2018 Winter Olympic Series

Figure Skating, Performance Anxiety & Getting Back Up In Life

All of us have faced performance anxiety at one point or another when challenged with adversity and important tasks. However, no Olympian is more susceptible to performance anxiety (with their extensive detail and complex motions) than the figure skater. This article will examine how both, Olympian, and the rest of us, alike can reduce the impact of performance anxiety in response to our errors and sill perform our personal best. To show that we are capable of getting back up, learning the valuable lesson and then surpassing what we imagined.


Figures skaters spend thousands of hours in practice; polishing up their jumps, spins and combinations over and over again. They diligently practice their strength and conditioning programs to be in top form for the Olympics, however, this is only a small portion of an Olympian’s training. In practice 95% of training is physical and 5% is mental. On the ice in competition, 95% of the battle is mental and emotional, while only 5% is physical (Goldberg, 2018)


So, how can we navigate performance anxiety and falls in our own lives? Firstly, we must understand that other people, events, and outside circumstances are not under our control, but rather it is our way of thinking that causes us to feel certain ways. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus wisely stated, “People are disturbed not by things, but by the views they take of them”. Performance anxiety is based largely our belief that we must perform well for others in order to win their approval or we will feel inadequate. Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? Though there is no real reason to think we must perform well to gain approval or just be loved, we often do place pressure on ourselves, believing it is a preferable way to be.


The reality is that performing poorly does not make you an incompetent, inadequate person, but rather, a person who performed poorly at that point in time in that particular way and can perform better in the future. As difficult as it may be, resist the temptation to rate yourself, but only rate what you do. Strive to change the illogical demand that you must do well into a preference saying, “I would like to do well, but I do not have to and my worth as a person is not dependent on anything”. This thought pattern would lead us to only feel healthy concern and vigilance about performing well, instead of feeling nervous, anxious or panicked, usually leading to better results and more enjoyment in the process (Ellis, 1998). Let’s throw any validation mindset to the ice where it belongs.


Although figures skaters, like all of us, at times succumb to performance anxiety, these athletes are amazing examples of how to navigate with grace. Getting back up after a fall in midst of an important performance, shows us it is possible to leave the moment of error behind and move forward. Figure skaters train to focus on precision sequences they are performing while staying in the moment without looking back or forward to sequences ahead.


We are able to learn from these examples to instantly set the bar higher for ourselves when faced with our own life challenges. Instead of allowing past mistakes to determine the outcome of our actions we can draw on strength and grace like that of an Olympian to rise when we fall.

By Thomas Stuglik


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Ellis, A. (1998). How to Control Your Anxiety Before it Controls You.

Goldberg, A. (2018). Figure Skaters and Peak Performance . Retrieved from

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