Positive affirmations seem to pop-up everywhere these days. People are looking to connect to something that makes them feel good. An affirmation is a declaration of your belief that something is true. In the therapy room, I often hear another kind of affirmation. Negative self-appraisals and experiences seem to be more accessible defaults. Words expressing feelings of “not being good enough” or “smart enough” are commonly spoken. As a therapist, I have the opportunity to listen to how individuals think about themselves and their potential. I observe how these evaluative affirmations foster a fear of failure that often creates a paralysis of effort and missed opportunities. Our behaviors begin to reflect a looming fear of being judged and imperfect. Words are energy. They have power. The words we speak and hear often lay the foundation of our self-concept. They create our mindset and influence how we see ourselves and experience of the world.
How do words shape our identity?
Psychologist and author, Carol Dweck speaks about the power of our belief system in her book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck’s research found that the basic beliefs we carry from our early years help form how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. She puts forth two kinds of mindsets: “fixed” and “growth”. A “fixed mindset” assumes our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static. Individuals with this mindset strive for success and the avoidance of failure. Whereas, a “growth mindset” thrives on challenges and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as stretching points to further existing abilities. A “growth mindset” has a different relationship to what may be seen as a challenge or potential for making mistakes.
How do you respond to the twists and turns in relationships and the workplace?
Developing flexibility of perspective when accessing ourselves and life experiences is an important factor in fulfilling our potential. As Dweck states: “Mindset is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn and- help-learn framework. Their commitment is to grow, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support”. Open your mind to what others and your environment have to offer. Repeat affirmations, words of gratitude and evidence of success. Breathe in the feelings of the words and allow them to become alive inside. Have patience with the process.