Over the years the coaching staff and I have compiled a nice little list of mantras that we use on-court and one of those is 'Fake it till you make it' and this mantra explains the complexities of where confidence comes from. You know the chicken or the egg thing, do you have to be great before you believe you are great or do you have to believe in yourself to make yourself great?
When we tell players it's the latter (because if you wait until you are great before you believe you are great, let me tell you, you just might be waiting a long time.) the big issue many of them have, including myself when I crossed this boundary in my early 20's, is feeling disingenuous and insincere.
"I can't tell myself I am good when clearly I am not." is the comment and feeling shared by many. And the truth is many people would rather be right than happy, well most would like to be both but there are times we can't pick both, we have to pick one and if you can find a way to pick happiness over righteousness its the pathway to greatness.
I stumbled upon a Ted Talk by Ann Cuddy that explains the science to support this notion that if at first you lie to yourself, over time that lie becomes truth and you truly become the person you had been acting to be. In other words, you fake it till you make it, or as Cuddy says in her Ted Talk, you fake it until you BECOME it.
When coaching body language and self talk to players we find that the ultimate bridging word to help those who just can't tell themselves something false, is to add the word BECOMING to the sentence. So for example, when you double fault on break point and lose a game you say to yourself; "My second serve is BECOMING reliable." because in that moment it's really truly hard to say "My second serve is reliable."
Cuddy coins the phrase "I'm not supposed to be here." to describe her feeling like a fraud and that really resonated with me. Many times before I established myself I felt the same way on the court. I would hope and pray that no one knew my secret, which was that I had no idea what I was doing on the court, telling players to do things that I myself was not certain was going to work or was even right. But I must have fooled enough people to get to the point where I became confident and didn't feel like I was faking it anymore.
To see Cuddy's Ted Talk click here