Many athletes, at some point, will face times of having a lower sense of self-esteem and confidence. One big reason for this is the that some competitors will equate their self-esteem with their performance as an athlete. It’s tough to not do this at times. Imagine all the practice and time that can go into training and get ready to compete. If your performance doesn’t match what you expected the outcome to be then you will often contend with thinking about what you, the person, could have done differently. Self-esteem is often tied up in this reflection.
One Sunday morning, a friend and I were running hills as part our fall training. There was an extended family, including young kids around the age of five to seven years old, running next to us. One of the younger boys was loving the entire hill exercise, both running up and down as fast as he could. In fact, he was literally sprinting down and beating all of us. Meanwhile, I was wondering why hill training always seemed to hurt so much, especially as I compared myself to this kid, and I began talking to myself about my overall endurance. The self-talk was not exactly positive. I paused for a moment and recalled how I started running when I was young. I think, like this kid, I loved it when I was young. It was fun. There was no pressure. And I had no idea about judging myself as a person. Instead, it was just fun to run. This type of beginner’s mind is a big asset when we first start sports. The idea of outcomes and pressures are often not in the picture.
So stop for a moment, and remember an early moment of getting started with your sport. Try to envision the time when you did not feel pressure to perform a certain way and when it felt fun. How would you compare your current sense of enjoyment of your sport as a kid to present day? Is your self-esteem different?
Maybe it is important to purposefully attempt to return to making your sports fun, but also to do some work on your self-esteem. This personal work will cultivate a sense of feeling better rather than waiting for your performance as an athlete to determine your overall sense of self-esteem.
What Is Self-Esteem and Why Do We Need It In Sports?
Self esteem is a subjective emotional evaluation of oneself. It involves, and is affected by, how you think about yourself. Some researchers have studied athletics and self esteem and have found in general that athletes have higher self esteem when compared to non athletes.
LOOK up athletes and self worth. It is bidirectional. You can obtain self worth through exercise, but athletes can lose self worth through a poor performance.
There are some activities you can engage in when you are feeling a low sense of self esteem and confidence. Try some of these on a daily basis and note any changes.
1. Take Care of Body, Mind, and Soul
Sometimes, different aspects of ourselves get more attention and we neglect other aspects. Consider if there might be a need to balance taking care of your mind and spirit along with training your body. For instance, maybe you are craving some still time, or quiet time and you decide to make time for meditation. Or maybe you want to learn something new or to listen to a particular song that you used to love. Make sure to incorporate some of these desires into your life. Maybe you have been so focused on training that you have neglected some other aspects of yourself. Take some time and do a few of these things for a change. This change might help you perform better and enjoy the process of training more.
2. Engage in Positive Self-Talk
It is important to really understand the connection between your inner self talk and how you feel. When athletes get overly critical of themselves their self esteem can be negatively impacted. You may have to remind yourself to lighten up or engage is some more supportive self talk in order to feel more esteem. Think of some direct and vivid phrases such as “I can do this” or ….
Also, it is not only important for you to listen but you also have to be genuine with yourself . You have to truly trust that you can do something. What you could do is make a list of let’s say 5 of these types of phrases. Read it out loud every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up. You might be skeptical about this, but we assure you that if you keep repeating them, they will have a positive impact on your self-esteem.
3. Make a Self-Esteem Collage
If you are struggling with low self-esteem because you cannot remember the moments when you were successful or satisfied with your performance, there is something you can do about it. You can find pictures, articles, or any other thing that reminds you of the times when you achieved your goals and you were truly happy. Then, you can put them together and make a collage. Hang it somewhere in your home, preferably somewhere where you can look at it constantly.
Oftentimes, people lose faith in their abilities because they feel they are losing track of the times when they were winners. What better way to remind yourself of your self-worth than to literally stare it in the face the entire day?
4. Treat Yourself to Something Nice
In terms of self-esteem activities, this one can be quite challenging. That is because when you feel like you are worthless, it’s hard to convince yourself that you deserve something nice. But this is a vicious circle that you need to get out of immediately. If you don’t treat yourself because you feel like you are not worth it, you will never do anything to enjoy yourself, which can only lead to less self-esteem.
What you can do is try to understand that you are worth loving, and show your appreciation for yourself by doing something that you used to enjoy. For instance, maybe you used to love getting massages or getting your hair dyed. Or maybe there’s a concert coming up that you really wanted to go to, but have stopped yourself from. Put all of your insecurities aside and learn to enjoy life. This will definitely help you with your self-esteem as well.
If you are one of the people struggling with self-esteem issues, it is important to understand that this is only a phase, and it is a phase that you can get out of by trying some self-esteem activities. If you are craving performance and success, you have to remember that you cannot achieve those things if you don’t have any faith in yourself. Don’t let yourself get trapped in this vicious circle. Try some of the self-esteem activities that we suggested and learn to love yourself. You are worth it!