I have had everyone from the novice level through to elite full-time professional triathletes confide in me they don’t know how to handle self-doubt. For whatever reason they do not feel fast or competitive and even feel like a fraud.
The first thing to remember is speed is relative. Everyone that competes in a triathlon event is fast in their own way. Whilst in its true definition if someone does a quicker time, we can say they are faster than someone who does a slower time it does not mean the person who did a slower time is not fast.
Because a triathlon is ultimately a competition against yourself. On race day everyone from the winner to the person that crosses the line last goes through periods of self-doubt and will question if they can finish or achieve a certain time. That is what racing is about, testing our own limits and seeing whether we can achieve our best result on the day.
When you cross the line, it doesn't matter what time the clock says and who was in front or behind you. In that instance I believe we’re all fast. And especially compared to the people who are sitting on the couch doing nothing and wishing they could start a triathlon let alone finish one.
Once you change your mindset to one of reframing what success is and not judging success by the clock or comparison then it will help to remove the self-doubt. However, everyone experiences self-doubt as it is normal and part of racing triathlons. By working through that self-doubt and replacing it with belief and confidence you will be equipped to handle the challenges that every competitor faces on race day.
A good training program is designed to test you. To challenge you and when you overcome the challenges you become more confident as a result. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations on a regular basis leads to improved confidence. Familiarity breeds confidence.
I believe by taking this approach we are looking inward. We are challenging ourselves and our own internal dialogue. By doing this it stops the need to compare to others which is why people feel like a fraud. Comparison is the thief of joy.
It is in circumstances like this I am reminded of the poem, The Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt:
" It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat."
I delve deeper into some techniques you can use to handle your self doubt in my blog article 'Mastering The Inner Game' which discusses using visualisation and meditation.