I was in the middle of hill repeats and had been feeling pretty low. My motivation for running was in a slump, even though I was training for an upcoming race.
During those hill repeats, I suddenly thought of the challenging runs I had done in the past. 47 miles with my husband for our personal Grand Canyon R2R2R was the first one that came to mind. Honestly, as I think back, I went into it with the perfect amount of blind confidence – I just did it. I didn’t have any similar past experiences telling me it would go well, or that I could do it. But now I have this experience to look back on, and it gives me the confidence to train and do hard things again.
What is it about past experiences that help us feel confident now? Do you ever look at other people who seem so strong and confident and wonder what they have that you don’t? The truth is, nobody feels confident all the time. Everyone deals with self-doubt, insecurities, and difficult decisions because we all have to manage the inner critic. Even though I would consider self-assurance to be one of my strengths, I deal with self-doubt on a regular basis, and I have to pay attention to my inner critic.
So how we do feel confident despite setbacks? Back in grad school when I was doing my Master’s thesis in Sport Psychology, I had learned about self-efficacy. It’s our belief in our ability to do something. I’ve learned that self-efficacy, and confidence to take action, come from at least three things – reflecting on past wins, running your own race, and celebrating your steps. It’s my current recipe for building confidence.
Reflecting on Past Wins
When you recognize the fact that you did something amazing – no matter how small or big – it can affirm your confidence, which gives you the motivation to move forward to the next step. So how it often works is: a certain amount of courage and decision will help you take action, which helps you get better, which makes you more confident, which helps you take more action – it’s a full cycle.
If you’re struggling to take action or move forward now because you’ve had a setback, think about something you’ve done in the past. If you did it then, you can do it again. As I trained for a recent 50K and struggled with feeling confident since I hadn’t raced in a while, I thought back to that 47 mile R2R2R adventure, and it worked to help me feel confident.
Here are is a practical action to try: Write down a list of past races, runs, or other experiences you’ve had that made you feel strong and capable. The next time you’re on a tough run or workout, visualize yourself as “that” person. I also like to use the mantra, “I can do hard things.”
Run Your Own Race
Witnessing someone else’s success is another part of my recipe for confidence, but there’s a fine line here between comparison, and staying on course to run your own race. On one hand, seeing someone else do it may have you thinking, “If she can do it, I can do it.” On the other hand, if you’re not consistently taking action and training, you may end up sitting on the side watching everyone else as you sink into negative comparisons. Pay attention to how it makes you feel when you see someone else “winning.” If someone inspires you because you can relate to their journey and who they are, let that fuel your training. If seeing another person makes you feel the opposite, unfollow for now, don’t hang around, and just go run your own race.
Celebrate Your Steps
Do you shy away from sharing your wins or being recognized for a success? Maybe you’ve been taught to keep quiet about those things. I get it because a lot of us were taught as children not to brag. You may have gotten the message to not “stand out” too much.
Fast forward to now, and if you continue to show up small, you’re blocking confidence and joy from an accomplishment that you can be really proud of. There’s something extremely motivating about seeing progress on paper – this is one reason why a training journal is so valuable. I highly recommend you start one if you don’t already track your running and workouts. Be sure to note how you felt during the run, so you can look back and notice patterns. If you want a training journal template for a holistic approach, I’m happy to share mine.
Every month, write down one of your “wins” – a distance reached, a new route, highest mileage, or the fact that you did something other than running to avoid burnout! (Hint: Start doing this for business, work, and life and you’ll get a boost of confidence in all areas). At the end of the year, you’ll have 12 months of wins to look back on and celebrate, to help you move forward.
The truth is, positively reinforcing our successes allows us to feel more joy in running. So what’s something you did recently that you’re really proud of? Leave it in the comments below, so we can cheer you on!