Many times I have clients who tell me that they are really confident, only to have them say that a mistake can drop their confidence significantly. While it is normal for confidence to fluctuate based on our performance, it is ideal to have a confidence level that is more stable and resistant to significant highs and lows.
I often start a conversation on confidence with my athletes by asking them to rate their confidence on a scale of 1-10 (1 being no confidence at all and 10 being the most confidence they could ever have). This rating scale often comes up throughout subsequent sessions to monitor how it is effected by their performance.
Ideally, I would like to see clients that report a singular high level of confidence (+/- 1) despite their performance. The best athletes understand that mistakes happen, and they do not define themselves by those inevitable mistakes. Instead, they know and believe that they are a great athlete even when a mistake occurs. They know how to use those mistakes to learn and grow. They know not to spend time dwelling on them. They stay in the here-and-now.
Athletes need to make sure they they do not dwell on their mistakes; there should be a brief time in which an athlete thinks about why the mistake occurred, and how to prevent it from occurring in the future. Then they need to forget it. There should also be time spent thinking about what they did well. Even if the game/fight/meet was lost, the athlete will still have done things well and he/she should spend some time focusing on them.
Athletes with stable confidence typically also have high levels of trust. Although these two terms are sometimes thought to be interchangeable, they are in fact very different. If you are unsure of how the two differ, refer to my blog post on trust.
On the other hand, athletes whose confidence lacks stability, often see high fluctuations in their rankings when they think about their performance. These athletes typically lack trust and have high levels of doubt. They demand perfection from themselves, and become highly critical of themselves when they fall short of perfection. These athletes tend to dwell on their mistakes without giving themselves credit for their successes, even if they are outweighed by the negative in a particular game. Finally, they often compare themselves to opponents and/or teammates, focusing on how other athletes do not have the trouble that they have (often overlooking the mistakes made by others or discounting them as fluke)- when in fact if they took that approach with themselves, they would see an improvement in their confidence stability.
Think about your confidence rating on average. Now think about that rating after a great game and a bad game- how far apart are those numbers? If there is too large of a gap, spend some time refocusing your thoughts and beliefs.