Sport can be both enormously effective in improving self-worth, and highly destructive in damaging it. Where sport is used creatively, with emphasis on enjoyment, effective goal setting and monitoring of achievement of goals, it can build self-confidence as targets are reached and improvement in performance is noted.
Where children are compelled to participate in a sport for which they have no aptitude, this can be immensely destructive to self-confidence as failure and lack of self-worth are consistently reinforced. Coaches should ask themselves whether they are prepared to take moral responsibility for inflicting this damage, even if numbers are needed to make up a team.
Self-confidence allows you to take risks, as you have enough confidence in your own abilities to be sure that if things do go wrong, you can put things right.
The way in which you are self-confident is important: if you are underconfident, then you will not take risks that need to be taken. If you are over-confident, then you can end up not trying hard enough and losing.
Confidence should be based on observed reality. It should be based on the achievement of performance goals: you should be confident that you will perform up to your current abilities. Good self-confidence comes from a realistic expectation of success based on well practised physical skills, a good knowledge of the sport, respect for your own competence, adequate preparation, and good physical condition. The success attained should be measured in terms of achievement of personal performance goals, not achievement goals such as winning.
Where you are underconfident, you will commonly suffer from fear of failure (which will prevent you from taking risks effectively), self-doubt, lack of concentration, and negative thinking. Often you may find yourself blaming yourself for faults that lie elsewhere.These will damage your flow and disrupt your enjoyment of sport. Here you should use suggestion, visualisation, and effective goal-setting to improve your self-confidence and self-image.
Overconfidence is dangerous - it can lead you into situations which you do not have the ability to get out of. It can set you up for serious failure that can devastate the self-confidence you should have. Overconfidence is confidence that is not based on ability: it may be a result of misleading or pushy parents or coaches trying to help you without understanding your abilities, may be caused by vanity or ego, or may be caused by positive thinking or imagery which is not backed up by ability.
Goal setting is probably the most effective way of building self-confidence. By setting measurable goals, achieving them, setting new goals, achieving them, and so on you prove your ability to yourself. You are able to prove to yourself that you are able to perform and achieve effectively. You can see and recognise and enjoy your achievement, and feel real self-worth in that achievement.
Importantly, by knowing what you are able to achieve, you are not setting yourself up for surprise failure - you almost always have a reasonably accurate assessment of what your abilities really are, which is unclouded by ego or vanity.
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Imagery is useful in building self-confidence, but only if properly applied.
Imagery should be used to imagine achievement of a goal that is being worked towards in order to help you to believe that that goal is attainable.
It should only be used, however, where you are rationally aware that you have the raw ability to achieve a goal if you stretch yourself, but if psychological factors such as lack of emotional self-confidence are interfering with your ability to achieve. For many years psychologists have advocated use of imagery, positive thinking, and suggestion without stressing that it should be based on a rational assessment of abilities. This can easily lead to over-confidence and serious failure.
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