How To Overcome The Fear Of Losing In Tennis
But the fear of losing usually isn't the fear of losing a tennis match.
Losing a tennis match is not a big deal.
It means only that someone else played better than you.
You may feel uncomfortable about that, because you are disappointed in the result of this test of your tennis skills.
But if you don’t connect your tennis skill with how you feel about yourself (as being worthy, being a good person, and so forth), then losing a tennis match is really not a big deal.
Unfortunately most people draw this wrong and illogical connection: "If I miss a backhand, I am a bad tennis player. If I am a bad tennis player, I am a bad person. I am not worthy."
Here’s how to defeat that kind of thinking: Let’s put Tiger Woods on a tennis court and see how he plays. Not good. Is he now a bad person?
Let’s put Roger Federer on an ice hockey team and see how he plays. Not good. Is he now a bad person because his hockey skills are bad?
How about this one: Is Roger Federer a great person because his tennis skills are good? NO.
There is no connection. He is a good person because of his BEHAVIOR and ACTIONS.
Hitting a good or a bad forehand has nothing to do with your personality.
It's really the CONSEQUENCES of losing a tennis match that you fear.
The negative consequences of losing a tennis match stay buried in your subconscious, and you think that you are afraid of losing a match, when you are actually afraid of the consequences of losing a match.
There is another angle to the consequences:
1. You can be afraid of present and realistic negative consequences. For example: if you lose, you won’t get the prize money and be able to afford a flight home. Or, if you lose, you won’t get points for the Wimbledon first round of juniors.
2. You can also be afraid of past pain, pain you experienced in a previous loss. For example: when you were 10 years old and lost a match, your father scolded you or hit you.
How can you solve this mind puzzle?
Fear Of Losing And Present ConsequencesThe first approach has to do with the consequences that happen now, in which the emotional pain is not based on past painful events.
You need to make all the possible negative consequences conscious by writing them down and then imagining that each of them do happen.
Really get into the story of losing a match and how your worst fears come true, like your friends make fun of you, your opponents ridicule you in the locker room, you lose rankings, and so on.
And then you need to ask two things:
1. What is the probability of this actually happening?
2. If it happens, can I handle it? Will I survive? Will life go on?
Note that the mind has an unbelievable ability to create horror stories even when there is almost no chance of those events actually happening.
The only way to challenge the mind's ability to create fiction is to go with the story, setting it against reality and facts.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you realize that the fear of losing is empty and dismiss it as unrealistic. That's when your negative mind starts losing power over you. Because you don’t believe it anymore.
The first and hardest step in this process is realizing that it is not you doing the thinking: it is the mind.
And it is you who must make a conscious choice whether to follow the thought or dismiss it as unrealistic and unhelpful in achieving your goals.
In cases where the negative consequences are real, you must accept them. That is, you must be willing to endure the negative consequences of losing a match.
The mind can make you view these negative consequences as horrible so that you lose perspective of what "horrible" really is.
I think "horrible" is to be, for example, blind or paralyzed, or to have someone close to you die, or to have no food and shelter, or to be living in the African bush without water in terrible heat.
Those are truly horrible things.
When you compare the suffering of these circumstances to the suffering you’d endure because you lost your #3 ranking and dropped to #7, you see the loss of this tennis match as something you can easily handle.
In other words, just get a realistic perspective on what feeling bad and suffering are.
Your goal is to be 100% sure that you want to play and that you accept the possibility of losing and all the consequences that go along with losing. Only then will you be free to play unburdened.
As long as there is a tiny part of you not accepting the negative consequences of losing, you will be nervous and unable to fully concentrate on the match. In other words, some part of your mind will be pulling against you instead of with you in the direction of winning and going for it.
Why? Because going for it increases the chances of losing and experiencing pain.
For better understanding, let's imagine an extreme situation: someone has kidnapped your child. (or any loved one – another horrible situation)
They will return the child safely to you if:
- you drink 1 liter of sea water (which is very unpleasant)
- eat one ounce of sand (ditto)
- roll your self in manure
- go into the mall like that to buy groceries
- and walk naked on the street.
No, not even for a second.
You would accept these consequences even though they are unwanted events that make you suffer.
Losing a tennis match is most likely to be less painful. But you must completely accept the possible consequences if you want to be 100% focused and determined to reach your goal.
Only then will your mind support you and become your ally.
Fear Of Losing And Past Emotional PainThe other approach has to with you having subconscious pain associated with losing or missing a shot in the past.
This emotional pain stays in your subconscious (since it wasn’t resolved), and now any similar event triggers fear of similar pain, which you will try to avoid.
In fact, one of the mind's main purposes is to protect us from pain. It does so by comparing current circumstances to past circumstances that led to pain.
If the mind notices a similarity (and it takes very safe margins) between them, it alerts you and tries to make you avoid these circumstances.
When we talk about tennis, it means that you enter a tournament, and there is some past pain associated with playing tournaments. You lost a tournament match before and suffered much emotional pain.
So now whenever you enter a tournament your mind warns you that doing this might cause pain and sends signals making you feel very uncomfortable (nervous, anxious, doubtful, and so on), pressing you to decide to avoid this situation.
But since you cannot just quit the tournament and you have consciously decided to play it, your mind is now split – you want to play and you don’t want to play.
This ambivalence creates tension in your mind. Consequently you cannot play well. And since you don’t play well, you probably lose.
And so the whole cycle starts again.
The prediction of experiencing pain in tournaments is now reinforced in your mind. Therefore, next time it sends even stronger signals to make you avoid playing a tournament.
It makes you even more nervous, thus preventing you from playing your best and thus causing the very thing it wants to avoid.