Reality Check: When you doubt yourself

While unjustified confidence can be perceived as arrogance, justifiable confidence is a positive quality. Self-doubt, for any of us, can result in a lack of enjoyment of our lives. An athlete who loses confidence can lose their enjoyment of the game.

Francesco Bazzocchi, a teacher and coach at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, has written an account of how he uses choice theory to work with a self-doubting athlete who performs well in practice, but performs below his potential when it matters—in games.

Choice theory looks at behaviour as “total” and comprised of four components: what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we are feeling, and what’s going on with our physiology.

When Francesco asks the athlete about these total behaviour components, he uncovers differences between his pre-practice behaviour and his pre-game behaviour.

Before a practice session, his actions are to warm up and stretch. His thinking is about making great goals and doing well. His feelings are positive, relaxed and happy. And his physiology is full of energy,

However, his pre-game total behaviour is somewhat different. Before a big game, his thinking is about making mistakes, about not being as good as he should be. His feelings are nervous, apprehensive, and concerned about disappointing people. And his physiology responds with low-energy and the butterfly stomach that we’ve all experienced.

Pre-practice, the athlete’s world is—in choice theory terms—in balance, with a match between his perception of reality and his picture of what he wants.

Pre-game, however, he is out of balance. His picture of what he wants is not what he perceives.

So how might he more effectively balance his pre-game situation with his picture of what he wants?

We have much more direct control over what we do and think than we have over how we feel and how our bodies react. The good news is that when we choose our actions and thoughts, we can gain some control over how we feel and how our bodies respond.

For example, while we may not be able to control our butterflies directly, we can indirectly affect our bodies by changing our actions and our thinking.

Francesco’s recommendation to help influence the athlete’s actions and thinking is a simple technique called SOSA, made up of four parts:

S: Stop the negative thinking (stop the awfulizing.)

O: Oxygenate, take some deep breaths.

S: Seek information. What self-talk do you need? Give yourself some positive reinforcement. “I can, I belong here, I love doing this..”

A: Anchor. Find a positive thought or visualization to help you get to your best. Picture yourself as the winner you know you can be.

If your go-to response is to doubt yourself, then you’re likely not getting the satisfaction from your life that you could. Making a conscious effort to take charge of actions and thoughts is an effective way to get control of those not-so-easily managed emotions and unwanted physical responses.

So next time you feel those unwanted feelings, try changing your actions or thoughts.

You can read Francesco’s complete article in the Glasser Canada March 2017 eBulletin, which happens to be edited by yours truly. It’s under Resources on  While you are there, take a look around at the webstore, events, and other information.

What do you think?  Let me know

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