I was talking to someone the other day about confidence. They said they were happily able to get along doing what they do for a while, and then suddenly they would notice doubts creeping in. Self-doubt. A gremlin in the works attacking their self-belief. The moment they lost their self-belief and started wondering if they really could do that difficult jump and remembering a time before when they fell on it, a GIANT wobble started and sure enough they fell again.
The thing is, I told them, self-belief is a little bit like a tight-rope. You climb the ladder, step onto the platform, test the rope and start to walk across. At first you are a little careful, then you feel more sure of yourself and you’re moving across that tight rope like a pro.
The moment you start to wonder if you can really make it to the end, the doubts set in. Your body will tense up. You slow up, take things much more carefully, and as a result – instead of believing you can continue the journey across in exactly the same way as you started out – the pause becomes a wobble and …. Over you go.
Once you’ve ‘tested’ that rope and started to put one foot in front of the other, and seen that you can successfully walk on it, that should be enough to get you to the other side. But if you start to wonder, midway if you really can do it, that wobble alone is enough to make you fall.
When you are learning something for the first time, it’s unlikely to be perfect straight away. But with much practice it gets better and better and you start to believe you can do it. So why does it disappear again when the pressure is on?
First of all, feeling under pressure comes from your head. It could be overthinking, or worrying about people’s expectations of you at a competition, or maybe a fear of falling and hurting yourself. When the pressure is on, a toxic cocktail of stress chemicals start to swirl around your body – so in addition to the gremlins causing havoc in your head, your body now begins to misbehave as a result of those chemicals. You get stiff, tense up, pull out too soon, or just pop the jump at the last minute and bam! You end up falling – and possibly hurting yourself too which is just what you were afraid of doing in the first place.
What’s the connection here? It’s that wobble. When you go for something 100% – whether the tight rope or the jump – there’s a better chance of achieving it. It’s when you let the self-doubting gremlins in, worry about whether you can do it, and stop yourself half way through that the results are not so good.