Defence Mechanisms of The Fixed Mindset: Part 1

Good morning/afternoon! Today’s post is on the fixed mindset and some of the behaviours it triggers (defence mechanisms). These defence mechanisms often have negative consequences on a person. So today I aim to outline them, and guide you in identifying what triggers your fixed mindset. In the next post I’ll go into depth about strategies you can use to overcome them.

Introduction to Fixed Mindset

Before we go any further into this post, I am going to conduct a brief introduction to the fixed mindset. The idea of a fixed mindset comes from the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. According to Professor Dweck, the fixed mindset is a system of thinking that worships the idea of a “natural” (ie natural ability or God given traits) and to an extent displays an aversion towards the ideas of effort, and learning.

The fixed Mindset generally has a profound negative impact on someone’s ability and overall success. This is because in order to be successful people need to improve and grow, which is done through effort, and learning. Not natural ability.

Defence mechanisms come into this as people in the fixed mindset often feel they need to protect their natural ability. This is due to (as mentioned before) the fixed mindset persuading you into believing that you are born with a certain level of ability whether it be intelligence, athletic ability, artistic capacity etc. So when a person is in the Fixed mindset, they are in their own mind, determining their worth as a human being, based on their daily achievements and failures. Any criticism or setback is perceived as failure and takes away from their “ability”. As a consequence people feel as though they need to protect their “ability”. The way they do this is through the defence mechanisms that we’ll get into soon.

The final point I want to mention before I move on is that everyone has some fixed mindset, it just depends to what extent. For some people the fixed mindset dominates and it is present in every aspect of their life, for some people it may occur repeatedly in a certain circumstance, and for others it may only arise occasionally and spontaneously. The point is that it is natural for the fixed mindset and its consequences (aka defence mechanisms) to be there. We’re all human. So the best we can do is acknowledge that we are not perfect, acknowledge that the fixed mindset is there, and work on strategies to identify it, and overcome it when it arises.

The Different Defence Mechanisms

Effort

The first defence mechanism I’m going to point out is effort. Effort is a resource as mentioned before often detested by the fixed mindset. The reason that this is true is because in the fixed mindset as we spoke about before; people believe in ability. And if you have the ability why would you need effort?

However in the fixed mindset, effort is also used to protect your ability. In this mindset nothing is worse than saying “I gave it everything I had. I put in 100% effort and it still wasn’t good enough.” The reasoning for this being so hard to come to terms with is that for a lot of people it labels them. As ordinary, un-talented or a failure. The fixed mindset approach to solving this problem is to just not give effort. This way if “ability” wasn’t enough, then there is always the safeguard of saying “I could’ve been… if I had tried”.

To hopefully clarify this here’s a scenario:

You’re in PE and the teacher tells everyone that today’s activity is 100m sprints. You are to compete against your classmates and your time will be recorded. The activity is optional, however the taking part will help your participation grade. You are acutely aware of your lack of speed or running prowess. Instead of lining up with the rest of the class, you decide to tell your teacher you are going to sit this one out.

This scenario is displaying the fixed mindset in full bloom. It also happens to be a recount of one of my own experiences with the fixed mindset. At that time sitting out felt like a huge relief to me, I felt as though I had avoided humiliation, or worse… failure. In my mind it was better to not try (give effort) than try and fail. Although I didn’t realise it at the time this was a protection of my ego and of my fixed mindset. I was ensuring that I wouldn’t fail but simultaneously limiting my own learning and growth.

I think that it is also important to note that in this scenario my fixed mindset reaction wasn’t triggered by a need to feel or come across superior, but rather overwhelming self-doubt. Versions of this same story are around everywhere and it is important to remember that most fixed mindset reactions or defences are triggered by doubt, insecurity or a need for validation.

Blame

The second defence mechanism I am going to talk about is blame. As mentioned before, defence mechanisms are a way of upholding the idea of “ability” and protecting people’s self-esteem (especially when it is already low). As far as defence mechanisms go blame is one of the largest perpetrators.

