Author: viswanathauthor


The world has generously recognized the greatness of performers since ages: whether it is performing artists, sports persons, students, speakers and the likes of many others.

Good performances have always been rewarded with prizes, accolades, praise or other forms. But, what about many others  who despite the ability to be the best always end up being second best or even mediocre.

The reason for their fallibility is their own doing – dogged by their own fears of failing to meet their expectations.

Performers – mostly students and athletes are always weighed down by the threat of their own expectations and the expectations of others- parents, teachers, coaches, school authorities and the near-and-dear ones.

They perform under constant threat of not disappointing others and of not letting them down: besides they are worried of shaming themselves- `how will I show my face, what will my parents say? My coach will give me a nice dressing down for this poor performance….’’ Etc. They are afraid of being evaluated, making mistakes and failing. Their negative self- fulfilling prophesies comes true more often than not.

The pressure that stems from fear>anxiety> expectations is even more when performers are defending their previous better performances, good grades, seeding, titles, fame and status. They would love to live up to their reputation and not let go the fruits of their hard labour- that easily.

The world class athletes are afraid of letting go of their status: wanting to get better or at least – maintain the status quo.

In the melee, these performers become self-conscious while performing- they become too analytical and let the paralysis by analysis raise its ugly head. The more they try consciously of not to fail the more they will be vulnerable to the inevitability of failure.

They know that to make things work they have to let things happen naturally. But the fear of failure makes them logical- forgetting the age old wisdom that – when logic stops magic begins.

We have noticed how upsets take place in sports- cases where an unfancied opponent defeats a much highly rated player. The unfancied player does not have a huge reputation to defend- he plays freely with a got nothing to lose attitude– whereas the much fancied opponent wants to see that he doesn’t lose to a lesser known player- he becomes conscious he can either become over-confident or too careful [ tightens up].

I presume this is what happened when India won the third edition of the ICC cricket world cup. The Indian side did not have a fearsome reputation behind them in shorter format of the game [50 overs cricket]. Their record was nothing to boast of. This team of talented cricketers didn’t give themselves a chance considering their past record.

They were so casual that they had even planned for a holiday post WC to the USA. What happened at England in 1983 is history – the Indian team performed without any pressure and won the cup but the most dreaded West Indian team with a huge reputation with two world cup’s behind them[ 1975 & 1979] lost twice to India.

The West Indies were under pressure in the low scoring final against India- the game in which they succumbed to pressure in the ultimate analysis. This is what Kris Srikanth member of the victorious Indian Team that won the 1983WC- had to say. See this video-

Dr Bob Rotella a world renowned sports psychologist who has assisted many sports persons to improve their mental game says- the biggest mistake sports persons do is to evaluate their own talents, unable get past others opinions and usually become conscious not to mess up – and the moment they don’t want to mess up- they mess up.

His advice is to get out your own way and turn it loose. When you get out of your skin and turn it loose’ you enjoy the feeling of letting go with the whole world watching you- then you perform better. Watch this video on what he has to say-

The next time you go out there, get out of your skin and just do it – like Nike says.



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.

What is your style?

Since childhood I have seen the world of film, music and sports industry flaunt several names that have gone on become icons in their respective professions.

The names that I can easily recall are- Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Jean Paul Belmondo, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Amitabh Bhachan, Shatrugan Sinha, Dev Anand, Sharukh Khan, Rajnikanth, KamalHasan,Dr Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Priyanka Chopra to Deepika Padukone from the movie Industry. Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson from the music industry and Nawab of Pataudi, David Beckam, Bjorn Borg, Arnold Parmer, Yuvraj Singh, Maria Sharapova, Virat Kohli from the sports industry- to name a few.

I have wondered what it was that made them so famous that the whole young generation followed them, endorsed them, copied them, and adored them: that they became proud possessions in their hearts.

I understand that though they are different individuals their unique way of expression and mannerisms pleased the common people to become their die-hard fans.

Their unique way of expression has become their Style– the unique way of doing things. It could simply be with their stylish ways of expression or the way they dressed or carried themselves.

Style is an individual expression in motor action. No two athletes are alike in different factors which determine motor action.

I found this apt explanation of style in [Indraneel Ghosh] –Each athlete because of his/her particular psychic, physical and biological capacities realises the technique in different manner. This is his style.

As sports enthusiasts we can remember seeing several of our favourite players like G.R.Vishwanath, Sunil Gavaskar, Brian Lara, David Gower, Michael Holding, Roger Federer, Rahul Dravid, Mark Waugh, Sourav Ganguly and now Rohit Sharma- their play that looked so graceful and elegant: that always seemed smooth, with effortless ease- devoid of strain.

Their actions were so pleasing to the eyes that the commentators remarked`a treat to the eyes: it was worth going miles to watch.’

The individualistic forms of expression have their presence in – Leadership: referred to as Leadership styles [Modi is quite different from Manmohan Singh, so are Virat and Dhoni]. In Coaching – referred to as Coaching styles- wherein each coach has his own way of teaching and communicating.

Ravi Shastri is different from Anil Kumble as a coach. Likewise a person’s behaviour, his responses to people and situations becomes his own characteristic and style. Vivian Richards and Virat Kohli are aggressive characters – that’s their style.

