Each time you make a mistake, or feel that you have reached a dead end, remind yourself that nobody is perfect and that everyone has their own problems and hardships. That this is part of life and once something is done, it cannot be undone. We can only move forward. Accepting that you aren’t perfect allows you to stop dwelling on things and to focus on your next move.

Practicing self-love

To increase your level of self-confidence, you must learn to love yourself. Become your own coach, or your teacher. If your student, or your athlete, or perhaps even your child found themselves in your situation, how would you help them to climb the next rung on the ladder? How would you guide them towards the next step?

Self-love consists in treating yourself in the same way that you would treat other people.

Taking care of your garden

Imagine that you are growing your own garden. You take care of it, you water it and you tend it. If your neighbor tells you that you should water it, or use a certain fertilizer, you will thank them and do only what you believe is right. If you have already watered it that morning, then you will maybe choose to ignore your neighbor’s advice. Your garden is not perfect: some plants grow towards the sun, some leaves turn slightly yellow. But you know how to appreciate nature in its entirety and you take care of the plants that need it.

Your self-confidence is a garden that you must tend to. You look after it and you protect it from unwanted attacks. You listen to other people’s opinions and comments and you do what is right for you, because only you know your story, your path, what you want to achieve and your plan to reach your goal. You acknowledge your imperfections and you accept them, while taking care to give yourself the means to progress and reach your goals.

How can anyone see how great you are if you can’t see it yourself?