Emotions, Memory and Confidence

How they are related and why your perception is so important


Sheryl Kline Cardiff, M.A.

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Do you remember the last time something intensely emotional happened to you? I remember vividly where I was, what I was wearing and how I felt when I was disqualified for going off course in an Equestrian Show Jumping competition when I was 12! It was a national competition that I practiced for for four years. I went off course, and that was it, done. I felt disappointment, disbelief, disgust, anger, sadness to name a few. Thirty plus years later, I remember what the bull horn sounded like; that is the signal to dismiss a rider from the arena. The good news is that I had another class that day. The bad news is that I could not recover from my initial performance only to finish up the day with disappointment. 

Whether you are competing with yourself or with others, on the field or in the boardroom, how you manage your emotions and how you choose to perceive important events matter. Although it is extremely normal to surround events perceived as negative with a lot of emotion, it isn’t helpful for your future performance. For example, a tennis player double faults for the second time in a row or a sales executive delivers a presentation that is not well received first thing in the morning. Those events may produce a high level of disappointment, fear, and insecurity. These negative emotions tend to be a detriment to one’s confidence. The show must go on. It is error recovery, learning and making the necessary adjustments, not perfection that will lay the foundation for high performance. 

If your emotions aid in long lasting and vivid memories that can effect your confidence, it’s time to change the way we think about positive and negative events. You can release the impact of negative events if you neutralize their importance and give yourself permission to feel negative emotions when it is more convenient (ie: after the competition or presentation). Back to the tennis example. You double fault twice in a row. Here’s the plan. 1.Recognize what you are feeling (‘I double faulted, that’s disappointing.’) 2.Choose to neutralize that emotion (‘It happens, I’ll be fine, I know how to do this’.) 3. Strategize how to do the ideal serve (‘I need to toss higher and relax my arm.’). 

Conversely, when an event happens that is positive, whether significant or minor, think Wahoo! This can be out loud if you are comfortable or a very big internal pat on the back. If your presentation goes well in the morning, recognize that you were prepared, the information was well received, and you maintained eye contact. Take a moment to think about how it feels to deliver a successful presentation, imprint it in your mind. You are now paving the way to a repeat performance.