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.
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) http://www.butler-bowdon.com/psychocybernets.
“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”
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:
- 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?
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.