How Much Confidence is Too Much? | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: How Much Confidence is Too Much, and When is Confidence after Success appropriate?


About Me

Hi, everybody. Welcome to Monday night Q & A with coach Rebecca. I was gone last week, and I’m excited to be back here with you guys answering questions from members of the Perform Happy community.

A little intro if we are just meeting. My name is Rebecca Smith, I have a master’s in sports psychology as well as a background coaching gymnastics, competing gymnastics. I specialize in helping athletes overcome fear and mental blocks, build confidence, and ultimately build mental toughness so that you can perform at your best. I especially specialize in working with athletes age 8 to 18.

My questions today from the Perform Happy community are on one of my favorite topics: success. We’ve got two girls: one’s in the UK and one’s in the U.S. They both posted in the community about their successes, they’ve overcome mental blocks. For one of them, it was a year and a half. For the other, I think it was close to the same amount of time that they had mental blocks, which is basically where your brain is resisting a certain skill.

This happens a lot in sports like gymnastics, diving or figure skating, any scary sport. Essentially, your brain makes a decision for you where what you’re attempting is not safe. Of course, those of you who do sports like that know that it is actually safe, because you’ve trained. You’ve got the right equipment, have the right mats and have a harness. It’s a skill that’s typically safe, and one that you’ve done before, but for some reason, your brain is not letting your body execute the skill.

confidenceQ: Now that my daughter has competed the twist – she was struggling with a back layout with a one and a half twist. She hadn’t done it in years, a year and a half. Now that my daughter has competed the twist, should she continue to set weekly goals still around that to make sure it’s totally secure, or to move on to the next block, giants?


Q: Once they’ve defeated a block, should we be helping them move on to the next challenge? How much time should we give? I want to build on her confidence while she’s in a great place, but I’m fearful of it being another setback.


These are awesome questions, because that really gives me an opportunity to talk about the backslide. I have personally struggled with fear both in gymnastics and out of gymnastics, fear is something that I’ve got a lot of experience with, both helping people and helping myself, and something that I’ve learned through helping people and through my own personal experience is that once you start to get a little footing and you start to build a little confidence, you get a little excited sometimes.



I’m going to give a little example of myself when I was wakeboarding. When I first started to wakeboard, I popped up on the wakeboard, and I was cruising. I was like, oh, wow, this is not so hard. My gymnastics agility stuck with me, I got up there and I was like, all right, I’m doing good. Then I kind of started to go back and forth a little bit and I was like, I got this. And I jumped a wake and boom, faceplant. 30 miles an hour faceplant, not fun. And I was done for the day and was like, just kidding, I don’t have this covered.


Taking it Little by Little

It can be how it goes sometimes, where you get a little excited, of course. You haven’t done the skill in however long and then all of a sudden, you’re doing a faceplant. Well, you have to sometimes take it little by little. That might not happen. They might just have the skill and run with it. But the reason why that happens typically is because you forget what worked to begin with. What works for these girls might be slightly different, everybody it’s slightly different. What really works to get you over a block is starting to listen to your brain. Your brain is shutting your body off because you’re not listening to it. What your brain is telling you is, “I don’t feel confident enough. This is not safe. I need some help.”

I’m pretty confident that these girls have started to go, okay, I need a little help. I need a spot, I need a mat, I need something. I got to give my brain a little help here. What happens when you get confident is that you start to think “I shouldn’t need a spot anymore, I shouldn’t need a mat anymore, I should be fine. So I’ll try it anyway, even though I’m hearing the familiar squeal of my brain going, “Wait! I don’t feel safe!”” So that has to stay there, that foundation of if your brain needs some help, let it have it.


Listen to Your Brain

I just heard that Samantha Peszek, who was an Olympian in ’08, needed spots. She got to the place where she needed spots sometimes, and that was leading all the way up to the Olympics. She might need a spot still. This is a girl who went to the Olympics, so it’s not that you’re a bad person or bad gymnast if every once in a while, you have an off day and you just need another spot.

That’s the first thing, is that what can cause backsliding is getting too excited, not taking your time through the progressions to actually rebuild lasting confidence, and then forgetting that your brain is ultimately in charge, so you have to listen to it. You might as well listen to it, right?

