Michael has been experiencing a lot of self-doubts recently, before his marriage everyone in the small congregation he pastors believed that the woman that would marry him would be a fortunate lady because of his warmth and loving personality.
He was so confident that he had what it took to make any woman happy, but after six months of marriage, his wife Cynthia has been complaining he hasn’t been very caring towards her and that she feels as if she comes last in his order of priorities.
He is beginning to question his capacity to be a good husband and fears that if his wife is unable to accept him as he is; their marriage may head for the rocks.
Carol Dweck, in her book ‘Mindset; the new psychology of success’, talks about two kinds of mindsets and how these mindsets determine how successful or not a person would be.
She calls one as a fixed mindset and the other as the growth mindset. One intriguing discovery of Carol’s research is that many people operate with both mindsets just in different aspects of their lives.
A person can be growth-minded when it comes to work/career and have a fixed mindset in the way the person relates to his/her health.
THE FIXED MINDSET The fixed mindset is the belief that one’s potentials and talents are natural and innate; therefore, one should not need to work hard to achieve them.
If any behaviour, skill, or ability needs development, then that person is not gifted at it and should seek other areas of strength.
For example, we often say this child is intelligent, suggesting that they pass exams because of innate ability and not because they have worked hard or studied.
Another is that being a good parent or being a good spouse should be something that one knows or does not. We say that a man or woman is lucky to have married ‘the right’ partner failing to see the resources they have put into their marriage to make it work.
They do not believe that one needs to exert effort; one is either good or bad at something. Or one can or cannot; these people are generally not given to personal development.
If they are unsure about their abilities in a given area, they will not want to try and fail; failure for them is a judgment for who for their person and of what they are capable.
People with a fixed mindset are prone to a lot of self-doubts, low self-esteem, and in extreme cases, depression when people around them make a negative comment, complaint, or criticism about the aspect of their life where they believe that they cannot improve.
For Michael in our story, Cynthia’s complains (despite her positive intention of improving the quality of their marriage) was triggering a feeling of inadequacy and fear in her husband.
He views it as a personal attack or, at best, a declaration of how incompetent he is as a husband; his feeling of incompetence will only grow with increased complaints from his wife and could develop into resentment for her.
Since for him being a good husband is innate; working at self-improvement wouldn’t be an option.
These situations for a fixed minded person eats their self-esteem because they view it not as a complaint but as an attack on the capacity or capability as a person.
We will consider the growth mindset next week.