How Perfectionism Can Hurt Athletes Self-Confidence

Hurting Self-Confidence

Changing Beliefs for Perfectionists

Athletes who are perfectionist can struggle with low confidence in both practice and competition.

Perfectionists demand a lot from themselves about the quality of their performance. They have high expectations. This can lead to self-doubt when these athletes do not perform up to their high standards.

Perfectionists also have a hard time transferring the confidence they develop in practice to competition. In addition, perfectionists often desire approval from others.

They want to be accepted by fellow athletes, coaches, and friends. What wrong with that? If they don’t think they are gaining approval from others, their confidence can sink.

Here’s the good news about perfectionist athletes….

Perfectionists are very motivated, have a strong work ethic, are committed to their goals, and have a desire to learn and improve.

A good mindset for practice, which is their strength. In addition, coaches love to work with this type of athlete because they have a strong work ethic and are very coachable.

But here’s the bad news… Perfectionists:

  • Lose confidence quickly not performing well
  • Expect to perform perfectly (make zero mistakes)
  • Are very self-critical of their performance
  • Tend to dwell on mistakes and missed chances
  • Are stuck in a practice mindset, which hurts them in competition

What’s the solution to the problems with perfectionism?

The answer is not easy. Many of the athletes we work with fit into the category of perfectionists. We understand the challenges it presents, but perfectionist athletes do not admit it’s a hindrance.

The first step is to help athletes uncover the beliefs that underlie perfectionism (and keep them stuck). AND help them understand how it hurts their confidence (stop the denial).

For example, we find that athletes often believe they must be perfect to perform well:

“I should demand high expectations of myself because I work so hard to achieve my goals.”


“The need to perform perfectly today and avoid making any mistakes.”

As you can see, these beliefs do not help athletes perform their best–when not at their best.

Here’s the process for changing beliefs for perfectionists:

  1. Help athletes understand the disadvantages of perfectionism and agree these absolute beliefs get in the way of performance.
  2. Uncover the beliefs and behaviors that support perfectionism and hurt confidence.
  3. Replace the unhealthy beliefs that hurt confidence with a philosophy that helps confidence grow.

Here’s an example of number 3 above:

“I can perform well (or help my team) even when my game does not feel or look perfect.”

You want athletes to buy into this new way of viewing how they perform.

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1 thought on “How Perfectionism Can Hurt Athletes Self-Confidence”

  1. All of our articles are written by us at Peak Performance Sports – Dr. Cohn and our new coach, Dr. Megan.

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