Michael Clarke speaking about the recent decline in performance of the Australian side during a TV commentary discussion quipped- The Aussies have always been aggressive on the field be it with sledging or fighting hard – that was their style– which this Australian side has failed to be. So Style can go well with Individual’s/ teams’ attitude and character.

Many sporting stars have been style icons for the fashion Industry be it Virat, Dhoni, Sindhu, Sania, Saina, Maria Sharapova or Yuvraj Singh as they are commonly seen endorsing various brands. They have a way in their dressing and presentation off the field too, that is clearly a fashion statement these days.

Rickie Fowler one of the top ten golfers in the world is a multi- faceted person: a fashionable guy is seen sporting bright colours like orange on the golf course during the PGA’s – that’s his Style.  Speaking to USA TODAY he said- I feel the way I dress and go about my way and handle myself on the golf course reflects who I am.

Johan Cruyff has been rated as one of the top-10 footballers of all time. A favourite with the crowd wherever he went, he developed his own indomitable style that won him millions of fans all over the world. He once said- ` Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you – that is the greatest gift.’ Indeed, an immortal style statement.   


An article in Deccan Herald dtd 24/9/17- The celebrity whirlpool by Karen Crouse: courtesy New York Times News service : that highlighted the struggles of two great swimmers Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett with Anxiety and depression: set me to think deeply- If people who visit professionals seeking help are advised along with other remedies: to indulge in exercise and physical activity, as these promote the release of Serotonin- a neurotransmitter which has a therapeutic value to fight depression- why then athletes who throughout their lives engage in sports and physical activities at insane levels are prone for mental illness and depression? I will not end with the word- PERIOD here, because the whole issue is a discussable thing.

When the beautiful Deepika Padukone, one of the leading actresses of Bollywood [Mumbai film Industry] came out in the open about her fight with depression- during the Mental health day- It set tongues wagging- ‘Hey, she’s got everything one could expect- how could she be suffering from depression?’

This is just not the case with Phelps, Hackett or Deepika alone: thousands of celebrities Athletes, film stars, artists, politicians and many others from different walks of life are known to be suffering from depression and other forms of mental illnesses.

Earlier the names of the celebrities used to be under wraps but now there is very little stigma attached to it, as people are coming out in the open to express themselves with regard to this vexed issue.

Marcus Thescothik. Freddie Flintoff, Sarah Taylor, Monty Panesar [all cricketers] Ian Thorpe, Greg Louganis, Phelps, Hackett [all swimmers] Paul Gascoigne [football] Serena Williams [Tennis] and John Daly [Golf] have known to have suffered forms of mental illnesses. There may be many others unnamed or unknown.

Research goes to show that athletes are likely to suffer from depression as non-athletes and female athletes in particular expressed more depression symptoms than men. Again, individual athletes are more prone than athletes involved in team sport.

The reason for this according to Professor Jürgen Beckmann of the Technical university of Munich – individual athletes are prone since they are lonely and they attribute failure more to themselves than team sport athletes. They take success and failure more personally than team players. In a team sport there is diffusion of responsibility compared to individual sports.

Elite athletes are known to lead a dream life as many other aspirants would put it- in their terms. The elite earn a lot of money through contracts, prize money, sponsorships, endorsements etc and it needs no telling as to what money can buy.

They lead a jet-set life flying from one city to another: lodge at five star hotels: have their own jets, yachts, villas and tiny islands. When they have all those things that are supposed to make them happy: then why do they get depressed is the common man’s question that looks at life from outside the glass house. In reality people who live in these glass houses only know what they go through.

Michael Phelps said in an interview that they are normal people and go through the same struggles as the others do. Many of those suffering express the need to be treated as a person first and as a celebrity athlete, later.

Let’s explore some of the possible reasons for athletes to suffer from mental illnesses:- Fear of failure and actual failure, injury and recovery, performance anxiety, demands to perform and win every time, continuous travel and competitions without break and recovery, staying away from loved ones, fatigue and sickness, being dropped from sides for non-performance, living in closed rooms of 5 star hotels, scrutiny by the press and public [ probe in to private life], retirement and identity crisis post retirement, lack of social support from family and friends, lack of socializing and social contact, indulging in substance abuse to beat boredom, changing life-styles, death of dear ones, relationship issues and inability to lead the life of a common man.  

What are the tell-tale symptoms of mental illnesses With drawl from friends and activities, moodiness, feelings of anxiety, anger or sadness, indecision and lack in concentration, loss of appetite and weight changes, low pleasure and interest, feelings of low self-worth and guilt with drop in performance

Many organisations connected to sports have initiated programmes to help athletes identify symptoms of mental illness and further seek professional help. In India, with cricket being a major sport and the teams play continuously round the trot and staying away from families for longer periods of time plus the continuous travelling and living out-of-suitcases take a toll on their emotional health and they get prone to the symptoms of depression. I hope one of the richest sports bodies in the world the BCCI is doing enough to help cricketers identify and thwart depression before its onset.

Early diagnosis, professional help from behavioural psychologists or psychiatrists, CBT therapy with counselling will help athlete’s combat mental illness.