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The Confidence Cycle

BY TAYLOR BROWN
PHOTO BY ED MORAN

Confidence is something athletes simultaneously desire most and understand least. We all want confidence, but when I ask athletes how to build it, they look at me with a blank stare and shrug their shoulders.

Where does confidence come from? It comes from some degree of perceived success, certainly, but success isn’t always necessary. Some insist that confidence is something you’ re born with; you either have it or you don’t. Not so. 

Confidence is something all of us can attain through experience, but athletes usually want a shortcut—a “confidence button,” if you will—that they can press and, voila, they’re confident. 

In truth, confidence is earned through a lot of hard work, and there are things you can do intentionally to create an environment where confidence thrives.

Growing confidence is like growing a flower. You can plant a seed, but if the soil isn’t right and there’s not enough moisture and sun, the flower won’t flourish.

Building confidence entails a cycle of working on something just outside your comfort zone, failing, getting back up, failing again, succeeding, and practicing until you achieve proficiency. Then you stretch outside your comfort zone a bit further and begin the cycle anew.

Stretching outside your comfort zone to try something new often makes you feel vulnerable. Some think vulnerability is bad, but it’s necessary for growth and development. So when you’re feeling vulnerable, embrace it, because doing so will help build “confidence muscles.” 

 Imagine trying something new and falling flat on your face. Do your teammates point and laugh, making you feel bad, or do they offer a helping hand? The latter bespeaks an environment rich in “psychological safety,” one where teammates show empathy, provide support, and make it OK to fail and try again. 

When you express vulnerability in an environment of psychological safety, your  confidence will soar and you’ll become a self-starter. Self-starters are unafraid to put themselves out there. They prioritize doing over talking. They take ownership of their training and responsibility for their progress. 

When you reach the self-starting stage, your confidence will blossom because you’ll be  working through the confidence cycle constantly—trying new things, failing, trying again, and succeeding.

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