How a Negative Self Image Could be Screwing Up Your Chess Game

With the right set of beliefs you can experience SUCCESS in all areas of your life… If there is an area in your life that needs improvement. Pay attention to the beliefs you have in this area, and change those beliefs that do not serve you! – James Dean Armstrong

   Today I would like to talk to you about the idea of “Self Image”, and how this can play an important role in your chess improvement.

chess tactics self confidence

The Self Image is how you see yourself

The ‘self image’ is a mental picture of how a person sees themselves.
   One of pioneers in the field of self image was a plastic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz.
   There is a story in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life that illustrates the importance of self image really well.
   Dr. Maltz had a patient come in who wants to get a nose job.  Dr. Maltz performed the surgery, and afterwards the patient had a perfect nose.  When the patient looked at her new nose, she said “Oh, I am still ugly”.  
   From the website for 50 Self Help Classics (which I would highly recommend if you like this sort of thing)

“Distinguished as he was in the field, he (Maltz) was at a loss to explain why a minority of patients were no happier after operation than before, even if disfiguring scars or other malformations had been removed. He found himself drawn into the new self-image psychology, which held that we generally conform in action and thought to a deep image of ourselves. Without a change to this inner image, patients would still feel themselves to be ugly, however excellent the cosmetic work.”

   Psycho-Cybernetics introduced Maltz’s views where a person must have an accurate and positive view of his or her self before setting goals; otherwise he or she will get stuck in a continuing pattern of limiting beliefs.

    This key idea is: Behaviors will not change unless inner beliefs are changed.

   Maltz’s ideas focus on visualizing one’s goals and he believes that self-image is the cornerstone of all the changes that take place in a person. According to Maltz, if one’s self-image is unhealthy or faulty — all of his or her efforts will end in failure.
   So what does this have to do with chess?
   Well if you have a self image and inner beliefs of yourself such as:

  • “I’m a bad chess player”
  • “I always blunder”
  • “I’m a positional player, and not very good at tactics”
  • “I’m someone who can never get better”
  • “I always choke”
  • etc

   it is going to be more difficult for you to improve.
   If you have bad inner beliefs about chess, or your ability to improve, these can really hinder your improvement.
   Some of the best players I know have a self identity that includes beliefs such as:

Chess Tactics Confidence

  • I always do my best on every single move
  • I am a tactical chess player
  • I will never give up until I am checkmated
  • I am constantly learning, and improving my chess game

   Maltz’s book contains lots of “reframing” techniques that you can use to get rid of bad beliefs.
   For example if you may have a limiting belief that you can “never beat a higher rated player” you could blast away this negative belief by asking yourself questions such as

  • Does the higher rated player always win every single game?
  • Have I ever beaten a higher rated player?
  • Has a lower rated player ever beaten me?

  chess tactics confidence 2 Once you rewire your brain by asking these types of questions it can become obvious that this negative belief is a foolish one, and it will be replaced with a more empowering belief such as “I am capable of winning against higher rated opponents”.
   Changing negative beliefs is a very important topic, and I would recommend checking out his book if you are interested in it.  

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2 thoughts on “How a Negative Self Image Could be Screwing Up Your Chess Game

  1. Great newsletter, thank you! There appears to be a misconception that tactics training (as per your course) can only take you to a certain level (i.e. 2000 ELO). Please consider the possibility that increasing the difficulty of the problems could increase your rating to ANY level. I think you should include tactics training at different levels of difficulty so that people can improve non-stop. Imagine if the current method were applied to bodybuilding, you would be using only light weights, not changing the weight of the dumbbells as you progress until you will progress no more (because your muscles adapt to the weight) so your conclusion would be that “weights can only take you so far” (example amateur bodybuilder). Increasing the weight to be always challenging will solve the problem (ceteris paribus).

    • Hey thanks Gabriel!

      Glad you like the newsletter!

      Yes, totally agree with you! In my “101 Tactical Tips” eBook, I quote a Grandmaster who basically says that even a GM can overpower an IM (International Master) tactically. So for a person to go from IM to GM they still have to work on their tactics. I think the “2000 ELO rule” to me means that a person can get to 2000 by ONLY studying tactics, but once you get to 2000 then you have to start to study other things like Openings, Strategy, Endgames, etc, to get to the next level. Michael de la Maza basically used the “Tactics only” approach and got to 2000 ELO.

      I agree with you about increasing the difficulty of problems, just as you would increase the difficulty of weights to gain strength and muscles, and that is a good analogy.

      I am also a fan of doing the same problems, but doing them faster and faster each time. So you might take 100 problems, and the first time that you go through them it takes you an hour, but then you go through them a second time, and it takes you 40 minutes, then the third time 30 minutes, etc. This is similar to how runners train, where they might be doing the same course, but each time they are doing it a little faster.

      Thanks for your comments – great stuff!

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