Self confidence

Self confidence in skiing is the hardest part of skiing.  It’s much more difficult than all those issues of technique.  I’ll make this the first part of a multi-part post – which is my way of saying I’m not sure what it will stretch to!

In chapter 12 of my book Ski In Control:how to ski ANY piste anywhere in full control  I expand a little on this issue.  It is perfectly possible for you to keep all the stressor factors under your control.  You can build your self confidence.

Positive feedback loops.

First of all it’s to do with controlling positive feedback loops.  Here’s one describing cattle stampedes.  Once a critical number of cattle start running – no specific threat is required – it sets up a panic in some others.  That sets them running and the increased number raises the panic level, and it just keeps self-reinforcing.  It also applies to human ones – why everyone runs for the same exit door – no one stops to observe and think.

Self confidence while skiing

Each of these reinforces the other, over and over again

Above all, the good news is that regarding your own skiing you can work on this topic l-o-n-g before you head for the slopes.  In fact it works best when you are safe at home.

In my book I differentiate between ‘external’ and ‘internally generated’ stressors.  

Types of stressor

External stressors are things like the scraping sound of a snow-boarder skidding to a stop behind you.  Or the sound of your own skis suddenly making a different sound as you ski across a slight change of surface.

Internal stressors come in a bewildering array of sizes and colours dependant upon your own choices.

  • expectations of disaster
  • negative mental images
  • a belief that you may not be up to the job.
  • thoughts of failure or inadequacy
  • thoroughly misplaced perceptions of the next bit of slope – an endless list really.

These are what most folk are referring to when they tell me they “want to be skiiing with more confidence”.   They mean that they want to eliminate all this stuff.  By building your self confidence you minimise the potency of these stressors.

Furthermore the key point here is that all of the internal stressors that we experience are matters of our own choice.  They are not imposed on us from outside.  They glean their potency not from any external reality, but from our own beliefs and thoughts.  It is from our beliefs that our thoughts stem.

So to progress we need to alter our beliefs.  It can be done.

Which skier is “right”?

Take two skiers of different ability levels.  Or they might have similar abilities but different beliefs about their abilities.  One “knows” she can’t do it – the other doesn’t “know” he can’t do it!  The one is quite likely to be no better a skier than the other.

They are both at the top of a new slope.  To one of them it looks impossibly steep, to the other it looks quite shallow.  Yet it is one and the same slope.  The slope just “IS”.  Consequently what kind of a slope it is, is a matter or opinion.  One slope, two realities.

Perhaps the one could do with finding a way of realising the slope is less steep than she believes, and other for safety reasons could do with finding a way of realising it’s not that shallow!  In a later post I will cover slope angles in more detail and show you what they are like.

So the question becomes what can we do about it?  Happily the answer is plenty.   You just need to want the change sufficiently for you to take action.  You can do it at home, in comfort, in fact that’s where it works best.  Because it’s a mental process.

Self confidence is a technique.

I sense a difference between “self” control, and “self-control”.  Almost as if my “self” is a separate part of me.  Additionally, it is a part which I can develop skill in empathetically controlling – not so different if you like to training my dog.  You can quite easily teach yourself this technique

What is more, the self confidence techniques involved – just like the physical skiing techniques you learn, can be learned by anyone, and all you have to do is DO it.  Do it and you will improve.  Don’t do it and you might still improve but it is likely to be slower, and you might not.  It just takes a bit of practice.  YOU have the power to make a first rate outcome inevitable.  You were born with that power.

Self Confidence

Self confidence is a case in point.  You see posters with chaps raising their fists to the rising sun and the word “confidence” written underneath.  As if merely exhorting  the quality will be enough.  It won’t, will it?  It’s an outcome.  What you need is the process  that will lead you to that outcome.

Above all, the processes of self control are quite mundane in themselves.  There is no magic in it.  If we do have a “self” that is in some way set apart from “us” (and this is just my way of thinking of it) then it is an entity that we need to persuade.  The psychologists have established that the unconscious mind (which is probably my “separate self”) is naive.

We talk to our selves all the time, even if we don’t vocalize.  There is ample evidence that whatever we say is believed.  So if we choose to repeatedly reiterate that “I can’t do this”, or “I ought to able to do this and since I can’t I must be no good”, our self – our true self – will believe it.

Therefore, if we practice changing that monoiogue – even if our conscious mind doesn’t believe it – our unconscious mind will get to do so.  This takes practice.

Perception – Emotion – Technique

John Shedden   and the English Ski Council developed a concept for this – a feedback loop.

Our perceptions – for example of a ski slope – affect our emotions.  Our emotions will affect our skiing technique, perhaps adversely.  Our technique if applied incorrectly will result in a less-good result, which will confirm or reinforce our perceptions – and so on, and so on ….

A classic example of a positive feedback loop. In this case making matters worse.

So, we need some way of breaking into that loop,  Happily there are ways to do it, and they do not require you to be some kind of genius.  But they do require you to put in some well-directed effort.  I’ll leave that to the next episode.


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