I came across a chapter about confidence in the book The Chimp Paradox, written by Professor Steve Peters. It is a very interesting book about how our mind works and how to manage our thoughts and emotions.
As performers, we often have to battle with our mind. In order to play at our best, we need to be confident as any self-doubt will hinder our performances.
Personally, there were occasions when I felt confident during the days leading up to a recital. And yet, just moments before walking on stage, my mind would start doubting itself, instilling all sorts of negative thoughts.
Do I really know this section confidently?What if I have a memory lapse? What if it goes completely wrong?!
It is so easy for such negative thoughts to spiral out of control, and this is the last thing you want just before giving a performance! So when I read that chapter from the Chimp Paradox, I thought this might be a good way to 'reprogramme' my mind, especially when I feel that I am losing confidence.
Prof Steve Peters suggests there are two ways to look at confidence. Firstly we can base it on our belief in our ability to reach certain levels that we have to achieve and feel that we cannot deal with the consequences of not reaching them. Alternatively , we can base it on doing our best to reach certain levels that we would like to achieve, and as adults we can always deal with any consequences of not reaching them. (p. 317)
We can never guarantee or control what we can achieve. If we base our confidence in our achievement, we will be constantly looking for threats of failure which will result in negative thoughts and self-doubt.
However, what we CAN control is giving our best effort and we can always deal with the consequences of not achieving what we would like to achieve (such as disappointment, but that is life!). Also, an important point is that while you think that you could have done better if you had a second chance, you still did your best at the time because you gave it everything!
So there it is, if we start focusing our confidence on doing our best instead of the outcome, we will be more relaxed and happier. And we will probably have a greater chance at unlocking our full potential!