If you’ve got that covered, that these girls are making their success, one’s got her giants, one’s twisting again on floor, they know if I get that not so confident feeling, I’m going to do the same thing that worked up to this point and I’m not going to expect myself to be a hero. I always tell kids, “Don’t be a hero. Get a spot if you need one.” That can help them maintain.

You have to make sure that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough every single day that you stay comfortable being uncomfortable. The other pitfall is that you get stuck wanting to feel good, ’cause you’re like, oh yay, I’m not afraid anymore. You don’t really want to go and try to be afraid again.


Learn How to Stay Out of Your Comfort Zone

Now that both of these girls are kind of used to pushing through and getting past that last bit of fear that allows you to do your skill, you really do want to keep the momentum up, but not to the point where you’re getting yourself to be blocking again. You’re listening to your brain. What does my brain need? And you’re constantly pushing yourself You’re pushing yourself so that you’re staying a little bit uncomfortable. If you’re at a 10 out of 10 on confidence, then it’s going to be easy to do that skill. But then when you think about doing the scary skill, you’re like, “Oh, no thanks, I’ll pass.”

Instead, you want to always be making a concerted effort to keep moving yourself out of your comfort zone, and don’t worry about it causing a backslide as long as you’re doing it the right way. If you’re trying something that sends your brain into shutdown, then yeah, that will transfer into other things like school confidence and lack of confidence in other events. So you want to make sure that you’re just pushing the limits of comfort enough, but not to the point where you are slamming that door shut on your confidence.


Keep Your Desire Burning

Hopefully that makes sense. If it doesn’t, please let me know and I’ll clarify. But it’s about pushing your limits, but staying within something reasonable, and not pushing too hard to where you shut down. You don’t want to stay stagnant. One thing that I think worked well for these girls in mental toughness bootcamp was that there’s a couple things that I really emphasize: being able to stay uncomfortable because you’re driving toward something bigger. If you can keep that desire burning…

  • Why do you want that skill?
  • Why the next skill?
  • What are the reasons it’s that important to you?
  • And what is the evidence in the past that you can pull from that

“Well, I did this, which was really scary and hard, and I did this, so then I believe I can do the next thing.”


Become Aware and Stay Aware

Another big part of mental toughness bootcamp was about awareness. Some of the exercises that you guys did every day were about:

  • being aware of how your body feels
  • how your emotions feel
  • what’s coming up for you
  • being okay with being uncomfortable.

Keep up that work. Keep setting the goals, keep sitting with yourself, keep doing everything just like you did for mental toughness bootcamp, and carry that into the next skills, because then you’re going to start racking up these successes. Knowing you can always ask for a spot if you have a funky day, but it builds, and it carries into school. Just like the negative confidence takes away from school, takes away from other events, as you build confidence in one area, it expands into other ones too.

Let’s not live little, let’s live big. Let’s not play not to lose, like, we’re okay, we don’t want to mess it up. No, go big! Why don’t you get all your skills? We didn’t sign up for this to get one skill. You want all your skills, but don’t want just some confidence; you want all your confidence.


The Confidence Ladder

Something that I would recommend you guys do is the confidence ladder. This is in the community, and anyone who’s not in the community, you guys can download one for free right now at The confidence ladder is an eight week goal-setting template so that you can basically create stair steps to where you want to be, because I love … They call them, in the psychology world, successive approximations. It’s just little steps along the way that you’re easing into the scary thing. And, if you look at something you want to do in the next two months, it might feel too big or too scary. But if you can break it down into what’s the action step for just this week?

And then of course, for you members, post it in the forum so that I can give you feedback, make sure that you’re setting goals in a way that’s going to be really effective, and it holds you accountable. And we all get to celebrate when you get it.


Recap: Don’t Get Too Cocky

To recap, don’t rush it. Don’t get too cocky. Be okay with getting up and just riding the wakeboard for a little bit. You don’t have to start jumps right away. Just take it little by little and build lasting confidence rather than chucking it and hoping it works. You guys obviously know that, because you’re starting to see some results.

And, the great thing about mental toughness bootcamp is you guys can do it over and over. That’s actually how I intended it, that if you can do it once a month or once a quarter, to just re-up that self belief, that confidence, and keep building on those daily action steps and daily skills that are going to help you get where you want to go. That’s what I recommend.

So, again, you can download our freebie today at If you have questions for me, members can find me in the Ask Rebecca forum, of course, you get first priority. Anybody else can send me a question at And I’ll see you guys again next week!

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.