Building Internal Confidence Takes Time. But It's Important.

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Look back and reflect on the progress you have made. Sometimes we get so caught up in where we are and where we want to be that we forget to look back and be proud of ourselves for where we have come.

Jessica Stratton - Old Saybrook (CT) High School, Class of 2019

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How many times have you heard a teammate say, or even said to yourself, that "If I hit this split," or "If I complete this workout," or "If I maintain this pace," you will be able to run this time?

We often think in a black and white manner in an effort to gain confidence with ourselves through external factors. In running, hitting times and producing numbers and paces is so promising because it may indicate 'scientifically' that you are capable of running a certain time We like to line up for a race already having an idea what we are capable of.

However, relying on these external factors has many downsides.

Learning to foster internal confidence can become your superpower in the sport of running. Because confidence that comes from within is constant. Nothing you do on any given day will alter your belief in yourself because your confidence is built so deeply inside of you. This is so crucial to develop, as opposed to relying on external validation. That way, on days where things don't go the way we'd like them to, our confidence will not be affected.

It also takes away an expectation for yourself that may actually be less than what you are actually capable of.

When you learn to have this kind of belief in yourself, your dependence on external validation will significantly decrease. I've heard often throughout my career that no matter how well you physically prepare, there is an equal chance that your body shows up on the day and has a good day, or a bad day. Without internal confidence, having a bad day in preparation for your race can greatly impact your confidence level on race day.

It also elicits a negative emotional response that can carry over to race day. On the other hand, when we approach our training objectively and with confidence from within ourselves, we are much more prepared to show up on race day ready to do something extraordinary.

So how can you create and build confidence from within that does not depend on getting external validation?

  • Building confidence from the inside-out begins with investing in yourself. It's something that you have to create, build and tend to. There are many different ways to figure out how you best connect with yourself, but some things that have worked for me are journaling, writing positive affirmations/goals on sticky notes and putting them on my wall above my desk where I sit everyday; talking out loud to myself; or taking a moment to vividly visualize myself accomplishing a hard workout or following through on a race plan.
  • Pay close attention to the voice that speaks to you. Learning how to manage the negative voice that speaks to you and then start turning it into a positive will help you to create a consistent positive belief in yourself. It also helps to challenge doubt and start believing that you can do more than you think you can do. A good way to practice this is to consciously CHOOSE your reactions to things that may not have gone well and make it positive.
  • Look back and reflect on the progress you have made. Sometimes we get so caught up in where we are and where we want to be that we forget to look back and be proud of ourselves for where we have come. This can also help instill confidence that comes from within us.

A lot of these practices take dedication to mental training. While mental training is often overlooked in sports, it can be equally as important as the physical training that we do. It doesn't require much, even five minutes a day every other day will get you somewhere. Or once a week for an hour.

Whatever works for you. But taking the time to cultivate a positive mindset and internal confidence will go a long way in determining the mindset that you show up to train with, and the mindset you show up with on race day.

Jessica is a 2019 graduate of Old Saybrook (CT) High School and a junior at the University of Delaware. She was a multiple-time CIAC State Open and CIAC Class Class S Championship qualifier and placer, and held PRs of 2:22.78 in the 800m and 5:07.42 in the 1,600m. This is a monthly series where Jessica writes about important and wide-ranging subjects involving young and developing runners.