People have a tendency to make mistakes when they are nervous. You know, people like me.
I also know that I play much better when I'm relaxed, and sometimes when I'm simultaneously relaxed AND into my match, I go into a very focused state of destruction.
So, it finally occurred to me to ask myself, what is it that makes me nervous? I typically make smart decisions, but when I start getting antsy, I also begin to just go for blind attacks. And I often screw them up technically. Nothing goes right. What is it that makes me so nervous and tense, even in friendlies?
For some people, it's not wanting to lose. I know that I hate losing, but it happens a lot so I'm kind of used to it. I'm also pretty used to the crowd booing against me, but it gets to me the most when I feel like they shouldn't be.
Recently, I went into work thinking "today is going to suck." But it wasn't exactly a pessimistic "everything is going to go wrong today," kind of thought. It had a more matter-of-fact spin to it. I was kind of tired, I had to work a lunch rush in the most hectic position, and I was scheduled with several people I didn't like working with. It seemed very likely that my day would not be a good one. That was my logical assessment.
For some reason, that day I didn't get angry about anything. The normal stuff that bothered me I just kind of took in stride, thinking "yeah, that's pretty much what I expected." When my workload lightened slightly, I thought "hey, this isn't so bad," and became energized, and actually did my job BETTER than normal.
Most people have told me that I need to have more confidence when I play. I think... this is kind of true, and kind of not. I DO need to stop beating myself up about random things that go wrong. But what I really need to do when I play, if I want to play better and win more, is stop thinking about winning. I've found that the closer I get to winning, the more nervous I get. The more I expect myself to win, the more my mistakes bother me, which snowballs into causing more mistakes.
I'm not really that scared of losing, especially not if I think it's likely. I remember going into my matches against Mango at APEX thinking that I was 99.9% likely to lose; I'd just watched him play Vanity Angel and pull out some pretty ridiculous combos with Falcon, even while hungover, so I was pretty sure that the real Mango was hiding in there somewhere, ready to jump out and yell "ahh, rape."
I went into that match with ZERO confidence and what's weird is that, not only did I win, I did it with almost NO technical errors. I made a few, sure, and I made judgment mistakes and in the end I only one-stocked his Mario with infinites legal, but then he brought out his Falcon (which had murdered me last time we played) and I three stocked it. Again, he was hung-over, so that obviously had a lot to do with it. But at the same time, the things I was doing were coming out right. No flubbed wavedashes, no botched short-hops.
My match against Silent Wolf was remarkably similar. I was sure that he was going to slaughter me because I'm just not that great against people who play really fast. And I was so certain that I would lose that I wasn't really that nervous to play. And I wound up winning pretty soundly.
I guess in a weird, counterintuitive way, I'm more nervous about winning than I am about losing. The more I remove victory from my mind, the more I focus on the moment. And I've been finding lately that--at least while practicing--my skill goes up when I tell myself "you're going to make mistakes." I stop worrying about them, stop thinking "I have to get this right," because I've already accepted the error in advance. And I DO screw up still... but now it doesn't bother me. I just think, "oh right, I was just hitting L too early because my fast fall didn't come out," and the error suddenly goes away.
Will this work in real matches? Time will tell. It'd be pretty cool if it did, huh?
PS: a big thanks to Unintentionally for reminding me of something I actually wrote awhile ago, about accepting the possibility of your loss beforehand while you simultaneously play as hard as you can to win. It seems I have outsmarted myself, lol.