Carol Dweck is an author who was interviewed in my Psychotherapy Networker magazine. “It comes down to whether you focus on growing your abilities, as opposed to proving and validating them all the time. When you’re in what I call a fixed mindset, your goal in life is to prove you’re a smart, competent, worthwhile person and avoid doing things that could undermine that image of yourself. In the growth mindset, you believe these abilities and talents can always be developed, so you’re not on the spot every second to prove yourself, and you can focus on developing those abilities through taking on challenges and seeing them through.”
I found this to be a very interesting concept to me personally. Mostly, because I’m a big contradiction with this whole topic. On the one hand, I completely buy into the idea that I don’t have to be perfect. I take risks all the time and can give you a long list of ways that I am comfortable being less than amazing.
For one thing, I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself. I can admit when I have a brain freeze most of the time, and often laugh my fanny off along with anyone around me at some of the “duh” moves I make on a regular basis. The other day I was driving with a friend and repeated a comment and then almost peed my pants laughing at how ridiculous of a statement it was. I told him he was lucky because he could be in the position of having a friend who was dumb and not realize it. That’s the worst. At least he was able to say he had a friend who understood how dumb I could be at times, and there was a lot of strength in that. Without blinking, he said, “Yeah, I guess I have that going for me.” Then we laughed our butts off. He is a lucky guy!
When I go to Karaoke, I have my standard list of songs that I know I can nail pretty well. But on a regular basis, I pick stuff I’ve never done before. More than once I have had to stop in the middle and tell the DJ to never mind. One time I sang “The Loveboat” and the whole bar sang with me and loved it. Another time I sang “Gilligan’s Island” and it was a disaster. Do you realize that every single verse goes up a key? By the end of the song I was screeching horribly to even attempt to hit the notes. But I don’t care. I have fun and I get a good laugh out of it.
Going on stage a couple of weeks ago was a big risk. One of the nights I forgot the words, but covered it and no one even noticed. The other nights, I got the words and notes correct. But when I looked at the DVD later, I was aghast at how the dress I chose that night looked. I looked way heavier than I needed to. I was mortified, but I decided to let it motivate me even more for my new pre-diabetic life. (By the way, I start that tomorrow. I decided to give myself until after Thanksgiving. No way I’m giving up mashed potatoes and dressing and rolls and pie.)
I tell my kids, my clients, and whoever else I need to that I am sorry when I screw up. I even try to tell people on the road when I cut someone off accidentally. I’m not perfect and don’t expect anyone else to be. Life really is about developing and growing.
Another, very fragile part of me is always trying to prove my competence. I’ve had plenty of messages and voices throughout my life that have criticized me. And because of my nature, I take it so personally to heart. The voices come from everywhere, but proportionally speaking, I would have to admit that the majority of them are male. I am especially vulnerable to male criticism. I imagine that at least of some of it is because I have felt like I have to prove myself simply because I am female. Most women will tell you they can identify at least once in their life.
Sometimes I have to prove myself because I don’t have a doctorate.
Sometimes I have to prove myself because I’m not thin and beautiful.
Sometimes I have to prove myself because I am single.
And then I really get mad at myself, because deep down, I truly do know that I don’t ever have to prove myself. Not to anybody. Ever.
While the one part of me is confident and growing, that part that can get up in front of countless numbers of people to sing, to speak, to lecture, to share my most intimate life and inspire others… the other part of me still needs that pat on the back. I still would do anything to hear my dad or son actually say he is proud of me (for ANYthing!) without me having to guess it or read between the lines. Even my friend who jokes around with me and loves me to death, I’d still like him to actually say he thinks I’m smart once in a while. You know, all joking aside, here is a direct compliment. I think I would faint.
Yep, it’s part of admitting I’m a work in progress. I admit I want the kudos and the admiration and the praise. I still need it. Want it. But I’m also learning to give it to myself while I’m waiting.
Not your normal Thanksgiving theme, but I do appreciate all you readers and am thankful for all I have. May sound cliché, but it’s true. 🙂