All about shooting : Overcoming self-doubt

In sport, being grounded is an important quality.

It keeps you realistic when you are soaring high in success and propels you higher when you feel down in the dumps.

However, for beginners, it is a double-edged sword.

Being grounded in just the right amount can work wonders while being excessively grounded to the point of inferiority complex can severely damage their aggression and ambition – which are the key ingredients for success.

There are two types of grounded beginners according to me :

1. Confident

They are excited at the prospect of learning something new.

They start slow and steady, go on improving each day, and are content with the progress they are making with the knowledge they have gathered so far.

They are not bothered by what others are doing. However, they actively seek out information that will help them improve their technique and other supporting abilities.

In competitions, they know exactly where they stand and do their own thing without being intimidated by the presence of stalwarts or other seasoned players.

On the range : They will be found doing their own thing calmly. They allocate separate time (that does not interfere with their practice) for discussions with their Coach and peers. They enter the range cheerfully, and walk out with a smile after completing their practice sessions.

2. Self-doubters

They are intimidated at the prospect of learning something new.

When they start, they have too many questions and are always unhappy with their results. Most of their practice sessions go by in lamenting that they do not know enough. Instead of taking in the offered step-by-step guidance, they keep focusing on what others are doing and what makes the others click.

They spend much time networking, but this consists of one sided cribbing about their present situation and discussing how the stalwarts have got all the amenities to make it big. They do not derive any useful information out of it.

In competitions, all their puffed up confidence disappears and they’re paralysed with mortal fear of taking shots. If the seasoned players are present, they automatically write themselves off the list of serious competitors.

On the range : They will be found chatting up anybody who’s willing to converse – seniors, juniors, or Coaches. They rarely finish their practice sessions. They enter the range with a nervous smile or in a sulky mood and exit in a similar fashion.

What is the root cause of self-doubt? 

Self-doubters are often more intelligent and knowledgeable than the confident ones.

‘Knowledge is Power’ – we have been taught in schools. However, the very knowledge makes them acutely conscious of the fact that there is a lot that they don’t know. They know that there is so much to know that they wouldn’t get to all nuances of 10m Air Pistol shooting in their entire lifetime, let alone the other branches of the sport!

This overwhelms them so much, that they resort to constantly underestimating the basic knowledge that they already possess. The knowledge, if implemented consistently, would be enough to take them to higher levels where they can further improve by self-learning and expert coaching.

The million dollar question – How to overcome self-doubt?

Self-doubt is often a direct result of the tendency to overcomplicate.

If you can dumb yourself down for set durations, say in practice sessions, exercise sessions, visualisation time, and even competitions, self-doubt will not make an appearance.

Img Courtesy : The Awkward Yeti

Dumbing down is an art. It does not mean that you shut down all your logical faculties.

Instead, you shut down your inquisitive side just long enough to allow you to focus on what you are doing at the moment, so that you do what is required of you in the practice sessions or competition, and not think about what more is required of you to accomplish more than what you are achieving at present.

After practice or competition, you switch on your inquisitive side and use it to analyse the ‘takeways’, ‘need to dos’ and ‘questions’ for yourself, and for the discussions with your Coach. This way, you are dissociating your inquisitive nature from self-doubt.

Now, inquisitiveness will be your ally rather than a detractor. 

When you master (Do I see you doubting yourself again at this decisive word that establishes you as an authority on a given subject? Then go over this section again and read this when you are a regular at switching on and off your dumb side.) dumbing down and can switch it on and off at will, you will see that your results have improved significantly. This will also get rid of the ‘impostor syndrome’ that stems from too much knowledge (and very little real work) and is an equal cause of self-doubt.


  1. Although this post is mainly for beginners, even seasoned shooters experience self-doubt at various points of time due to similar or other reasons. Recovering is easier for them because they have string of successes to validate their expertise in shooting.
  2. Not all self-doubt is bad. Sometimes, it is an outcome of the shooters ability to stay grounded while experiencing a fine streak of back to back successes. As long as the shooter has mastered dumbing down, it doesn’t hurt to remind oneself of the long way that remains to be travelled. It provides the zeal to achieve more.
  3. The ideal shooter will never fall directly into one of the two beginner types I have highlighted. Because a confident starter may fall into the trap of becoming over confident and complacent, while a self-doubting starter may develop an inferiority complex and become an underachiever.

    The ideal shooter has a healthy mix of confidence and self-doubt, and knows when to use both to his/her advantage.




5 thoughts on “All about shooting : Overcoming self-doubt

  1. That’s a well thought out (and well-written) post!
    This //”Self-doubters are often more intelligent and knowledgeable than the confident ones.”// reminded me of something. I have found people not good at driving blithely taking out their car and driving. There was one who did not master reversing yet didn’t think twice before driving off wherever she wanted. I KNEW I was a better driver, but was hesitant to do the same till I had all the answers to my questions or rather till I knew all the aspects I needed to know!

    1. Tell me about it, I waited to drive 12 years after I learned driving! I have always been slightly more confident in writing as compared to other things I take up. That makes me wonder…am I confident because of my ignorance? The last question was a doubt. So guess I’m okay 😛 Thanks for dropping in!

  2. Good one there…
    Valid points! Actually there is lot of psychology that goes into this, which am learning from my second one…how to analyse a situation or to find out why we are the way we are…
    Best wishes to you for all your shooting expeditions <3

    1. Aha…do share your learnings from her too. Psychology is a very useful tool if used in right measures and on the people who are fairly able to grasp concepts. Thank you. I can use all the luck that comes my way 😀

  3. A detailed analysis on ‘being grounded’
    Arguments for and against quite well-rounded
    As in all things
    Balance brings
    Simple common sense into being propounded!

Have your say amigos!