Competition confidence is possible despite what you might think or feel right now. Many performers begin to panic as the day gets closer. Their hearts are racing, palms are sweaty and their minds are turning in circles without any clear direction of what to do next. They believe that something is very wrong and that they should make the choice to stop.
First of all, it is not fear making all these sensations but excitement. Putting a negative label on those butterflies does not help. It is best to start believing that all this super charged crazy energy is actually very positive and proves how much this performance opportunity means to you. Compare these sensations to that of a first kiss. If you don’t have this internal electricity, then that is actually a problem because it means that boredom is taking over and you actually don’t even want to be there. Embrace the energy and learn to use it like a secret internal super power.
Secondly, before the big day there are many constructive things you can do to increase your confidence. Write out a list and test every little thing you will be using to perform… this includes clothing, equipment, food, warm-up, and even the applicable rules. Break everything down and analyse each piece for your level of control. Anything that gives you doubt must be questioned out loud. If something breaks know how to fix it or replace it. Know the order that you must follow when preparing your setup. If an issue comes up at the competition, know who has the authority to help and what exactly you are allowed to do. These are all controllable factors. Your ability to prepare for all of these things is not dependent upon your years of experience, the price tag of your kit or even the level of competition around you, rather it is about rehearsing all the steps and finding the answers to the questions which matter to you. So try on all your clothes, test which warmups make you feel ready and most of all, be brave enough to ask your questions and get the answers needed.
Thirdly, there are things which you cannot control. Accepting these variables for what they are is actually quite simple. When something happens, assess how important it is compared to all the other things which you can control. We tend to magnify the tiny little issues because of the shock of the situation. There is a surge of adrenaline and we feel a primitive response of fight or flight or even freeze. But you have another immediate option too – use your emergency plan. You cannot control what happened but you can control what you do next. If “x” happens then you do “y”. Prepare yourself for as many situations and options as your imagination requires. Talk with other performers and share your stories of all the crazy things which have happened before. The one thing that will remain constant is that perspective is powerful. Listen and learn. Chances are that things will be rather normal overall but if something does happen, take a breath, assess its importance then do your planned action. You can only do what you think is best at that exact moment and only with perspective will you know if it was the right choice. But let’s be clear, the non-controllable issues are rare and they should only take a small amount of your preparation planning and overall mental energy.
Excitement is good. Planning is great. But worrying about the tiny little things is exhausting. Having those brilliant butterflies is actually proof that you are doing something that matters to you. The opportunity to perform is a precious gift so use it to do your best this time and every single time you are lucky enough to get the chance.