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Chapter 2. – Understanding and developing confidence for winning

What confidence is:

The simplest definition of confidence is trusting in one’s ability to successfully execute a task. It stems from remembering our past achievements, which are proof that we’ll be able to repeat them again.

Trust in our ability is primarily based on the memory of successfully completing a task or a similar one before. This allows the brain to calculate the chances of successfully executing it this time around. We have dedicated an entire chapter to the topic, because even though it has a simple definition, confidence building is a multilayered process that is often hindered by numerous intertwined components.

If we don’t have any relevant experience, telling us we can do it is an empty promise. The brain doesn’t run on promises, it wants proof. For example, if you’re planning to jump over a river, your brain requires proof from previous experiences that you are not going to die in your attempt to do so. It’s not possible to trick your brain into ignoring its natural tendencies by telling yourself or having others tell you that you can do this.

What confidence is not

A. Confidence is not self-talk

If we look again at the example of the river, when you stand on one side of the river and tell yourself you can do it but your legs don’t move, that’s not a lack of confidence. That’s the lifesaving internal block the brain releases as a response to unconfirmed claims. Your legs will move when your brain allows them to. Your brain will allow them to move if you have jumped over a similar river, in similar conditions, under similar circumstances, several times in the past.

Repeating the action several times in similar conditions forms trust in your ability, which manifests as a lack of hesitation in doing it again. Since the need for ‘proof of doing’ before performing an action is a product of evolution. The only way to push through an act without proof is if someone has a long history of disregarding internal signals and disconnecting from their internal processes.

General confidence is a persistent view of our ability, formed as a result of past achievements, as opposed to a temporary mental state created on the spot via self-talk. While most of us are told that achieving goals requires confidence, in reality, achieving goals creates confidence.

Mental blocks however, can hinder the formation of trust in our abilities regardless of any prior evidence of doing so. These include thinking patterns, and mental states triggered by certain circumstances (such as stress, a notorious culprit), that can temporarily overwrite an otherwise established view on our ability.

b. Confidence is not arrogance

Confusing confidence with arrogance is a common mistake. A typical arrogance is a combination of various personality traits, including high assertiveness (putting oneself forward), low neuroticism (self-reflection capability), and low compassion (considering others), mixed up with degrading/devaluing communication patterns. The attitude of arrogance confuses many people who are looking for protection or guidance, as it delivers the false promise that by following the person one will become similarly ‘confident’. Since joining a dojo is often about developing confidence, this attitude is often comes out successful when starting a club.

However, in order to maintain engagement and ensure the steady progress of the fighters, it is crucial to listen to and understand them. Without it, there can’t be any valuable advice given, and the fighters loose motivation. The consequence can be seen as a high drop out rate – an estimated 80% (with an average engagement of three to five months). Practically, by the end of the first year, there are hardly any familiar faces left, which commonly dwindles down to zero after the second year.

Understanding this dynamic can prevent self-criticism when you experience a lack of motivation after three to five months. As mentioned, about 80% of students feel this way. The most common patterns of arrogance are typically expressed through shaming or even penalising irregular training (‘you’d know, if you’d come more often’), moralising their business (‘you’re not supporting the community if you buy your gear somewhere else’), or bullying different lifestyles (‘you’d be stronger if you would stop eating that rubbish’).

Next: The hinders of building confidence – the psychology of ‘proof of done’

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