Self-consciousness

Self-consciousness is one of the biggest obstacles of peak performance. One of the effects of pressure is becoming self-conscious. You start to worry about what other people are thinking about you, and you worry if you're performing well so you keep your awareness on your body movements. This hurts your performance in many ways. First, it takes your focus off of what you need to be doing. If you're so worried about what others are thinking, this anxiety can "freeze" you and cause you to forget to do simple things such as moving your feet or breathing. Secondly, you become more conscious of the effort you're giving, which makes it feel harder, which makes you reduce effort or give up sooner. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, self-consciousness makes you try too hard to control your body movements and shots/skills. You lose trust in your instincts and don't allow your muscle memory to take control. All of this greatly hurts performance. Not only this, but as you begin to make mistakes, you can become even more nervous and self-conscious, which can create a vicious cycle.

Luckily, there's ways to break out of this cycle. You can learn to become less self-conscious, lose yourself in the present moment, enter the zone, and reach peak performance.

The first thing you need to know is that everyone is self-conscious to a certain extent. Everyone gets at least a little bit nervous when performing in front of people. Everyone has worries about whether or not people are judging them. Let this fact comfort you, knowing that it's natural and you're not alone. Let this lower your expectations so you don't get too frustrated. However, this doesn't mean you can't reduce self-consciousness.

There's a few ways to reduce self-consciousness. The first is to become aware of it, and calmly shift your attention to the task at hand. When you notice that you're self-conscious and are worrying about what others are thinking about you, or you are too aware of your body movements, calmly shift your attention to the task at hand. Breathe deeply, watch the ball, communicate with your teammates, run, dribble, play defense, do your job, and focus on whatever you need to be doing to reach peak performance and accomplish your goal.

This is easier said than done. Self-consciousness is such a strong distraction, that it's difficult to shift your attention. In order to effectively shift your attention to what you need to be doing, you need to weaken the strength of the distraction. You can do this with good self-talk. There's many things you can say to yourself to reduce self-consciousness and better shift your attention to the task at hand. Here are some examples. You can say to yourself:

  • "It doesn't matter what these people think about me. I'm secure in myself whether I win or lose. I won't let their judgments affect my self-esteem, self-worth, and happiness."
  • "These people aren't even judging me anyways, so don't worry! They're too worried about being judged themselves that they're not judging me."
  • "These people are my fans. They're not here to judge me negatively. They're here to enjoy watching me compete my hardest. They're here to support me. They'll still love and support me whether I win or lose. So there's nothing to worry about."
  • "I can't control how others think about me, so I shouldn't worry about it. I'll just focus on what I can control, which is dong my best job, one task at a time."
  • "Worrying about what others think isn't going to make me play better. I want to play better, so I'll focus on the task at hand so I can lose myself in the game and enter the zone."

This is the kind of self-talk that you can use in games to reduce self-consciousness and perform better. 

What also helps is to desensitize yourself to being watched. The more you practice with an audience, or practice while being video-recorded, the more used you'll get to it, and the easier it will be to reduce self-consciousness and focus on the task at hand.

All of this is very helpful, but something that is even more helpful, is learning to become less self-conscious in general while off the court/field. This is done by alleviating your fear of abandonment and reducing your desire for acceptance. You can do this by caring less about your self-esteem and image and focusing more on helping other people, learning new things, helping your community, impacting the world, and worshiping God. Occupy your mind with these things and focus your attention outwards so self-consciousness becomes less of a habit. Routinely reminding yourself of the dangers of too much self-consciousness also helps. Learn better attitudes and read inspirational quotes or books about this topic.

You also need to become more secure in yourself, knowing you'll always be loved by your family and God. Have self-acceptance and don't depend too much on the acceptance of others to feel good about yourself. Lastly, it can help to manage your ego and become less narcissistic. Look in the mirror less, take less pictures of yourself, and talk about yourself less.

If you do all of this off the court, then you won't feel as self-conscious in games. You will still feel some self-consciousness, but it will be manageable, and you'll be able to shift your attention using good self-talk and concentration skills.

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