Confidence and fear

Confidence is fundamental in our lives. Without it, life would not exist for it is believing in a future. It also is something personal and we may ask if it is objective and how it is related to live. From a religious point of view, it is completely subjective, because the believing of somebody may not be understandable for somebody of another religious current, thus they both may trust (they are confident) in different “facts”.

If we speak about “being confident in life,” we gain some objectivity. For, thanks to a positive personal experience in our lives somebody can pretend with a good certainty that he will continue to succeeded in his job. Well, unpleasant events may occur, but there is a good reason to be confident. An outstanding person can say that the chances are good that this confidence will be fulfilled.

In some specific enterprise like sport, we can come close to objective confidence. An experienced juggler or a professional golfer knows exactly what he is able to do and their confidence is close to 100%.

Everything we do in our lives is a mixture of subjective and objective confidence. Subjective confidence often is based on imaginary ideas, desires and wants, objective confidence is more reality based, experience and probabilities are important factors. But none represents reality. Furthermore, reality itself is subjective because the definition of reality is not “what is” but “what we perceive”! Things we do not perceive are out of our reality but they nevertheless exist. From this point of view a ski teacher has not the same reality as an astronomer, we perceive things he cannot imagine and the other way round is true too.

Confidence, whatever the motivation is, occupies a special place regarding reality. No matter if it is objective or subjective, it makes us working straight ahead, without fear and constructively. We make fewer mistakes because we are not stressed and all that helps increasing our chance to succeed, independently of the circumstances.

Fear is the expression of uncertainty at which awaits bad results. At the low end of fear scale we feel only certain discomfort, then fear, anguish and panic at the high end. Fear often is considered as a protective mechanism for life. That is right in many cases but it also inhibits thinking (right) and misleads us to bad decisions. A little trepidation may give us the hint to pay attention that danger is a bit higher than normal. We should not abandon now, nor shall we go ignoring our emotion. It is time to figure out why this emotion occurs and analyse the situation seriously before taking a decision. If we are convinced that we will be able to handle the situation, even while it will evolve, then we continue. During an economical crisis of a grand scale we may have very little chance to act the way we can resolve the problem. Fear can rise and submerge all our thinking, disrupt behaving and lead to irrationality. We will behave like an animal having no way out.

The same thing can happen to a beginner on skis when he is on the top of a blue slope. He may imagine falling to the bottom of the valley. When he falls a first time and feels that there is no danger to finish far away in the valley, he will feel better, not yet good, but a first step is done. From theory he reached practice. Nevertheless irrational fear is still here, he will need time to get it right. There also may be some other irrational factors, the fear of hurting, being ridiculed or others. They are statistically insignificant, how often somebody hurts himself when he falls, and to be ridiculed is … a point of view.

Objective fear is something you can handle. Nobody goes on a hike in the mountains without good preparation to reduce the maximum level of risk, thus minimising fear. But if you feel your knees wobbling while thinking at the steep ridges, you may react irrational when you’re on the way. The fear is real, danger is often not so much. But imagine yourself in a dream, in a cage together with a wild lion and no chance to evade. That is the fear your student may feel!


Lost confidence

All Human beings are curious. If we weren’t we would be introvert and mistrustful since we are born. This curiosity is the key of our development in childhood. Our physical and mental experiences form our brain, which re-influences again our physical and mental development and perception. Everything is inter-connected; it is a (living) process, very elastic and quite open. Every perception is analysed, filtered, catalogued and put in relation to other facts in order to take decisions which influence again in a non linear and non-deterministic way for future issues. Growing up we, lose more and more the capability creating new synapses (nerve connections). Thus reciprocal influence slows down when we become adults, especially the physical adaption, but it never stops! When the “hardware” is installed definitely in adulthood the “software” can still be up-dated. An adult brain still has incredible adaptive capabilities.

Irrational behaviour develops when the process of structuration does not grow in a “life affirmative” way. Those behaviours lead to bad ends, diminish confidence and start a vicious circle. A child hearing his mother always saying, “ pay attention here – be careful – that is dangerous – etc.” cannot develop a sane confidence because their mother is THE attachment figure for the young child. She is the birth giving person in whom it can trust; it has mostly a blind confidence. Our mothers were the first fix point in our live, it is mandatory for surviving that a child can trust her. If everything in life is dangerous, how shall we construct a coherent scale of issues and dangers of this world? How can a growing human beings find its way through this jungle of “dangerous situations”? As adult we will often mix up real threats with irrational hazards. Intellectual reasoning won’t help, for human beings prefer mostly emotional solutions to reflected-ones. Fear then will be explained with well-founded arguments convincing nobody but the person it-self. Those argumentations are called “rationalisations”. As ski teachers we must know that there is no way to correct this misguided emotional and irrational behaviour with intellectual arguments, confidence must be reacquired emotionally by doing the right things and having success this way.


