Elite players openly admit to the existence of pressure.
The players who succeed in pressure situations don’t eliminate the pressure; they deal with it better.
This leads me to a question I’d like to discuss…
Who is better equipped to deal with a pressure situation? Someone who is normally self-conscious, or someone who is NOT?
What Is The Definition of Pressure?
You’ve probably felt it, and you probably have your own definition. But for the sake of this discussion, I’ll use the definition from an expert on “choking in performance.”
Dr. Roy Baumeister, an expert on “choking,” defined pressure “as any factor or combination of factors that increases the importance of performing well on a particular occasion.”
I other words, pressure is something that makes what you are doing, important.
Pressure is trailing the lead by one, with one hole to play.
What Does It Mean To Be Self-Conscious?
Wikipedia defines self-consciousness as “a preoccupation with oneself.” When a player is under pressure, they become self-conscious.
We become self-conscious under pressure because our actions become more important, therefore we pay more attention to them.
To sum it up simply…
Our Actions + Our Attention = Self-Consciousness
Self-Consciousness + More Importance = A Pressure Situation
Based on what I have covered, I think the player who is normally self-conscious, or has more experience being self-conscious, is better equipped to deal with pressure.
This is the case because the increased self-consciousness brought on by pressure is closer to the norm for someone who is regularly self-conscious.
In a recent discussion with Dayne Gingrich, personal experience, Rory McIroy and Tiger Woods were all situations brought up to address this question.
After some explanation, I believe each of these examples support my point of view.
Dayne’s personal experience began with him being self-conscious and failing. He eventually overcame that self-consciousness and succeeded in pressure situations.
This would lead me to believe that his ability to deal with pressure situations improved with experience. He didn’t eliminate being self-conscious in a pressure situation; he actually learned how to deal with it better.
Rory McIroy’s collapse at the Masters fits my point as well. McIroy has been a superstar in his short career, and I have no doubt he will win multiple major championships. I do believe however, and I assume everyone agrees, him holding the 54-hole lead at Augusta was the most pressure packed situation of his career.
The heightened self-consciousness that situation created was like nothing else he had ever experienced. Because of how much pressure was brought on by that situation, he was not well equipped to deal with it.
I am a little reluctant to dive into Tiger’s situation, but I can’t resist.
His personal matters have put a microscope on his every move like never before. This has lead to an increased self-consciousness within Tiger. He knows everyone is watching to see if he screws up, chokes or if he is finally making his return to the top.
This is something he has never had to deal with before and it is still foreign to him. Because of this, his performance has suffered. In all honesty does the Pre-2009 Tiger Woods EVER lose the Masters when he is tied for the lead with 9 holes to play?
Right now, he is not equipped to deal with the self-consciousness that comes with the increased pressure he is under. I do believe however, it is only a matter of time until he gets comfortable in those situations again.
How Does This Help You?
If you agree, we can conclude that a past experience of failure under pressure is in fact an asset. It is something you can use to learn and better equip yourself to perform in the future.
Players that are not self-conscious need to experience it, then learn to succeed with it before they can progress.
I know not everyone can agree with this without debate, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
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photo by familymwr