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Confidence for wellbeing and performance


You don’t become confident by shouting affirmations in the mirror, but by having a stack of undeniable proof that you are who you say you are. Outwork your self doubt.” - Alex Hormozi

People tend to see things like confidence as a mental stage – it is. But it comes out of the performance and physical skills. All of my life, I’ve seen sport psychologists try and create confidence in athletes through non-physical means. And it always ends up being the same cheesy motivational speeches… I’ve never been impressed by this nor have I seen any kind of a positive effect on athlete’s performance.

Confidence doesn’t come from words, it comes from accumulated skills; which – experience shows you – have been responsible for successful performances in the past. And if you’ve accumulated enough of these, your confidence rises. - Jon Danaher UFC Coach

Let's take a dive into some psychological concepts and tools that can help coaches and players bring their performance to the next level. But before we do, I wanted to explore an idea that has been popping up frequently in my social media feeds.
Recently I have observed a trend in the online sphere with regards to confidence. If you look at these quotes from Alex Hormozi and Jon Danaher, the essence of their point is that confidence and competence are one and the same, that is, a skill level that you acquire over time through constant action, trial and error.

There is more than a sliver of truth and insight in these quotes. No amount of affirmation or positive self talk is going to help you reach a goal or acquire confidence without the necessary action. Action is a pre requisite to attaining any skill or accomplishing any goal. 

As Bruce Lee once said, "Action is the high road to self-confidence".

While they touch on something interesting and important, they are missing out on the point that the reverse is also true. No amount of "right action" and competence will leave us as assured and confident as we possibly can be.

It just depends on how we define confidence.


What is confidence?

At HeadCoach, we define confidence as "the ability to execute the things you know you are capable of, and the self-belief that you have the ability to get to the next step."

Competence: a sufficient level of skill required achieve intentions in any given domain.

As you can see from the definitions above competence is an integral part of confidence, but two other pillars of confidence are missing.
We believe that confidence is not just competence, but a more integrated skill that involves having the faith that while not competent enough YET, you have the belief in yourself to develop the skills required to get to the next step.

When you make your confidence dependent solely on your level of competence, you limit your potential, risk inaction and have a conditional form of confidence dependent on outcomes that leaves our true potential eternally beyond our grasp.

In contrast when you view competence as a pillar of a more integrated view of confidence, that embodies not only your current competence, but creates space for the potential that lies within you, you create the preconditions to expand well beyond what you thought possible.


B and D confidence

We can look to some of the great humanistic psychologists for an idea of what a confidence looks like that wholly integrates not just who we are now but who we are becoming. The humanistic psychologists like Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Joseph Campbell believed that all human behaviours real motive was to self-actualize, that is, to expand and realize our unique potential. If placed in the right environment, with the necessary conditions, all humans were capable of reaching their highest goals.

Abraham Maslow, the godfather of humanistic psychology, believed that all human needs could be categorized into two main classes. Deficiency needs (D-Needs) and Growth needs (B-Needs). He argued that to become a whole human we must integrate both of these needs.
D-needs are motivated by a 'lack' of satisfaction, driven by fear, anxiety, and the constant need to make demands on reality.

B-needs on the other hand, are driven by the need to self-actualize, that is to fulfill our potential in all aspects of our lives, and to even transcend beyond this to impact the outer world with our unique gifts.

Those who live in the "B realm", have the capacity to be more accepting and loving of oneself and others, and by definition being a person more wholly integrated considering their performance AND wellbeing.

We argue that a confidence based solely on our current level competence is in the realm of 'deficiency' or ‘not good enough’.

HeadCoach believes that B-Confidence is underpinned not only by competence, but integrates self esteem and self assurance as other other key components, which creates a space for a confidence that allows us to not only feel confident, with positive self regard with our current situation, but with the belief that I can become more, without pressure or fear of failure.

In fact a big part of B-Confidence is being OK with failing.


D competence ? Think again

D-Confidence, that is confidence defined solely as competence poses several risks and comes with many pitfalls.

Imagine a 'high performing' athlete, or even a young person who wants to attain a certain goal. They have high expectations for themselves, and as with any ambitious endeavour, will come with many ebbs and flows. To reach a new level of plateau we become by definition, incompetent.

In his book 'Think Again' Adam Grant speaks about the idea of Impostor Syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the idea that your are much more competent than you currently 'believe' yourself to be. Impostor syndrome is something a lot of people will feel throughout their lives, especially when they enter a new environment when people are more competent, but it is particularly prevalent in high achievers. It could be that when you have a big aim or goal to achieve, you put pressure on yourself to 'be better', which can drop us into the D-realm of never competent enough.

On the other end of the confidence spectrum, lies Dunning-Krueger Syndrome, where one's confidence far exceeds their level of competence. Somewhere between these two lies what Grant calls the "sweet spot of confidence". That is, being confident in your ability to achieve a future goal while maintaining the humility to question whether you have 'the right tools' in the present. We would call this B-Confidence.

