When you’re a teenager or young adult, it can be easy to think that you’re not good enough, you don’t have enough natural talent, or you’re not as good as others. I know because I felt like that myself. But I want you to forget that thought.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a loud person or a quiet person, whether you’re popular or not, whether you’re “sporty” or “smart”. It’s not about your personality. It’s not about how physically strong you are or naturally clever you are. You can succeed in life, in sport, in exams, and later in your jobs and relationships—in whatever you want to succeed in. You just need to be mentally tough.
To do this, you need to be able to control your emotions. When you’re about to face a challenge, such as a high-pressure sports game or an exam, stay calm, take a deep breath, and focus on just that task. After the situation has ended, whether you won the game or not, think about what you learned from the experience, what you can do differently next time, what positive thing you discovered about yourself.
I know it can be difficult to see something good in yourself, but really think about it. Did you put in your best efforts? Did you surprise yourself? Did you pick up an opposition player when they fell down? Did you encourage your teammates to keep going when you conceded a point? Did you miss a goal but score the next one?
Don’t worry about failing. If you’re about to take an exam, you might be preoccupied with whether you pass it. But don’t think about that now. The important thing is to focus on taking the exam and doing the best you can. Just think, even if you fail, you can improve in the future. You can always do better next time. It’s more important that you put all of your effort in, rather than getting the highest marks.
If you do fail, use the experience as a learning opportunity. Think about how you can improve in the future and what you could do differently next time. If you fail an exam or lose a game, it can be easy to be hard on yourself. But it’s important that you don’t punish yourself for failing, or be mean to yourself. Remember that everyone fails from time to time. Don’t tell yourself you’re useless—say “I had a bad day but I can do better next time.” Also, don’t come up with excuses why you failed. Take responsibility for your performance, for your actions, and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.
If you feel upset or angry, you can express this constructively through a creative channel, such as music, art, or even exercise. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and express your feelings in a healthy way. Don’t give into the urge to be destructive or aggressive. If you’re feeling like this, talk honestly with your parents or coaches. Tell them how you’re feeling.
Sometimes, you might feel like you’re competing against everyone else on your sports team, or in your class, but you need to realise that your only competitor is yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Forget about beating other people, coming first, or getting the highest marks. Forget about winning. Just focus on being the best you can be, on improving yourself over time. You’ll find that when you stop focusing on winning or losing, you’ll feel more relaxed and will be able to concentrate on the race, game, or exam.