Unlearning the Fixed Mindset

Disclaimer: I’m assuming you have watched the video in my last post. If you haven’t, this post may be a bit confusing.

So, after I watched that video the first time, I cried. I cried because it all made sense. That’s me. That is why I feel so weak and stupid and pathetic. Performance praise.

I recognized so deeply that as a child I was trained to see my actions as more important than myself and my results as equivalent to my ability. I am what I do, and if I do nothing, I am nothing. 

So, you see, I need to achieve in order to justify my existence. If I cannot succeed, I am worthless.

It seems innocuous to tell children that they are getting A’s because they are smart, but I know so many people who cried at their first A- (and B, and C, and D, and F). We saw our struggles as our limits and we fell into failure spirals as we tried to push past them.

So, I’m sitting there, holding my phone, calling out, “Now what? I need more!” This woman has taught me how to keep kids from following me to where I am, but is that it? Do I just write off the rest of your own life because I can’t prevent the adults around me from making me into a paralyzed adult?

And I stare at the screen. And it goes black to save power. And I cry.

Some time later, it occurs to me that the only thing I can do- the only path I can see- is to remake my childhood. To willfully enter that environment again. To find something in which I have no training or skill, something in which I am a novice, as I once was with the alphabet or long division, and start again.

I need to set myself up for failure and struggle, frustration and despair, but respond differently this time.

I must be both the child who needs to be told how to interpret her performance and the adult who comforts and emphasizes future potential and the long, winding road to come.

It was terrifying (is still intimidating), but that is why I am learning pottery now. That is why I go back every Friday and try again, and fail, and watch others fail, and succeed, and watch others succeed, and struggle, and fight, and endure.

Because I haven’t given up on myself. Because I am going to learn to value the process. Because I am going to learn to value myself.

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