Adopt a Growth Mindset to better cope with Impostor Syndrome

One of the practices that helps my clients to better cope with Impostor Syndrome in the workplace is learning to adopt a growth mindset. You might be familiar with this concept, given the many great resources written about growth mindset. However, even though growth mindset might seem like a very straightforward concept, sometimes there seems to be a misunderstanding of the idea’s core message.

In this article I am going to explain why adopting a Growth Mindset can be a useful practice in learning to cope with Impostor Syndrome and I will address some of the misunderstandings around the concept Growth Mindset. These shifts in perspective can help you in your process of developing a growth mindset and with that, increase your confidence in the workplace.


Defining the concept: Growth Mindset

A growth mindset, proposed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her book Mindset, encompasses the belief that one’s skills and qualities could be cultivated through effort and perseverance. Conversly, a “fixed mindset,” encompasses the belief that one’s abilities are carved in stone and predetermined at birth.

If you want to read more about the Growth Mindset, you can find her book here.*


Impostor syndrome and our mindset

The concept of a growth mindset is particularly interesting when we look at practices that can help us better cope with impostor syndrome, as the beliefs about our own traits shape how we approach challenges.

Let me explain: A lot of the self-doubt about our own abilities can be traced back to our thinking. More specifically, whether or not we think our abilities are subject to change determines how confident we feel about taking up (new) challenges and how we evaluate failures and making mistakes.

The more you believe your abilities are malleable, the more likely you are to allow yourself room and space for making mistakes and failures. Alternatively, if you believe your abilities are fixed, you are more likely to fall victim to the idea that any shortcoming is indicative of your inevitable inability to perform.


Misunderstanding one: seeing Growth and Fixed mindsets as two hard divisions

Often when we growth and fixed mindsets are addressed, they are perceived as two hard divisions. You either have a growth mindset or you don’t. This is not true. In an interview with Atlantic, Dweck explains that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. We are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.

The mindset about our abilities that we inhabit can vary for different skills and personality traits. Someone can have a fixed mindset about their intelligence and at the same time have a growth mindset about their athletic ability.

Moreover, according to Dweck you can  have a predominant growth mindset in one area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset about that same skill or trait. Examples of those triggers could be challenges when outside of your comfortzone or situations where you fall prey to comparing yourself with other people.

So, when you practice developing a growth mindset, spend some time identifiying what those fixed-mindset triggers are for you. 

Misunderstanding two: seeing growth mindset as an individual matter

Another misunderstanding about the growth mindset is that, when we commit to developing a growth mindset, the impact of our context and cultures on are mindsets are often overlooked. Most strategies are focused at the individual. However, in our every day life, we are are operating in systems that either contribute to or limit our ability to adopt a growth mindset. Examples of these contextual factors range from reward systems in the workplace to leadership styles.

Cultivating a growth mindset can only be successful when these contextual factors are taken into account as well. In the workplace this means fostering a culture and environment that promotes learning and risk-taking. For example by making sure that skills are presented as learnable, giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and create the psychological safety for employees to say ‘I don’t know’.

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      About me

      Hi, I’m Lian Angelino, certified Career & Leadership coach who is passionate about helping women move through their career and daily life with more ease and meaning.

      As a Career & Leadership coach, I combine my background in Work Psychology, (Mental)Health Sciences and Leadership development to help you get clear about what makes you tick and gain clarity around difficult career choices.

      In this online space, I share work centered around embracing our full humanity in everything we do and the choices that we make in our daily lives.

      Learn more about me here

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