Self-love is an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue and refers to our ability to hold ourselves in esteem and have confidence in our worth no matter what happens around us. Athletes speak to the benefit of sports in creating confidence and self-esteem. But naturally, during any competitive journey, there will be highs and lows and at some point, face a sense of lowered self-esteem and loss of confidence. One big reason for this is that some competitors will equate their self-esteem with their performance as an athlete, their preparedness, or lack thereof, and their athletic ability or perceived athletic ability. If your performance doesn’t match what you expected the outcome to be then you will often contend with thinking about what you could have done differently. Our appreciation, confidence and love for ourselves is often tied up in this reflection, which actually becomes another challenge. Therefore, we need to learn how to overcome these feelings and perform at our best, allowing ourselves to bask in the confidence of our achievements and value true love of self.
Being an avid runner for years but not having the body type of one has caused me to reflect on particular times where my confidence was shaken. I recall one brisk morning prior to a race in Los Gatos, California. The race was so large that we had to start by anticipated race pace in heats. As I lined up in my expected minute mile group, a woman beside me remarked that she thought I was in the incorrect heat and should move back. After a short argument, I thought I was the crazy one and that maybe I do run slower than I thought and that she was right. Instead of ignoring her and having confidence that the eight last races timed with the latest technologies were in fact right and I was prepared, fit and ready to go. But, how do we get to that point of self-affirmation in the exact moment of self-doubt?
Or, how about my most recent confidence shaking event when I arrived at my first Spartan Race and realized that monkey bars and climbing giant walls are not to be taken lightly and that eight miles are not really eight miles when you add 25 obstacles. Thinking I was a relatively fit person, I was stunned when ladies were climbing and swinging on past me and, had I not had the help of a friend, I would still be back at the first wall. The experience was rigorous but not ruining, there were several wins, but those days are tough.
5 Tips For Building a Foundation for Self-Love
Ultimately, I find that confident self-love as an athlete is bidirectional. You can obtain self-love through exercise and performance, but athletes can lose self-love through a poor performance or the swift judgement of others. While there is no doubt that athletic performance is impacted by self-esteem, self-love and confidence, athletes must still get a handle on how to work through moments of self-doubt, no matter the source.
The following tips are designed to help give athletes a start in building a solid foundation of self-confidence and self-belief. They’ve helped me, and maybe they will help you as well.
Preparedness – Self-love and confidence comes from a solid base of physical training. If you, unlike me at times, understand the demands of your competition and prepare for them, you will have a right to feel confident. Confidence comes from knowing you’ve trained longer and harder than your competitors.
- Acknowledge Your Preparedness – Before you perform, it’s useful for you to remind yourself of everything that you’ve done to prepare and train for your competition. Don’t let the activity, inner voices (or external ones from fellow competitors) let you forget how well you’ve prepared.
- Focus on You – As my Spartan Race partner said before we left the start: “Don’t forget you are racing against yourself and running your race. It’s easy to look at others and think they look fitter, are fitter, had more time to train and are more prepared. But in the end, that doesn’t matter. Each race is your race and comparing yourself to others is a confidence drain and a bad practice. Think of your last racing time and try to beat that. If it’s your first competition, tell yourself you are there to establish a baseline for future races, of which there will surely be many.
- Remember the Victories – Each competition will be filled with highs and lows. Note the highs and things you did well. Much like the benefits of keeping a daily gratuity journal, by getting in the habit of seeing small successes you will gradually build your self-confidence and self-love and be prepared to tackle more challenges.
- Forgive and Let Go – When you make mistakes, learn from them and let them go rather than allow them to shake your confidence. (You’d better believe I’ll be able to do monkey bars before my next race!) When I was growing up, I recall certain coaches saying that if you didn’t take a loss hard, then you didn’t want a win enough. By contrast, my favorite equestrian show jumper of all time, Ian Miller, said that if you let it go and learn from the experience, then you are free to improve. In other words, forgive yourself for mistakes before they affect your confidence, and then move on.
It isn’t easy to master self-love and confidence when you are putting it out there in competitive sports. It takes time and dedicated practice, but the inevitable rewards and feelings of satisfaction are so bountiful. Once you achieve the ability to ride smoothly through confidence-shaking events, your self-love, confidence and performance will know no bounds.