Behind the Bench: Self-confidence can take you far
I just spoke with a kid who was named to the top team at an NAHL combine in Los Angeles. He did great. He is doing great, but one item came up.
Before the skate, he developed imposter syndrome. We all get it. What is it?
It is thoughts like this:
I don’t belong here.
These guys are way better than me.
Maybe I should just go home.
I am nowhere near as good as these other players.
Well…if you want to perform at a very high level and be a top athlete, guess what?
You do not have the LUXURY to have thoughts like that. The word luxury was used for a reason. Self-pity, doubt, and fear confront us all. If you want to be a high-level hockey player, you should not allow yourself to have these thoughts.
How can we fix it? One way to do it is this: Confidence!
Now, If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “You need to have more confidence” while growing up, I would be a gazillionaire.
As if you can just go get confidence off a tree or grab it out of the refrigerator.
Do they sell confidence at the store? Maybe Amazon has confidence.
To me, this is one of the most misunderstood aspects of life and sports in general, and every time I hear someone say: You need to have more confidence it drives me nuts.
Confidence is developed, confidence is created, and confidence is kept.
You don’t just “have it,” especially if you are in a highly competitive environment where you are judged constantly. Confidence will naturally ebb and flow depending on what is happening around us or who we are playing against. We are humans, we are emotional, and that ebb and flow of confidence is as natural as the sun rising and setting.
We don’t “get” confidence or “have” confidence. We create it and keep it.
How do we develop confidence?
To its core, I believe confidence is developed by truly understanding your personal character traits.
For example: What are you proud of that nobody can ever take away from you?
- The hardest worker you know?
- The most loyal friend?
- The nicest person you know?
- Do you pride yourself on being a well-dressed person?
We all have something we are proud of. What is that for you? Find something you ALWAYS have and cannot be taken away.
It should be something like: I know I can work extraordinarily hard and overcome any obstacle. So I have confidence that no matter what happens I will be fine and I believe in myself to do the best I can personally do.
What else is confidence?
Confidence is a constant flow of thoughts that reaffirm you. For instance, if you walk around all day finding reasons you are amazing, fantastic, and awesome, then you are going to feel confident.
Confidence is a frame of mind that you can create and train into yourself. Find reasons to be confident.
I will share an example from my past. I played for the U.S. National Team with an individual who wound up making it to the NHL. On one of my first days with the team, I came out of the shower to see him staring into the mirror. We will call him Ny.
Odd but not unusual.
I went and dried off, came back to do my hair and he was still there. Still looking in the mirror.
So, I had to ask, “Ny, what are you doing?”
“’Babs,’” he said. “This is my favorite five minutes of the day.”
“What? Showering?” I asked.
“No. Looking at myself in the mirror!”
Unusual? Yes. Odd? Sure. Self-centered? Most likely. Confident? Absolutely.
The point is, if you want confidence, start by talking yourself up. How many epic things can you find yourself doing? How well did you open that door? How fantastic did you walk up those stairs? Find a reason that you are amazing!
Sounds crazy, but confidence is a state of belief that you can do “it.” You create that with massive self-belief. Start by building yourself up.
Next is good old-fashioned work.
With massive amounts of work, effort, and discipline you EARN confidence from yourself. Most often confidence isn’t just had. It is earned and if you do not feel like you’ve truly earned it, it is tough to fake.
Did you put in your 10,000 hours? Are you in the process of putting in your 10,000 hours? Or are you just skimping by? The fact is you need to do the work, or your body and mind will know you’re lying to yourself and there is no way to avoid that.
Last is your ability to control your energy/body/emotions.
Your body, emotions, and energy are all interconnected.
If you use your body in powerful ways, it will give you power. If you use it in non-energetic ways, you lose power.
Carry yourself with your chest puffed out, eyes up, and an energetic walk. You are helping your mind get sharp, confident, and focused.
Carry yourself with your shoulders slouched, eyes down, and a non-energetic walk. Congrats, you are becoming less confident and worse.
So, you want to have confidence starting today?
- Talk yourself up.
- Do the work.
- Carry yourself as someone with confidence would carry themselves.
To my player who just did fantastic at the combine.
How much better could you have done if you didn’t grant yourself the luxury of self-doubt and instead demanded a state of confidence and belief?
Maybe you can be even better than your current best?
Noah Babin played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Notre Dame and currently coaches with the San Diego Jr. Gulls youth hockey program.
(May 11, 2023)