Below is an except from 30 DAYS TO CONFIDENT
My name is Christen Shefchunas, and I come from the swimming world.
I started swimming competitively when I was 12, and I fell in love with it immediately.
When it came time for college, I decided to walk on at the University of Tennessee. My times were not at the Division I level, but I believed that if I surrounded myself with elite athletes and worked my ass off in a great training program, I could be great, too.
I did work my ass off, and I walked out four years later as a four-time All-American. I was team captain in my junior and senior seasons, too.
I am proud of what I accomplished, but as impressive as it sounds, those All-American certificates came from relays. Any time I swam an individual event in a high-pressure competition, I choked.
I always found a way to show up for my teammates in the relays, but I never figured out how to show up for myself.
Walking in as an underdog, I didn’t have any pressure on me. But when I started to get good in my sophomore season, I started to feel the pressure. That pressure slowly took me down. I had no idea how to handle all the failures that were mounting up, and my fears and doubts controlled me. My senior season was my worst. I graduated and retired from the sport angry, frustrated, and just plain sad.
I had always wanted to be a coach, but I needed a break. It didn’t last long. Less than a year later, I started my coaching career.
I coached two years at the club level, and then I moved to the college ranks. I was an assistant coach at Michigan State for two years, and at Southern Methodist University for four more, before becoming the head coach at the University of Miami in 2006.
As I look back on my first few years as a head coach, the only way I can define them is tumultuous. I failed miserably.
When I was an assistant at SMU, our program was one of the best in the country. I had the honor of coaching Olympians, world champions, and NCAA champions. I absolutely loved my job, and the team was like my family.
The head coach and I had a great relationship because we were complete opposites. He loved writing workouts and working on technique. His mind thought swimming 24/7. I, on the other hand, loved my relationships with the women and helping them with their confidence, mental health, and life outside of sport.He took care of the swimming. I took care of the women. And it worked beautifully.
I walked out of SMU knowing I was really good at what I do. I was a confident coach.
When I became a head coach, though, I thought that I had to take care of the swimming and leave the relationship part to my assistant. That’s how it usually works. And I’m embarrassed to say that it took me four years to realize that wasn’t working in my program. I knew something wasn’t working, but I was blaming everyone but myself for the failures. I was miserable, my team didn’t like me, and I absolutely hated my job. I wanted to quit.
Thankfully, I didn’t. And thankfully, my ego finally broke, and I realized I couldn’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. So, the summer before my fifth season, I found some mentors and started working on myself.
One of the first questions that my mentors asked me was what was I really good at. I didn’t have an answer for them. I had been failing so miserably for four years that I couldn’t even remember what I was good at. So they asked me what had made me such a great assistant coach.
That was easy. I took care of the women and their confidence.
They challenged me to do that again. “But that’s not what head coaches do,” I said.
They told me that I could continue to do what I thought a head coach was supposed to do, or I could start using my gifts.
I’m so thankful I took their challenge.
In my fifth season, I hired an assistant coach who thought sport 24/7, and I started taking care of the women. I gave my athletes an hour a week where they could come into my office and talk. Some days it was a 10-minute check-in. Some days it was a mental breakdown with tears and lots of tissues. Either way, it was their safe space to come in, be their authentic selves, and speak truth. They knew they could bare their souls with no judgment. I didn’t call it “confidence coaching” back then, but that’s exactly what I was doing.
I now had healthy, confident women on my team, and it completely changed my program. We started having a lot of success, I loved the women on my team, and I really enjoyed my job again.
But I realized that my passion wasn’t swimming—it was the women and their confidence. So, in 2013, I left my coaching career with the intention of starting a business as a confidence coach and speaker.
But after 15 years of coaching, I ended up spending the next year just resting my soul.
I got pulled back into the swimming world for a year by working with a group called Team Elite. It was a group of national team swimmers and Olympians. I was back as an assistant swim coach, but most importantly, I was a confidence coach for the women as they prepared for the 2016 Olympic Trials and Olympic Games.
After leaving Team Elite, I started my business, Coach Christen, in 2016. When I started the business, I knew I wanted
to make women my priority because women so often are not the priority. It has been my honor to work with some of the best women athletes in the world as a confidence coach, and to speak about confidence to women athletes and women in business.
Everything I’ll be teaching you over the next 30 days comes from 20-plus years of women allowing me into the darkest parts of their souls. I feel so grateful that they trusted me enough to share their deepest insecurities, fears, traumas, hopes, and tears.
We will dive deep into how to build confidence, trust that confidence, and then use it to be successful. We will explore subjects like fear, comparing, perfectionism, unhealthy body image, and much more.
For the next 30 days, plan to reserve 15-20 minutes a day to work on your confidence. Each day in this book contains a short story or lesson and some additional thoughts and questions for you. I will plant the seed with the lesson, and your job is to water that seed by doing the work. As I tell my clients, I can share everything I know with you, but if you aren’t willing to do the work, nothing will change.
Let me warn you—the work isn’t always going to be easy. I challenge you to get vulnerable and be honest. I have left a journal page for writing after each lesson, but if you feel you’ll need more space or don’t want to write in this book, keep a separate journal throughout these 30 days.
I want you to look at your journal as “truth paper.” You are not allowed to lie, sugarcoat, or water down your truth. Only 100% truth can be written on it.
I know that getting honest can be scary, but I have learned that real confidence always revolves around truth. Faking it, lying, sugarcoating, or watering down the truth never leads to real confidence. I’ve also learned that you find real confidence when you have nothing left to hide. So, no hiding. Only truth.
Take note: Some days will hit a little deeper and you’ll want to spend a lot of time on them. Please make sure to take the time to do the work on all of the lessons, because you’ll want to keep the information in your back pocket for the future.
Let’s get to work!