Posted by: silverback | 2010/09/11

confidence

confidence has a rough time of it in our society today. in my estimation, it is the uneasy balance between humilty and ego. many personalities who have a solid measure of the confidence i’m talking about aren’t well-liked. they’re misunderstood, considered egotisitical. many others are adored, respected by peers and competitors alike. but there seems to be no middle ground – it’s either love or hate.

think about public figures such as Brett Favre, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Mat Mladin, Michael Schumacher, or Jeff Gordon. chances are, you’ll have a strong opinion of one or more of those people. they’re good at what they do. they are fierce competitors. some may seem aloof, while others may appear humble. but all of them exemplify self-confidence. they must, or risk failure.

Noriyuki Haga is perhaps the winningest World Superbike racer to never have won the Superbike World Championship. he began racing full-time in 1998, and came within 2 points of the crown in 2007, riding for Yamaha. in 2008, he won seven races but still finished 3rd in the WSBK ranks, the title going to Troy Bayliss on the Ducati.  2009 was supposed to be his year; he was hired by Ducati to fill the seat left vacant by Bayliss’ retirement. there were statistically no stumbling blocks in the way of Haga storming to the championship on the proven Ducati 1198. enter rookie Ben Spies. the story has already been told in this blog, but Spies won in his second race in the season-opening round, and didn’t stop winning for the rest of the season. the inexperienced American stole Haga’s sure thing away by 14 points by season’s end. personally, i believe it was the soul-crushing blow to Haga’s career hopes.

2010 has not been a banner year for Haga. he has won but two races to date, generally finishing in the back half of the top ten, several times outside it. he should be winning. he should be at least battling for the podium in every single race – he has proven his talent time and again. in watching his riding, one can sense that some of the fire has gone – he’s lost his confidence. somebody’s taken his mojo.

Michael Schumacher and Lance Armstrong have been sharing parallel lives in 2010. both men returned from retiring at the very tops of their games – Schumacher after 6 Formula One world championships, Armstrong after a record 7 Tour de France victories. both inspired nostalgic hope for dramatic recaptures of their former glory. both have been firmly met at reality’s door by younger, hungrier men – men unfettered by doubt, unjaded by years of seemingly effortless victory.

not such an easy ride this time

in my own life, confidence is an uneasy overcoat to wear. it’s too easy to overstep a healthy level of confidence and make an enthusiastic error of judgement. once the mistake is made, its consequence is a loss of confidence, which inevitably leads to more mistakes. watch a semifinal tennis round of the US Open to see how this affects athletes even at the world level. they crack – somebody always cracks. whether it’s Jan Ullrich on the slopes of Luz Ardiden or Tiger Woods on the 2010 PGA Tour. once cracked, confidence is never quick to return.

i’ve suffered my fair share of setbacks in my level of confidence. i can’t number the times i’ve hurled my mountain bike off insane drops of 15 feet or more, but then broke a collarbone stupidly attempting to jump somebody’s backyard mulch pile. the next time i look at a gap with a dicey landing, doubt creeps in and tells me i might hit that tree over there.

i’ve set fire to the 100-mile “century” road bike ride, but then cramped & turned into a whiny little girl on a mountain bike ride with friends. the next time somebody calls about an epic Sunday-afternoon adventure, i’ll begin to convince myself i can’t handle it.

i’ve thrown down some of the fastest laps of my life, glued to the tailsection or even showing an occasional wheel to the guy who used to be untouchable, then lowsided while sitting up for the cooldown lap. on my next day (or three) at the track, i’ll tiptoe around half the day, expecting the damn thing to just shoot out from under me with no warning, jerking in surprise when my knee touches the pavement.

it’s a killer. creeping death. loss of confidence sucks the fun out of the very things we do to enjoy living. it makes the doing of them unappealing. it manifests a vicious downward spiral wherein i no longer desire to do the thing i love because i lack the confidence; yet the only way to restore confidence is to do it repeatedly, until it becomes enjoyable again, which doesn’t happen until confidence returns.

ugh.

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