Gaining an Edge: Letting Go of External Validation and Choosing to Believe

    Welcome to the ninth edition of Gaining an Edge from Expand Your Game! This series empowers Socceristas to own their growth and maximize their potential by expanding mental performance skills, reframing limiting beliefs, and uncovering authentic drive.

    Last week we talked about the difficult situations soccer players go through on their soccer journey, from injuries to getting cut from rosters. However, by accepting these moments as part of the process and then working hard to grow your resiliency skills, you not only survive these moments but actually come out stronger on the other side. Today we are going to talk about limiting beliefs and the trap of external validation and how, if left unchecked, these two things can get in the way of you being able to play confidently and to the best of your ability.


    The trap of external validation

    Confidence in soccer. Always a hot topic, always something all Socceristas want more of, right? On and off the soccer field, more confidence would be nice, right? Well, read on. You’re in the right place.

    Today I want to talk about a trap many of us fall into, soccer player or not. A trap that most of us don’t even know we are in. This trap is called external validation, and it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because many of us RELY on it for confidence. It means that when other people approve of us, compliment us, and tell us “good job,” then (and only then), we allow ourselves to feel good and believe in ourselves.

    When someone tells you how great you are because you just scored a goal, gives you congrats for getting an A on that hard test, or says how awesome your outfit is, that is all external validation. It is approval coming to you from an outside source, telling you you’re worthwhile.

    Now don’t get me wrong, compliments like this are wonderful! It’s always great to hear “nice job!” from someone and be acknowledged for your hard work. It truly boosts confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. However, when we rely on this for our self-worth and confidence, it gets dangerous.

    Here’s the most dangerous part of this: IT IS FLEETING. The feelings that you get from acing a test or having your coach compliment your skill at soccer practice only last for a short time, a few hours to a few days at max. And then what? Then your confidence is no longer as high, and you are off in search of more approval and external validation so your confidence can get another boost.

    To sum it up,  Socceristas, completely relying on external validation for your confidence is dangerous because:

    Reason 1) External validation is fleeting. You cannot depend on it because it doesn’t stick around. It leaves your confidence (and you) very unstable.

    Reason 2) By relying on external validation for confidence, you are allowing something outside of your control (other people) to affect the way you feel about yourself. You don’t determine your self-worth at this point. It’s determined by what OTHERS think. 

    Remember, yes, it’s always nice to have people see the great things you are doing and give you their approval and validation, but what’s even nicer is when ALL OF THAT IS JUST BONUS because you’ve already done all that for yourself, and validated your own worthiness.


    The trap of limiting beliefs

    Limiting beliefs are things we believe about ourselves or the world around us that limit our ability to maximize our potential and reach the top of our game.

    If you want to become the absolute best version of yourself on the soccer field, you must let go. Let go of what? Let go of ideas, thoughts, and self-defeating mentalities in your way and holding you back. Let go of things that aren’t true and every limiting belief you have.

    Here’s an example, you might believe that you are terrible with your left foot and have an attitude of “it doesn’t matter what I do, never gonna be great at it.” If you truly believe that this is a fixed state of yours, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you will never get better with your left foot.

    Because of your limiting belief, you’ll keep moving the ball to your right foot and not force yourself to practice with your left. The truth is that your left foot isn’t terrible. It just needs more practice to catch up to your right. But if your limiting belief PREVENTS you from practicing, well then, you can see the problem.

    Here’s something to think about: often soccer players with high self-efficacy (self-efficacy is belief in oneself to be able to reach your goals no matter the circumstances) but with less natural physical talent are actually MUCH STRONGER players than the players with extraordinary talent, who DON’T have confidence in themselves or trust in their abilities. Aka, players with limiting beliefs.

    If you can begin to identify your limiting beliefs and come to terms with the idea that they might be getting in the way of your improvement, then you’re on the path to letting go and moving forward. Every one of us has some sort of limiting belief that we could benefit from letting go of.


    Choosing to believe

    True, stable confidence and belief in yourself come from INTERNAL validation and identifying and letting go of limiting beliefs. It also comes from CHOOSING to believe in yourself. Because let’s be honest, when it comes to believing in yourself and trusting yourself, you only have two options:

    1. you can choose to believe OR
    2. you can choose to doubt

    THAT’S IT. Those are the only options you have.

    So, be your own confidence builder. Own your growth. Pat yourself on the back. Cheerlead yourself. Validate YOURSELF today. Let go of limiting beliefs. Let go of self-doubt. Support your well-being and your mental health. Choose to BELIEVE in yourself today. 


    Up next:

    Make sure to return to Girls Soccer Network in two weeks for the last edition of Gaining an Edge. We will talk about playing with confidence and consistency and use the mental skills and lessons from the whole series to tie it all together.

    ‘Til next time,

    Jenn Ireland, Mental Skills Coach + Founder of Expand Your Game

    Gaining an Edge is a ten-part series from Expand Your Game’sMindset Mastery Academy, a transformative 1-on-1 mental skills mentorship experience for female soccer players.

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