Can a Growth Mindset Work for Self Esteem

Over the past few years there has been a lot written about the “Growth Mindset”. The Growth Mindset is based on extensive research by Psychology Professor, Carol Dweck.  While whole books have been written about mindset, in a nutshell it concludes that natural intelligence and talent are not the only keys to success. A person who perceives herself as less intelligent but who puts effort and dedication into learning, can work hard to develop their intellect and expand their brainpower.  In the end, the person with greater innate intelligence and a Fixed Mindset may not enjoy the same level of success as her less innately intelligent counterpart with a Growth Mindset.

Basically, our ability to achieve is not fixed.  What we are capable of accomplishing is based on effort and expectations.  Schools, coaches and corporations apply the Growth Mindset philosophy to motivate and develop their students, athletes and employees.  As I was reading about all of this I thought, can’t the Growth Mindset theory apply to achieving confidence and self-esteem as well?  How can we foster a Growth Mindset in our girls in relation to their feelings about themselves and what they are capable of achieving?

IG.Mindset05.09.16Paying attention to your daughter’s interests is a critical step in fostering a growth mindset for her self-esteem.  For expample, if she loves soccer, encourage her interest in the game.  While praise and support are great, they are not the keys to stimulating a growth mindset.  Developing a mindset is more about valuing the process of learning and effort.  Show her that getting her to practice on time is a priority to you.   It does not matter if she is not the star of her team right now, the key is to let her know that her passion matters.  The focus should not be on her performance but more importantly on her excitement, effort and attitude.  Encouraging these behaviors will make her a better player and teammate.This in turn will make her feel great about herself.  Even if she eventually gives the game up, the sense that her desire and effort are valued will stay with her for the next challenge.  Her experience will leave her confident and prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Encourage her to reject social norms.  As much as we are trying to change it, we still live in a society that has a segregation between “boy activites “ and “girl activites”.  You need only to walk down the aisles of a toy store to see it first hand.  A fixed mindset girl says, “That’s for boys” a growth mind set girl says “That’s for me!”  There is such a fantastic movement right now to encourage girls to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities.  It’s long overdue, in my opinion!  What about encouraging her to try woodworking or baseball as well? Participating and achieving in activities outside the societal norm will show her that there really aren’t boundaries to what she can expect to do.

Sadly the flip side of this is true as well.  If we believe that low confidence is inevitable in our girls, they will learn to expect less of themselves.  If we tell them that tackling a certain challenge is “not worth it” they will hear that they are not worthy.  A girl with great capability can end up with very limited opportunity if she believes that her efforts and ideals are not important.  Low expectations, are a sure fire way to discourage confidence and lower self esteem.

I guess the best way I can put it is that we are coming up short if we just keep telling our girls that they can do anything, be anything.  To really develop that mindset we need to teach them to value the process of getting there. It is in appreciating the dedication and effort that the greatest reward will be realized.

Do you believe that the Growth Mindset philosophy can apply to self-esteem as well as academics or athletics?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Tell us what you think?

You can learn more about Growth Mindset here.

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