Beware the Self-Confidence Killer - COMPARISON

Contributed by Tami Matheny - Founding Partner of Success for Teams, Owner at Refuse2Lose Coaching and author of "The Confident Athlete"

A Zen Parable

A samurai, a very proud warrior, came to see a Zen Master one day. The samurai was quite famous and had won many battles. He was known throughout his country as one of the bravest, most skilled warriors alive. As he walked into the Zen Master’s humble home his eyes immediately were drawn to the Master. As he gazed upon the old man’s beauty and the air of tranquility surrounding him, the great warrior suddenly began to feel inferior.

He said to the Master, “Why do I feel so small with you? Why do I feel so badly about myself? Just a moment ago I felt fine. I was a great warrior. I was sure of myself. As I entered your home, suddenly I felt inferior. I have never felt like that before. I have faced death many times, and I have never felt any fear — why am I now feeling frightened?”

The Master said, “Wait my son. When everyone else has gone, I will answer you. ” People continued to come and see the Master the entire day, and the great Samurai, as patient a man as he was, began to get more and more tired waiting.  By evening the Zen Master’s home was finally empty, and the Samurai said, “Now, can you answer me?” The Master said, “Come outside.”

It had turned evening and the moon was full. Its’ bright white shape was just beginning to rise on the horizon. Under the moonlight the Master, pointing to two trees over by the side of his garden said, “Look at these trees. This tree is high in the sky and reaches for the stars while this one beside it is quite small. Both these trees have existed side by side beneath my window for years, and yet there has never been any problem. The smaller tree has never said to the big tree, ‘Why do I feel inferior before you?’ This tree is small, and that tree is big — why have I never heard a whisper of it?”

The samurai said, “Because they do not compare.”

The Master replied, “Then you need not ask me. You know the answer my son.”

Comparison is the biggest obstacle for confidence.  As parents or coaches, we do our athletes a big favor when we don’t compare them to others and teach them to base their self-worth from within not from comparing to others.  It’s more productive and beneficial to help them focus on their strengths and what they bring to their sport and team than to compare how someone else does it better (parents and coaches should heed this advice for themselves as well!).  “What we focus on grows.”

Just Keep Showing Up

Contributed by Tami Matheny - Founding Partner of Success for Teams, Owner at Refuse2Lose Coaching and author of "The Confident Athlete".

Confident athletes keep showing up believing that one day it will be their turn.   

Desiree Linden, the winner of this year's Boston Marathon exemplifies this very belief.  As she tweeted last month, “Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.  #Keepshowingup”. After her 5th try (she was leading and caught at the end in 2011, losing by 2 feet), she became the first US woman to win the historic race in 33 years.

Several factors related to confidence aided Linden's victory.  First, was her preparation. While many of the runners said that this year’s Boston Marathon had the most difficult conditions they had ever run in, Desiree was prepared by her training in Michigan during the winter. This preparation allowed her to embrace the difficult test in Boston that sent 81 runners to the hospital. In addition, she made sure she knew the course well, running 18 miles of it on Monday, 14 miles on Tuesday, and 20 on Wednesday.

She also prepared mentally.  She envisioned the race and what winning would looe like.  “I haven’t looked past Marathon Monday,” she said. “I think about it every day. I bring a winning attitude every day. I picture being a winner every day.”

Linden also took control of her self-talk. She admitted that she was thinking about dropping out of the race because she just didn’t feel it.  However, she was able to get past that feeling mentally and finished strong.

While preparation and one’s self-talk are critical to maintaining confidence, helping others is important as well.  When we assist others it intrinsically makes us feel better therefore boosting our confidence.  Linden told her good friend and fellow American runner, Shalane Flanagan, that she would do whatever she needed for her.  At one point, she slowed her pace to help Flanagan catch back up to the lead pack.  In doing so, Linden fueled herself as well.

Confident athletes put in the work; mentally and physically. They keep a strong mindset and they see themselves winning and being a winner. Most importantly, they keep showing up. On Marathon Monday Linden showed up and achieved a major victory. 

What do you need to keep showing up for?

The Greatest Underdog Story in the World- David and Goliath

By Tami Matheny, Mental Skills Specialist

Most of us know this story by heart but how can one of the most told stories in the Bible help you overcome your “Goliath”?

Let’s start with a quick review. Here you have this 9 ft giant that no one would fight. David a poor shepherd boy volunteered. He was outsized, out experienced (no fighting background), and no armor compared to Goliath who was suited almost head to toe. David didn’t use the armor offered to him instead he was more comfortable just using his unique skills God had given him. As we all know, David fired his stone and found a hole in the mighty armor thus knocking the giant to the ground; he then ran to him stabbed him and cut off his head.

What giant are you facing that seems like an impossible situation? Use these 3 lessons from David and Goliath to get through the toughest situations, the toughest opponents, etc.


  1. David choose not to use armor or the heavy shields and swords. Instead he used his to those skills to overcome the situation or circumstance we face.
  2. David had faith in God. Have faith in God and yourself and mountains will move.
  3. David didn’t get caught up in “Oh this is a giant, he has never lost a battle. “ Instead he saw it as an opportunity. He ran into battle. He embraced it when others cowered and were intimidated. Everything in life is an opportunity or a threat. It just depends on how you view it.

Take courageous action. Trust in Yourself. What is your Stone (weapon) you need to use (toughness, love, persistence, selflessness, or physical skills of your sport)? Will you have faith in God and yourself and even teammates? Will you embrace this opportunity? I challenge you to apply these 3 things to whatever area in your life that seems hopeless and be a giant killer!