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Play With Confidence

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

According to Walt Disney, the secret of making dreams come true “can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and consistency, and the greatest is confidence.”

An example of confidence is a player feeling optimistic about a game they are about to play. It’s a belief in the effectiveness of their ability. But it is easy to confuse confidence with self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you see yourself favorably accepted by your teammates when you play. Or your feeling of self-worth, either positive or negative, based on how much you like yourself.

In the world of elite sports, there is a difference between confidence and self-esteem. Let me explain. I know players who confidently use a skill under pressure and have low self-esteem. On the other hand, I also know players who have a high level of self-esteem but possess little confidence to perform under the pressure of the game.

The most precise definition of confidence comes from a professor at Ohio State University, Dr. Richard Petty. He says that confidence is essentially the stuff that turns our thoughts into action.

That means it’s not just a steady state of being confident, interpreted as self-esteem. It’s more action-oriented and doing-oriented. In that cycle of taking action—which includes the willingness to take risks, the willingness to struggle, to fail, and to master something—you create confidence eventually. So it’s almost a virtuous circle. Confidence greases the wheels for action, and then the more you engage in that process, the more confidence you build.

If you saw the movie Sully, you saw the reenactment of the January 2009 emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after a bird strike disabled both engines. All 155 passengers and crew survived. When asked why he thought he could land his plan on the Hudson, the captain, Sully, is reported to have said, “I just knew I could.”

He got his pilot’s license at age 14, flew fighter jets in the Air Force, investigated air disasters, mastered glider flying, and even studied the psychology of how cockpit crews behave in a crisis.

The best way for you to build confidence is to do. But sometimes, the hard part is just getting started. So here are three ways to get started:

Focus on becoming good at something—anything—and then put that ability into practice. Completing a task through a newly developed skill may help you overcome a lack of confidence and lead to spirit —which turns into engagement with your dreams (thus a confidence building circle).

Make a short list of realistic things you want to accomplish. Then, focus your energies on small, measurable ways to implement your big goals. Before attempting to play for the United States National Team, consider ways you could make a difference on your team right now. Achieving meaningful and impactful milestones, even in small ways, can be a powerful way to build confidence.

Surround yourself with others willing to share their struggles and failures, not just their stories of success and accomplishment. Rarely, if ever, is the road to confidence a straightforward and smoothly paved path. It usually features many bumps, bruises, and embarrassments along the way. We often imagine that people who confidently achieve meaningful goals are simply lucky or blessed by fate. Hearing true stories of what they went through can help your confidence grow as you get started.

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