When we add self assurance, that is the faith that we have what it takes to manage the ebbs and flows of mastery, as well as self liking, when our self esteem is not tied to an outcome or achievement, it creates space for us to go further, and tap into our full potential without fear or with a state of deficiency that neglects our wellbeing.


The Pygmalion/ Golem effect

Imagine the high achiever being a sculptor. They have a vision of themselves they aim for. They begin to chisel at the marble. They chip, they chip a little more. Here is where the risk of D-Confidence lies. If we keep chipping away, looking at ourselves and others through a lens of deficiency, we risk chipping at ourselves until there is nothing left. 

The 'Pygmalion Effect' is named after Pygmalion, a mythical greek character who created sculptures so beautiful and life like that he fell in love with one.

When we approach people in a positive manner with high expectations for their behaviour and performance, people tend to behave and perform in line with these expectations. We call this phenomenon the 'pygmalion effect'. This idea is most often associated with school or work performance since teachers or bosses often voice their expectations to their students or employees, however this concept can also apply to sport. (B-expectations)

On the other hand, there is the 'Golem Effect'. The Golem effect gets its name from Jewish mythology, where Golem was an unfinished clay monster that grew so violent that it had to be destroyed.

It is the opposite of the 'pygmalion effect'. This phenomenon occurs when lowering expectations of someone leads top a decrease in performance? How can we as coaches fall into this trap? Look at things through D-Glasses.

To prevent ourselves from falling into this trap as coaches, it's important to develop B-Confidence through looking at ourselves and athlete's through a B-lens. An easy way to do this is to make sure you give yourself credit for the small and incremental steps you take along the way to achieving your goals.

"You have to be willing to give yourself credit for the small achievements" - Jordan Peterson

An easy place to start is to make a list of 5 things you have accomplished in the last month!

Can't think of anything? You're probably suffering from D-Confidence!

Relationship with the Self

The Gottman Institute have done the most comprehensive research on relationships there has ever been. What is the secret to a healthy relationship? The answer is the 5:1 ratio. This means that for every one negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be five positive feelings or interactions. Stable and happy couples share more positive feelings and actions than negative ones. Couples who feel short of this ratio, or those who had it too far the other way were at much more risk of divorce.


We can use this principle (5:1) as a tool to help us integrate both aspects of our needs and, ensure that while we mitigate our weaknesses and deficiencies, we also lean into and acknowledge our strengths with the self regard needed to ensure we do not divorce from ourselves.

A tale of 2 swimmers

Imagine a swimmer who decided to swim from one end of a lake to the other. He is very skilled at swimming, very fit. He knows he has a certain level of competence, its enough to get 75% of the way. His coach is always correcting him, telling him what he's doing wrong. He swims because he gets positive signals from others when he achieves. When he gets to the 3/4 mark of the race, his body starts to get tired. He does not have the ability/and or fitness to make the final quarter. As his confidence and as a consequence self esteem is tied to his previous confidence, the tiredness takes over, the positive self talk kicks in. The self talk gets negative, he doesn’t have anything left. He doesn't not have the tools to get through the final quarter. He forgets to tell himself I can. He sinks . D-confidence.

Imagine another swimmer, this one is less competent as a swimmer, lets say they have the "fitness level" to do 60% of the race. However, this swimmer is not attached to any outcomes. He remember that he swims because he loves it. His coach lets him swim, praising him a lot and every now and then a little correction. He used to swim with his family for the pure joy of it. His confidence comes from a place of "i am capable of becoming competent at this next level. He knows that even if he doesn't make it the whole way, he can try again. He has faith that he has tools that will get him as far as he can, and after that, he can reflect and try again. At the 60% mark he gets tired, but he knows that anything after this is 1% better. He tells himself, you can do this, (OR he forgets that he was in a contest at all) he breathes through his nose, in sync with his stroke, he remember why he swims and how it makes him feel. He doesn't make it the whole way. He makes it almost the whole way. A week later, he completes it.

B-Performance > D-Performance

When we recognize the need for security (D) and Growth (B) as the two foundations for becoming a whole person, we can see "Performance and Wellbeing" not as dichotomous concepts, but as an essential part of a wholly integrated view of Performance. B-Performance.

At HeadCoach we believe that true high performance and wellbeing are inseparable. Wellbeing or lack there of can either catalyze or inhibit ones ability to achieve your goals and fulfill your potential. When we utilize B-Confidence as a facet of B-Performance (a view of performance that integrates wellbeing of the whole person) we can reach heights of performance that would otherwise be beyond our reach.

Remember, in the Hero's journey, it is never the most competent person that is the hero, its the one with the self belief and self assurance that they can be the hero, even if they are not ready.......YET!

You're a coach, player, sports psychologist, or part of a sports club, we're here to help you reach new heights in your athletic journey. Elevate your performance, boost your confidence, and achieve your goals with HeadCoach. Join now and be your own hero!"

Book Recommendations
Adam Grant - Think Again
Scott Barry Kauffman - Transcend

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