Most people, before writing an exam or taking part in an important event are tormented by mental demons like – anxiety, nervousness, lack of confidence and hope- due to self-doubt and fear. And it is obvious that even an iota of doubt can lead to unsatisfactory performance.

More often parents, coaches, teachers and other authoritative people encourage the performers by saying- believe in yourself. I can say with conviction that- It is not possible for you to command your self-belief to appear from nowhere and perform for you unless you have it within you: not to call it an inborn quality but something that is nurtured and built over time.

The terms self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem and self-image are used interchangeably in different contexts, though, they are not exactly one and the same. Self-confidence is the belief that you can perform a particular task successfully. It is dynamic: that which varies from task to task.

The confidence you have in one task may not be the same for other tasks. Whereas self-belief is the overall confidence you have upon you as a whole person and this is dependent on your self-image [self-esteem] that is what you think of yourself, your abilities and your chances of performing something successfully.

Our self-image is more or less governed by what we feel about our self [the person in the mirror] and what others thought and said about us since childhood.

It is common to see athletes lose form, confidence and go in to a slump- it can sometimes happen due to unknown reason when everything is going smoothly OR with known reasons: in any case the athletes can work their way back to good times. But, there are many instances where athletes in spite of being talented and skilled don’t do justice to their potential and end up as the second-best.

More often than not these are cases of lack of self-image> lack of self-esteem > lack of self-belief- that is deep rooted and built over years. In this case as I said, it is not easy to demand self-belief instantly. ` The- I don’t deserve feeling is so dominant here that it is difficult to be the best. I read a quote long time ago that read- You can never outperform your own self-image.  You are as good as the image you hold in your mind.

The lack of self- belief  leads to negative self-fulfilling prophecy – the feeling about one self and what the person expects that should happen to him in the future.

Athletes, who lack self-belief don’t do well because they expect not to do well because they are pessimistic of their chances and are controlled by their negative self-fulfilling prophecies- disguised as fate or destiny. They could lose matches from winning positions because they don’t believe they can win championships.

The reasons that could destroy self-esteem from a young age: to create a negative self-image could be: – lack of unconditional love, upbringing, family atmosphere, financial condition in the family, adversities, life incidents & experiences, lack of encouragement, support, attention, negative parenting- like comparisons, high expectations, excessive abuse, too strict with principles  etc.

These are the circumstances that can put a  I don’t deserve the best stamp on the mind of the athlete- which could be very difficult to remove even in the later years.

Said Sheryl Swoopes a former WNBA basketball player- I’ve always been a firm believer of mind over matter. If you don’t believe you can achieve, your body will start to believe this and you’ll be stuck.

In contrast if you continue to believe in every cell of yours on a consistent basis then you can hope to attain the best.

This belief is well supported by Aimee Mullins a Paralympic athlete, actress and fashion model that had to have both legs amputated when she was one year old due to- Fibular Femimelia. She say’s- Belief in oneself is incredibly infectious.

It generates momentum, the collective form of which far outweighs any kind of self-doubt that may creep in. She is a perfect example of one who had to overcome tragedy at an early age to achieve what she did- showing immense self-belief.  Aimee didn’t let her adversity ruin her Self-image or self-belief, she used it as an opportunity. She changed her legs to change her mindset. See this video-

The good news is – one need not be a puppet in destiny’s hands forever and it is possible to come out of the shell and prove our self-worth like so many who have done- before us. This is how Maya Angelou puts hope in to those who don’t like their own image. Her message – ` If you don’t like something- Change it. If you can’t change it – Change your attitude [the way you look at it and think about it]

Mohamed Ali was perhaps the greatest boxer of all times, He maintained his supreme self-belief by saying – I am the best -over and over and over again.

Tiger Woods, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, M.S.Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Vivian Richards are some of the people who I can believe possess [ed] tremendous self-belief.

Ways by which you can change your self-belief

  1. Work on your self- image and self-esteem. Seek therapy sessions with positive psychology to go with. Important to feel good from inside.
  2. Work hard at your skills; this will improve your self-efficacy and your belief. It increases your confidence and hope.
  3. Change your inner talk [ self-talk] replace the negatives with- I can , I will It’s easy, I am good, I deserve the best, I am a champion etc.
  4. Think more of your abilities, the possibilities and the victories of the past.
  5. Visualise often believing- giving out a better performance and winning.
  6. Work on your mental toughness and resilience.

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