Blame is something we come across a lot. In the workforce, in school, and in our own personal relationships. Blame happens a lot and everyone is guilty. But what triggers blame and why is it there? Blame is (as mentioned previously) a way of protecting someone’s image whether it be protecting the way they see themselves or the way they are seen by others. Here’s this theory in action:

“Is the scenario”

Is the message this person has sent to them self

(How it is interpreted)

“I didn’t pass the exam because I wasn’t taught the content properly” – it’s not my fault it’s the teachers (therefore I didn’t fail someone else failed to teach me)

“I wasn’t on time because …… held me up“ – it’s not my fault it’s …. for holding me up (therefore I’m not disorganised …. I was just a victim of circumstance)

“I only yelled at you because ….. frustrated me with their lack of productivity” – it’s not my fault I yelled at you ….. shouldn’t have been so inefficient (therefore I’m still a good person and ….. is just incompetent)

And the list goes on.

Most scenarios aren’t as extreme as those. I just selected those ones to help paint the picture. But a lot of the time it is as simple as “I didn’t go for that run I said I’d go on because it was windy.” It is scenarios such as this one and the ones above that show us defence mechanisms in action, and each one is based on the same idea; “I am still perfect it was just someone or something else’s fault”. And your fixed mindset says “Phew! Crisis averted my image is upheld.”

Lying

The third and final defence mechanism I am going to talk about is lying. Now this is the most internal of the 3 mechanisms I have discussed. This is because most of the time the lying is lying to yourself rather than lying to others.

As we’ve discovered previously these methods of protection are called upon usually to protect image, “ability” and self-esteem. When a person is in a situation that triggers the mind to produce a defensive response such as lying it is usually a result of one of those 3 things. Lying is no exception. Lying in this context is referring to manipulating the truth of a scenario to uphold either your image, “ability” or self-esteem.

Lying can be linked back to both effort and blame and it is the story we tell ourselves to justify our fixed mindset response.

For example:

“I didn’t stick to the diet because I had a family event to go to”

Let’s consider this; at first it looks like the truth, and it may even be the truth but lets have a look at the messages within it.

Message 1: Blame. When we first read this sentence it seems pretty normal. No lying here. But if you look a little deeper the message is “It isn’t my fault it is just an unavoidable circumstance.” Which can also be interpreted as “it is something else’s fault therefore my image is still intact.” Sound familiar?

Message 2: The second message here is lying to self. In the 2nd interpretation of this scenario I label this circumstance “unavoidable”. Is that true? When we say things such as: “I didn’t do ____ because…” we are subconsciously consoling ourselves. But what we need to take into account is the factual element of the situation. Yes, in this scenario the person may have been at a family event. But is that the reason they didn’t stick to the diet? They could have pre prepared a meal, or looked at the restaurant menu ahead of time. So was it really the event’s fault? Or was it a lack of effort, maybe they didn’t cultivate appropriate strategies, or maybe they didn’t have a precise enough plan to begin with. Whatever it is, it is much easier to manipulate the truth and tell yourself a story, then own your mistakes and face them head on.

The overall idea of lying is to convince someone of something, and in this context lying is about trying to convince yourself that you are the victim of someone or something else. A little bit like blame. But instead of blaming others you are creating a story in your head to explain to yourself why it is, that it is the fault of others.

What Triggers The Mechanisms?

First of all: what is a trigger?

In the context of this post a trigger is an emotion, scenario, person or thing that causes you to feel the need to protect your self-esteem. In the first scenario I mentioned (under effort) I talked about how self-doubt in sports was a real issue for me. Self-doubt was the trigger. When I was experiencing self-doubt I was more likely to pull away. To not give effort, to blame others or to lie to myself. Another trigger was settings where others could see me compete. Whether this was in my PE class or in a tournament. Having other people watch me triggered the defence mechanisms also.

Everyone has a trigger and most people will have multiple. The aim here is to identify yours so you can keep an eye out for it. What triggers your defensive mechanisms is different for everybody. But everyone has a trigger. Sometimes it’s an emotion, sometimes it’s a situation and sometimes it’s a person or thing. Whatever it is, it usually results in you trying to justify something to yourself either through a) effort b) blame c) lying.

