lack of confidence
During this year’s edition of the tennis tournament Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal, currently third in the ATP ranking, surprisingly lost in the second round to Dustin Brown, ranked 102nd. While many still wonder how such defeat could happen, it seems that the consequences on Rafa are much tougher than expected. Indeed, the champion, my personal favorite to be completely honest with you, now looks like he has been plunged into not only the darkest depths of his tennis career but also of his inner soul. At only 29, a still very acceptable age for a professional tennis player, the Spaniard is bound to see his ranking drop far below the top 10 and, most importantly, is seeing a dramatic drop in his self-confidence levels.
All season, the Rafa we have seen was a different one. At Roland Garros, he lost for the only second time in ten years – and not even in the final. When interviewed this year, Rafa has alwayas been commenting his game and performances in a very harsh way, using very negative language, judging himself toughly and revealing a serious lack of confidence in between the lines. It seems however that Nadal is well aware of what is currently happening to his confidence; in March, after losing in the third round of the Miami Open to Fernando Verdasco, he bluntly commented that his defeat was “not the question of tennis”. He added: “The thing is the question of being enough relaxed to play well on court. A month and a half ago I didn’t have the game. My game has improved but… I am still playing with too much nerves for a lot of moments, important moments, still a little anxious on those moments. […] I am feeling more tired than usual, feeling that I don’t have this self confidence that when I hit the ball I am going to hit the ball where I want to hit the ball, to go for the ball knowing that my position will be the right one. […] One of the tougher thigs has been fixed, that is the game, in my opinion. Now I need to fix again the nerves, the self-control on court. That’s another issue. I am a little bit on and off too much. That is something that didn’t happen in the past. In the past I have been able to change a lot of situations, negative situations, in my career and I want to do it again. I am confident that I can do it. I don’t know if I am going to do it but I hope I can”. Nadal does not appear to believe that this confidence drop could be due to the several injuries he had to go through in the past months. Just before the now famous Wimbledon game Chris Evert, commenting on the TV channel ESPN, declared that she “never heard a top player talk so much about a lack of confidence”.
This mental state of extreme lack of self-confidence, getting you to the point where you cannot achieve as many things as you used to, to not be as good and perform as well as you did, is apparently not so uncommon among highly successful people. What is currently happening to Nadal has for instance happened to golfer Tiger Woods in the past. According to Emily Filloramo, author of the book How To Permanently Erase Negative Self Talk So You Can Be Extraordinary, overachieving people, may it be in sports, business, or any other field, are all meant to “crash and burn” at some point. For the most, tremendous success emerges from a trauma. This trauma can for example be a teacher that you will never make it because you are not the smartest kid in the class, or a coach who tells you that you are not good or skilled enough to make it to the top. When at the beginning, the reaction that will eventually lead you to surpass yourself and be the best can be to think you will show that person what you are truly capable of, there is only so much time during which this can last. As Filloramo puts it, “you can only do this overachieving for so long”. While for a time, insecurities can push you to achieve more and more, there will inevitably come a day when they will eventually crush you and stop you from going any further.
Once the cycle has started, it can be tough to get yourself out of the spiral of negative thinking and extreme lack of confidence. In terms of therapies available to cure this state of mind, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has proven itself quite useful and efficient in the past. Indeed, being a tool based on communication and belief change, it can help you reach – or go back to in this specific case – your full, true potential. For the undermining trauma to stop spreading its negative vibes inside your mind, the first thing to do is to identify it, in order to be able to suppress it then. For Nadal to win again, he will have to spot which part of hi is insecure about his abilities and has come up to the surface in the past months. Only Rafa can do this work. It is a personal journey. Only him will also be able to determine how he became so open to the public about it, how he could be so aware of the problem but unable to fix it at the same time. The challenge ahead is not an easy one. Because as Justin Gimelstob of Tennis Channel said, “It’s tough to win without confidence and it’s tough to get confidence without win.