Let’s talk about confidence.
Some people have it, some people don’t.
Or maybe…. Nobody has it and some people are excellent at faking it.
Either way, for the majority of my life, my confidence was always playing hide and seek and I could never seem to uncover it.
Every Saturday morning, the Peter Westbrook Foundation follows the same schedule. The program begins at 9 am with athletic exercises and footwork, followed by Peter's wise words of the day. Occasionally, he has guest speakers to share their experiences. Two weeks after my Olympic season ended, Peter requested I speak to the children and their parents about falling short of my goal.
I knew the reason. I just wasn’t ready to admit it to myself or anyone else for that matter. My entire fencing career centered upon playing catch up to reach the level of my opponents. The beginning of the Olympic qualifying season, we were finally on the same level but excuses continued to infiltrate my thoughts.
“She takes 6 lessons a week and I only take 4.”
“We just fenced at a camp and her coach told her how to beat me.”
“The last time I tried that action it didn’t work, maybe this time it won’t work either.”
On paper, my entire training regimen seemed correct. I had a personal trainer. I trained twice a day, 5 days a week. I watched videos of myself, studied the international fencers and worked with a sports psychologist. However, it seemed impossible to shake these negative thoughts before my competitions.
Once I decided to continue fencing, I made a promise to own my talent. The first test was a Division I North American Cup in Detroit, Michigan exactly in the middle of my internal medicine rotation. At the time, my priorities were solely on ACE-ing med school, especially because practice was two hours away from the hospital. Doubt caused by my inadequate training schedule almost prohibited me from entering the NAC, however I couldn’t afford to miss any competitions.
The morning of my competition, I followed my normal routine derived from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power poses and empowerment. I walked into my hotel bathroom, placed both hands on my hips and stared into the mirror. (You’ll never believe how difficult it is to look into your own eyes).
“I have worked harder than everybody at this competition. I am stronger than everybody at this competition. I deserve this more than everybody at this competition. I am ready to succeed today.”
I’ve repeated this mantra one hundred times, but this was the first time it felt genuine. While staring into that mirror, the realization occurred I couldn’t afford to waste more time, money, or energy making the same mistake. Of course during the competition those pesky thoughts attempted to infiltrate my mind, but I wouldn’t let them. I repeated my mantra and kept fencing through my bouts. After the gold medal bout, everyone congratulated me on winning again and more impressively, twice in a row. Little did they know I was in disbelief because I finally mustered up the confidence everyone thought I already had.
The point of my story is this: own your talent. If you fully dedicate yourself to your passion, do not let fear, skepticism, or even your own mind hinder your success. Is it scary trying to accomplish a new goal? Absolutely! But you’re only allowed one freak out moment. After that, suck it up and fight for the success you deserve.