Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

by Dr. Deborah Graham

One of the most important personality traits for professional golfers is self-confidence. The Champions in our study tested to have above average levels of self-confidence. There are many ways to build your confidence besides "shooting a low number," "keeping it in the fairway," "playing a great round," or "winning one." A portion of your self-confidence is determined by basic skills and accomplishments. An equal, or larger, portion of self-confidence is determined by the way in which you view yourself.

If self-confidence is low it is often reflected in the way you walk, talk, think, and behave. You may experience deep frustration with yourself, making you feel incompetent. You sometimes project this frustration toward other things, i.e. clubs, the course, bad luck, wife. It may be that you often feel like a victim, with little control over your life.

If your self-view is positive, confidence is high and you feel good about yourself and your life, whether you have had a good or a bad round.

You have two main areas for building self-confidence:

Performance Confidence (external)

Personal Confidence (internal)

Performance Confidence: The most obvious means for building self-confidence is by changing behaviors or habits (external). This is acquired by developing solid mental and physical, habits and skills that are strong enough to hold up under competitive pressure.

Practice: In his book, Golf My Way, Jack Nicklaus tells his readers how to develop confidence in putting: "The first requirement for confident putting is the ability to read greens -- The second confidence requirement is the ability to aim the ball where you've decided it should go -- The third requirement is the ability to repeatedly stroke the ball in a way that transmits a feeling of fluid, yet solid, contact from the club-face to the hands." These recommendations to practice your way to confidence are true for all aspects of your game.

If you use practice to improve confidence, it becomes very important to set Goals and structure your practice.

Personal Confidence: Also referred to as self-esteem, self-assurance or self-respect. Personal Confidence can be developed through increased self awareness accompanied by a progressive change of your views and attitudes toward yourself.

The development of your Personal Confidence begins early in life. As a child, your own choices, decisions and circumstances played a large role in the development of your Personal Confidence.

Further, it was nurtured, or undermined, by parents, teachers and other significant adults depending on whether you were encouraged, complimented, trusted, respected, valued, and loved.

Sometimes loving parents unknowingly undermine personal confidence by motivating with guilt or shame through comments such as, "You lazy -- -- -- -- -- -- -- , can't you do better than that?" Often your negative self talk as an adult is a replay of past comments from your parents. Even though we are all products of our past, we all have the ability to strengthen our Personal Confidence today.

Self Talk. Anytime you are thinking something you are essentially talking to yourself. Audible, or not, this talk varies in content from player to player, yet one thing is always true: the self talk reflects the self-confidence of the player.

Awareness. Make a point of becoming more aware of the way you talk to yourself both on and off the course. Is it mostly positive, complimentary, and supportive or is it more negative, degrading, or discouraging? You can enhance your level of awareness by using Thought Checks (taking a few moments to evaluate your self talk) numerous times a day for several days then making note of these thoughts and their corresponding moods.

Replace Thoughts. Once you become aware of your thoughts you can deliberately replace them with others that can boost your self confidence. For example: "I have hit this shot well hundreds of times before and I can do it again now" rather than, "I have to get this one close for a birdie or I'm certain to miss the cut and go home minus another $5,000 this week!!!"

Personal Mission. People with low Personal Confidence often lack the feeling of purpose. Your personal mission is a summation of your personal philosophy and your overall purpose in life. Embracing your mission statement will guide you toward behaviors that serve your principles and values, and reject behaviors that oppose them. This enhances confidence.

Principles. Low Personal Confidence can sometimes be traced to daily guilt experienced because of living life in conflict with your own principles. We all experience these personal contradictions in our lives to some degree, but they pose the greatest difficulty for the person with low Personal Confidence. The first step toward resolving these internal conflicts is to resolutely decide on the principles you truly value and want to base your life upon. Other ways to increase self-confidence:

Course Management. Having a plan gives you a measure of confidence simply by taking away some of the uncertainty you are facing. Many players strengthen their confidence by using imagery and physical practice to rehearse their management plan.

Pre-Shot Routine. A definite mental and physical routine that you use before each shot or putt will increase self-confidence. Less mechanics and more feel will make this routine even more valuable. An effective routine can narrow your thoughts and focus down to simple thoughts of execution, helping to clear your mind of confidence lowering thoughts.

Imagery. Imagery is widely used by Champion golfers for many aspects of their games, including practice, pre-shot routines, course management, focus, and stress reduction. Summary

Confident players expect to be successful and believe in their ability to perform. Players who lack confidence hope to be lucky enough to win but doubt their abilities at crucial moments. At a subconscious level, they may even feel they do not deserve to win. Self-confidence has a profound impact on performance, in both positive and negative ways.

Performance confidence will continually fluctuate and be subject to your level of play. Personal confidence takes longer to develop but should grow progressively stronger as your efforts persist.

Dr. Graham is a sports psychologist who has more than 200 clients on Tour. To subscribe to her newsletter, GolfPsych Today, call 800-322-5044 or visit her website at http://www.GolfPsych.com

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