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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

So I finished the following book today

and I must say, it was very enlightening. It's called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. In it Dweck asserts that there are two basic mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talent are set at birth, that talent means you should be able to do something without effort, and thus putting effort into school or other activities shows you're actually not smart or talented. It's a very judging, black and white mentality. It's all about proving your'e perfect, the best, and so you don't take risk or try something hard, because you might fail. The growth mindset, on the other hand, rises to challenges, rebounds from disappointments, and fundamentally keeps trying (through honest effort) until something is learned or achieved.

The book is full of people who are examples of of each mindset, whether CEOs of companies, athletes, or students in school. Much of the book goes into the description of the mindsets, but there's also a part on how to change your mindset from fixed to growth, to become a learner rather than a non-learner, to expand the possibilities in your career, education, and relationships with others. It was recommended by my psychologist, who instantly picked up that I have a very fixed mindset. According to Dweck, these mindsets are often apparent in kindergartners. We shower children with praise for being smart or being talented, without praising them for hard work and effort, and as a result, they become fixed in their mindset, afraid that by failing they will lose that adulation and that they will, in essence be failures (rather than simply failing, two totally different things). This was the most important passage for me personally, the one that had the most meaning for me, from page 225:
They [Karen Horney and Carl Rogers] believed that when young children feel insecure about being accepted by their parents, they experience great anxiety. They feel lost and alone in a complicated world. Since they're only a few years old, they can't simply reject their parents and say, "I think I'll go it alone." They have to find a way to feel safe and to win their parents over. Both Horney and Rogers proposed that children do this by creating or imagining other "selves," ones that their parents might like better. These new selves are what they think the parents are looking for and what may win them the parents' acceptance.
Furthermore, the child then, having created this perfect self, both confuses their creation with their real self and also feels like if they can't live up to that perfect self, they are worthless. This so explains something about me. I was desperate for my parents' approval, and never felt I was good enough to win it, but tried to be the perfect 'good girl'. Over time, when I did not feel loved, I simply decided that I there was apparently something terribly wrong with me, and I didn't deserve it. Like those with fixed mindsets in Dweck's book, I coasted for a long time, being the smart kid who didn't really need to expend effort, and then I hit college, and things got a lot harder. With a growth mindset, I could have done so much more in school. Yes, I got a bachelor's, and even a master's degree. I failed to get the PhD I wanted because of several factors, including anxiety and other mental issues, but primarily because of mindset. I wish I'd read this book 30 years ago, that it had been around then. But it's not too late to cultivate a growth mindset--and burn the 'good girl' perfect creation in effigy and reclaim myself, the smart, great kid that many people would have loved to have had, but unfortunately was practically raised by wolves. Reading this book, and especially that section, was a 'wah-wah' moment, like Helen Keller and the water at the pump. It neatly put together the very things YKWIA has been trying to teach me about myself for years. That's why I'm glad I took that Amazon credit and got this on my Kindle--I should re-read the part of the book on builidng a growth mindset frequently. This way, it's almost always with me. :)

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