How we come to BELIEVE in ourselves is built on three qualities.
How we talk to ourselves (self-talk)
How we push ourselves (building our courage muscles + embracing failure)
How we trust ourselves (self-efficacy)
Confidence, as it turns out, takes time and effort to foster. It's not something we achieve by results and it's certainly something we don't step into this big world possessing to the highest power despite how natural those around us make it seem. No, it's developed through practice and PROCESS. I thought for far too long that confidence was achieved after a big win, when in fact it is a precursor.
There is a term in psychology coined by Professor, Daryl Bem called the Self-Perception Theory. The theory states "individuals come to “know” their own attitudes, emotions, and other internal states partially by inferring them from observations of their own overt behavior and/ or the circumstances in which this behavior occurs."
In other words, in order to achieve our deserving and ambitious goals, we must first believe we have the ability to do so. We learn that through experience - building our courage muscles.
In strength and conditioning, progressive adaptation occurs with increased load. Rep by rep increasing our volume and intensity. We flex our muscles - showing up day after day, putting in consistent work - and the brain is no different. We can flex on our courage, on our discomfort, even on self-kindness and compassion. The brain is too a body part.
Building our courage is a muscle we develop with practice.
It begins with learning proper form. We all start somewhere. With ONE muscle firing. One weight lifted. Soon, you get a bit stronger. You adapt. It becomes easier. What was once seemingly impossible is no longer unfathomable.
You do it again.
This time adding a 5lb plate to the rack. Before you know it, your deadlift is now performed on a single leg standing on a Bosu ball. You adapt to carry more, because you learned that you can take it on.
If you were to take on the heaviest weight at first 'go', it would leave you with an injury. Why do we expect the same from ourselves when taking on a lofty goal, new task, or a big dream?
Doing the reps isn't only about being tough. It's about being as equally patient, and self-compassionate in how we speak and challenge ourselves. We can acknowledge our progression, and also be hungry for more. We can give ourselves grace in the process of practicing, and also know what more we are capable of performing.
You know how we learn we are capable? Because we've proven to ourselves before through this practice that we possess the ability to achieve what we continually rise up against. We can learn to attach our self-belief to our strength in overcoming, in our inner-capabilities. Not the time, the place, and not the medal - but to how we showed up, challenged ourselves, and expanded ourselves through that situation.
With progressive discomfort, we steadily attempt and many times that comes with failed reps. But all the sudden it *clicks*
Like confidence, flexing on your courage muscles doesn't express itself with a visual bump or the weight on the end of the bar from which you can measure your progress. It manifests in the way you feel about yourself, with the awareness to see how you push past emotional discomfort that before would shake you. Your experience from doing the reps has proven that you adapt.
Doing the Reps
“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
We acquire belief by nurturing it, feeding it. That's through those who believe in us even when we are still learning how to do so (like coaches and mentors), just as much as it is doing the reps. The process of believing in ourself is a painful one; one that tugs on our self-doubt, inner-thoughts, self-deprecating belief that time and time again we need to knock down and prove wrong.
Doubt is a universal experience, and I've come to learn many of us aren't born with pristine, glistening self-belief free of uncertainty. What I would say - I've never felt more proud, accomplished and overcome with success as when I stretched and flexed my courage muscles.
Further, when I learned to measured myself by my unique ingredients - my ability to care, boundless energy, devotional dedication and indomitable spirit - I saw myself differently.
What if we measured ourselves by our devotion to our integrity, our ingredients, and how we used them? Many times our efforts will come out under-cooked, bitter, stale, even unbearable at times. That can't keep us from starting over again and taking that knowledge with us despite the disappointment it carried.
Doing the reps taught me to measure my recipe by the process of creation. I gained confidence in myself through that process. In those moments, I was able to not only conquer my doubts and limiting beliefs - I came face-to-face with them and learned about myself through trying. I wouldn't trade anything for that process, because it led me to better understanding, befriending and LOVING myself.
I don't have the secret to your perfect recipe for steadfast confidence, only ways to learn your unique ingredients. To find your self-belief through it - the process of making something rewarding and individual to you. I'll leave you with some questions, that in reflection can help us all continue to develop our own understanding and trust of self.
Q's to Ask Yourself:
There are countless ways to build our courage muscles that carry over to sport (and also to life). Sometimes, I like to look outside of sport as a place to practice where there is less self-judgement; testing things out in a low-stake environment where we can eliminate our own pressure. The kitchen can be a playful, inviting environment to practice trying and experimenting and failing - to test our mindset. As could be trying a new instrument, or even presenting a project in front of class. The world is full of opportunities for flexing our courage muscles and learn ingredients.
Choose one thing today that makes you feel uncomfortable.
(Example: Raise your hand in class despite the flutter in your heart; be the first one to volunteer to go first at practice)
Make note of what that felt like to do it despite discomfort. Write down the feelings you felt in your body. Now write out the thoughts that went through your mind.
Were you surprised?
Was it challenging?
What's that feel like in your body? Do you feel in your chest, your hands, your brain?
What about the thoughts in your mind after?
Was it as scary as your first perceived it to be?
How can you continue to do "another rep" of that to make it easier later on?
What is a way to continue challenging yourself in that area when it gets easier?
This is part two of a two-part series; check out part one here.
Written by RISE Mindpower Coach Amanda Presgraves, Team USA Triathlete, Off-road Endurance and Adventure Triathlete, Ultra-runner
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