Would you agree with me if I said that all athletes train hard and, to the best of their knowledge, are doing everything they can to improve themselves? If you are an athlete, I believe you are also doing everything you can to improve your performance. However, a competition is very different than your training camp. Most athletes have a great training regiment and plenty of skillful training partners. What they don’t have is the confidence or belief that they deserve, or have what it takes, to win. That is how performance gets compromised during competition. For most athletes, training is comfortable. It is intense, but comfortable. Training hard and being uncomfortable are two completely different things and are often confused. Exercising (training) is physical where being uncomfortable is psychological. Most training regiments are intense and challenging but within the athletes’ comfort zone. Comfort is the known where uncomfortable is the unknown. Your EGO is your comfort zone and it likes to keep everything under control. Being vulnerable is being uncomfortable which is unpredictable (a.k.a. out of your comfort zone). Now let me ask you, how many athletes (especially combat sport athletes) are willing or even know how to be vulnerable? Not many.
Competing at your highest potential is allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable. Guess what, the ego of most athletes will prevent them from doing just that.
That’s why athletes (and non-athletes) come out of their training sessions saying, “I could’ve done better.” Since most athletes are exercising/training within their comfort zone, they will experience very little growth. And that is why they may say; “I could’ve done better.” Most athletes just hope that next time they will have a different experience. Guess what? It usually is not any different. Growth is an asset only when it is acknowledged. Growth only occurs when you are vulnerable.
If you come out of your training session saying, “I could have done better” you will also come out of a competition saying the exact same thing. Which means, that what you just did wasn’t good enough. Which translates to “ I am not good enough”. Believing you could have done better is the same as knowing you don’t have the confidence to do great in the first place. What you might think is “room for improvement”, is actually a self-defeating subconscious belief. Competition is always harder because it forces someone to get out of his or her comfort zone. Ego doesn’t function well when it’s under pressure. And that’s why you are nervous before and during a competition. You might say, “It’s normal to be nervous before a competition” and to a small degree you are right. However; it is not normal when it affects your performance. Remember this: being nervous is “Wanting to get over it”, where being excited is “Getting into it”. You’re nervous because your ego is afraid of being exposed. YOU are afraid of being exposed (or naked). You are afraid because subconsciously you know you don’t have what it takes to win, nor believe you deserve to win. Competition doesn’t always only reflect an athlete’s level of skills. It reflects how much they are willing to be vulnerable. A competition may also represent how you truly feel about yourself. So next time you are about to compete, and are nervous, ask yourself: “What am I really afraid of?”