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Finding Room to Grow

By Will Eichler

In educational psychology, there are what’s called fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset is a belief that one’s intelligence is finite, that we can only ever be a certain level of “good” at something and can not improve. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that we are capable of improvement through hard work and practice. While having a growth mindset is clearly the better option, fostering such a mindset is not always the easiest thing, especially in my own experience. I grew up in gifted programs, with adults constantly telling me that I was “special,” or “brilliant.” It honestly kind of messed me up, and I am not the only one. Many of the former “gifted children” I know have found themselves in a unique and challenging place mentally. Many of us struggle with some form of anxiety. We crave perfection on the first try, we have to be able to gain a new skill without even trying. And when this impossible expectation is not met, we find ourselves in a state of intense anxiety. This means there are a great many things in my life I have begun and never finished. I would discard hobbies and skills as easily as I might discard candy wrappers. The one thing that I have always come back to was writing. It was the one skill I always felt confident in, and so it was the one thing I could turn to for work, comfort, or fun. However, over the past year, through the experience of going through personal upheavals, a few depressive episodes, and attending quite a bit of therapy, I have started to overcome my fixed mindset and embrace my ability to grow. I’ve started dedicating myself to things I once found frustrating in hopes that I may one day find in them the comfort and skill that I have in writing. It also means that I have been able to see and acknowledge the growth in my writing. I have gotten better, I am happy to admit. I’d like to think I was always at least pretty good, but I also know for a fact that many of the things I wrote four or five years ago are not nearly as good as what I am writing now, and that is because of constant feedback and practice. And I would not have not have gotten to this point without overcoming my own fixed mindset.

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