I read something yesterday about how, apparently, there are two kinds of mindset which people can have. I fall firmly into the ‘fixed’ category (ironically, this is about the only time I wish I wasn’t fixed), which explains a lot. Fixed mindset people have an all or nothing approach to life; either they reach a goal or they don’t; they give up very easily if they don’t succeed at something the first time; they find it difficult to put effort into things because there’s no point if you can’t just do it. Welcome to my world.
Work at the moment is quite stressful precisely because I am this way (and, because I am, I think I’m doomed to stay that way forever so I’m unlikely to put effort into changing things; it’s just another vicious circle). I’m on a new project which I previously knew nothing about, learning skills from scratch, among others who have been working on the same things for years. I’ve said ‘I don’t know’ a lot of times this week, each of which has been excruciating, because what kind of idiot doesn’t just pick things up instantly?
As is often the case with my many idiosyncrasies now, I can trace this back to when I was younger; having praise heaped on me for being The Clever Child gave me the impression that the high opinion of those who mattered would always be effortless to attain; I looked with pity on those who struggled, although I tried unsuccessfully to hide this in front of my less clever friends, who often refused to tell me their test scores because they could tell my praise was sometimes less than genuine.
Eventually, I grew to envy these same friends because there was no pressure on them to constantly be the best; by then though, the rot had set in and although by my final year at university I was starting to convince myself that falling short of perfection just meant I needed to work a bit harder, I never quite reached a level where I could be proud because I knew I’d really tried my best. All this in spite of having been a member of the Girlguiding organisation, which requires a promise to do your best, since the age of five.
The other mindset, the one I’m supposed to have, is called a ‘growth’ mindset, the very sound of which fills me with something like scorn. It means focusing on the journey, not the destination (cheesy), trying again and again at things until you get them right (impossible?), and allowing progress to be some kind of vague incremental thing that isn’t measurable, rather than a box you can put a tick in. But I really love tickboxes. The thing is, a growth mindset is the only way to get out of depression, because any progress you make, as I’ve learnt the hard way, is vague and fluid and doesn’t fit into a box or onto a graph or get crossed off on a list. ‘Being off antidepressants before my wedding’, was the wrong kind of goal and I was never going to achieve it. From an objective, fluffy, scorn-inducing perspective though, I am making some progress.