Elaborate confidence

Our first task is to gain confidence of our client, real personal contact … and with warmth. A friend told me, he had heard at the ski school office a woman choosing a ski teacher at the photography board. When she looked at my picture, she said: but not this one with the long hair, because I am afraid he would bring me to steep gullies, I will not be able to manage”. Well, this means, if I met her at the meting-point I would have had the task to convince her very quickly that I am the right person! This is not always easy but possible and you can learn it./

Our clients are in an alien environment (far away from “my home, my castle”), in front of a stranger. To keep a minimum of “privacy” people keep a certain distance. So do not go to close when you say hello. You certainly know the situation when somebody speaks to you face to face, very closely and you could not get even a few centimetres away because they cach immediately up with you. The distance you need to shake hands is generally close enough. For children we are giants, consider this too, especially if you are a man. They sometimes express the desire to ski with a woman and not with a man, but why? Women generally are less invasive and softer in their attitude, and children know that. But once a child is confident with the teacher, he even will embrace his new friend to say hello.

Get your sunglasses off your face when you welcome somebody. They protect your eyes not only against the sun but also avoid the visual contact, which is very important for communication. We are in student-master situation, but as humans we are equal. Both of us must have the possibility to communicate fully.

When we smile it should be sincere. The whole face, even our body should say the same thing: I’m happy you’re here! If one day you don’t feel the need to smile, don’t squeeze your facial muscles, for you can’t cheat people. Make a good job but do not play a wrong role. It will be a hard day but it will be a good-one if you behave honestly.

To give confidence means at first place that we are confident in ourselves. From a technical point of view that means to be quite a bit superior to our clients, furthermore, you have to be able to transmit your knowledge to your client. Time passing, you will acquire more and more experience and your confidence increases. “Difficult clients” will vanish from your vocabulary because you will be able to handle all situations and clients with ease. Yes, with ease, because there is nothing that can worry you. To achieve this, you must continue forming yourself, technically as well as on a pedagogic level. New ideas form a never-ending story from which you can profit.


Reduce fear

One of the basics in teaching is: from the easy to the more difficult. We have to bring our students in small, adapted steps to a better technique. If the intermediate steps are too big, which can happen, we have to move back and “start again” with well-chosen exercises. Otherwise the student gets frustrated and/or experiences fear.

To get over the fear, we have to lead the guest slowly within their limits, go a little bit further and bring them back safely into the “comfort zone”. They will learn to go beyond their limit and come back without injury. This experience of being in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation, then coming back to safety, is important. They feel that danger is not permanent but limited in time and they are the master of that time. Intellectually this is not possible, e.g. they do not really perceive the long flat part after the “terrible ridge”. The student must experience the good out-come of the situation, in general with the help of the teacher. This is more worth than a thousand good theories.

The student must concentrate on the essential things for executing the exercises. Thus he must concentrate on his snowplough turn and not on the parallel turn they want to learn further on. In order to reach the final goal, you must fix intermediate goals for them. One thing that happens often is that somebody concentrates too much on an obstacle they want to avoid. They get mesmerized, forget what to do and finish into the hole they wanted to avoid. To see where the slope goes and to know where the difficulties are, is good but not enough: you also must know the solutions. Once you now it, you must concentrate on the solution and not on the problem any more.

Many students look desperately on the tips of their skis. They want to be sure they do not cross them. It’s a good idea but a bad solution. The skier is absorbed by one thing with all their senses. They may not even be absorbed by controlling the skis, but by the fear to cross them, but anyway, the environment is excluded from their attention. They must lift their head, look around themselves and feel their skis. When they open themself to the surrounding world, tensions will diminish and they will increase their abilities to interact and react with the situation. They will learn to feel the legs, the skis and the snow; vision will be freed for more important tasks.

It is important that we always stay close to people who are afraid. We represent safety for them. Don’t hesitate to take their hands if it helps accompanying them through a difficult passage (Only a jealous partner would raise his voice). This means that sometimes you will ski backwards, below or above the person, depending on the situation. If you ski below and very close to your student, pay attention that he/she does not hang to your side. If he/she exaggerates it can finish in a mutual tumbling. Our goal is to give step by step more freedom and liberty to our client. If we can replace fear by joy, the battle will cease.

Remember the chased animal with no issue. He wants to flee, and so do we want to flee too. If we see no solution out of a bad situation, we will take bad decisions. With diving activities we have tragic lethal accidents every year because of these kind of events. The reason of panic has many sources, but when it arrives, a diver may seek to go up to the surface as fast as they can, even against their better knowing, and risks their live. Little gas bubbles appear in their blood and that ends at least with heavy health problems. We do not have this kind of problems, fortunately, but we can profit from this kind of behaviour! We permit people to flee when we get aware that they accumulate too much tension. When we are afraid, we stress, produce adrenaline and the muscles are under tension to be ready to “explode” whenever we need to escape. Take your skis off and go running with your student, disperse their overflow of energy in an act of power which does not create any harm, a snowball battle a relay race or whatever that moves them.

It happens that children find an excuse to avoid a tricky situation. They may say: “ I have to go to the loo”. I let them go even if I don’t believe them, for I never have the certainty. If they really had to go, and I do not let them go, they may “get wet”, and I will be in an uncomfortable situation. What shall I do with a kid having pissed in his pants, no parents close and no possibility to change clothes? They know that. Anyway, I let them have their little freedom, let them distress and we both have peace. We also can have a little rest at the edge of the slope or in a restaurant and speak of other things than skiing. In any case, if a student starts to speak more than usual, it is time to find a solution to counter the rising fear. One of my methods is that I start to speak to them, a huge flow of words and me skiing backwards. This way I have them under close control and they must concentrate on what I tell them. Very often they don’t have resources free for their fear and they follow me through the difficulty till to the “happy-end”.


You will find here below many videos about skiing.