In further pondering yesterday’s entry on what mental habits it takes to improve performance, it occurred to me that our self-concept can have a big impact.
Self-concept is a psychological term for the “idea of the self constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others” or so says Google.
“I’m not going to get to the ball.” This was the thought that I identified as being problematic in my goal to improve my tennis performance. This thought was constructed over time based on beliefs I have about myself and the responses I’ve gotten from others…my self-concept.
It made me wonder what beliefs had helped author the thought “I’m not going to get to the ball.” What version of me, what version of my self-concept, was that tied to?
- Was it the one that felt intimidated by my leaner more athletic classmates in middle school that helped foster a belief that I’m not designed for sports? It’s simply not my thing.
- Was it the one that had taken tennis lessons as a newlywed and did okay, but never quite progressed in my abilities that helped encourage the belief that I’m okay as a beginner, but mastery is not really possible.
- Was it the one that was a mother of a four-year old son that wanted to introduce tennis to her energetic boy, but found it hard to move on the court with all that extra weight she was carrying around that further solidified the belief that I’m going to be overweight all of my life?
- Was it the one that started playing tennis again after losing 60+ pounds, had more energy and greater movement and flexibility and could sense the beginnings of a belief that I really could have a strong and capable body to go with my strong and capable mind?
The truth was, it was a total mashup of all of those versions of me. It was also true that only the last one was a self-concept that energized and motivated me. The last one was the only one that truly served me well.
Sigh…So I find I’m back in familiar territory in realizing that part of the process for improving performance, on the court, as a parent, in the office, or just about anywhere in life means being willing to let go. Let go, not only of people, places and things, but also old and outdated concepts of myself.
What version of ourselves do we have to hug, say thank you for your service and ever so kindly and gently show the door in order to invite in a concept that serves the life we want to live now? It’s a challenging question, but one worth asking and answering on a regular basis.