Although defence mechanism triggers are varied here are a few common ones:

  • Insecurity
  • Need for validation
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear
  • Feeling inferior
  • High pressure situations
  • A situation where you go in with external expectation
  • Situations with large audiences
  • Disagreements
  • Senior people in organisations etc

These are just a couple common triggers. If any of these apply to you, right them down, and try to be aware of when these triggers arrive. So you can be on guard to catch yourself out whenever your defence mechanisms appear. If none of these apply to you that’s ok as well. Next I will show you how to become familiar with your own personal triggers.

Finding out what triggers your fixed mindset reactions requires an honest self-evaluation of a scenario in your own life, where your defence mechanisms were in full bloom.

ie. a meeting you once had, a track meet where you under performed etc

Think about this situation. Once you have your scenario feel free to write these questions down or answer them in your head.

1. How did you react? (What reaction did you use to defend your image?)

2. Where were you? (Place, what were you doing?)

3. What emotions did you feel? (Fear, embarrassment, doubt)

4. Why at this time? (Eg were you afraid because people were watching you?)

5. How do you feel? (Think about the present, right now looking back, how do you think you handled it?)

6. Why did you react that way? (Did you blame someone else because you were afraid of being judged? Did you not try for fear of failing?)

Now with this information in mind there is usually an overarching theme. You might have blamed someone else during an end of term exam because you were embarrassed and you felt like you had disappointed your family. Now reflecting you believe that you didn’t handle it the right way and could have asked for feedback or owned up to your errors, and in hindsight you realise you felt like you were being constantly judged by your family and just wanted to feel valued. Now that is a fake example, but from this example we can assume that the trigger is something to do with external validation and self confidence. That in this example the person obviously cares deeply about the approval or others and the main trigger is the fear of being judged. Or an environment where they will be judged (such as in an exam).

I hope that exercise was useful and that you found at least one trigger of your defence mechanisms. If so, try to use that knowledge to full advantage. When you are put in a situation where your trigger arises just note that, and wait for your defence mechanism and/or fixed mindset to show up. Now you are on guard and ready to front your fixed mindset reactions with a clear head, and make informed decisions.

Alright that’s it from me for today. I hope that this post was useful and informative! Originally I was going to have the strategies to overcome the fixed mindset reactions (aka defence mechanisms) in this post as well but the post ended up being lengthier than I anticipated. So instead, I will split this post in 2, and post a seperate part 2 article, dedicated to overcoming these reactions.

If you enjoyed this post please consider following this site for more content such as this. Interactions with the post would also be greatly appreciated. I hope you’re all well, and stay safe!

I am someone who purely researches and writes on topics such as this out of interest. I am not accredited. For more info on this topic please access the following links. 🙂

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The Science of Confidence

Good morning/ afternoon everyone, I hope you’re all staying safe during these difficult times. Today’s post is all about what goes on between our ears that changes the way we feel about ourselves and how we can manipulate that to our own advantage. In this post I will discuss different techniques for gaining confidence and why it is that they are effective. Without further a do.. lets get into it!

A. Bandura – Developing Confidence

The following information is from a psychology study performed by professor Albert Bandura, it discusses the 4 principles to achieving confidence.

1. Mastery Experiences

Mastery experiences simply refers to the idea of knowing your capacity through previous success in an endeavour. For example if an athlete trains for the 100m sprint and is attempting to complete it in under 12 seconds they will be more confident if they have completed the run in under 12 seconds before, and the more times they do it the more comfortable they’ll be with their chances of performing on race day.

Photo by @Braden Collum on Unsplash

2. Vicarious Learning

Vicarious learning is the process of learning through the experiences of others. Sort of like researching. Vicarious learning allows, a person to learn through the success of others, and make adjustments according to the journeys, hardships and trials of others in their respective journeys.

3. Modelling Behaviour

Modelling behaviour is quite similar to vicarious learning, however when talking about modelling behaviour we are referring to imitating actions of extremely successful people as oppose to anyone. We are also not looking at events that may have happened to a person but the habits, routine, study and work that got them to where they are. An example of this could be taking sections of a professional athletes routine, recovery process, and diet and adding them to your own personal routine, in the hope of improving your own performance.

Photo from @LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

4. Social Persuasion

Social persuasion is arguably the most important part of the confidence development process. It explores the idea that the environment we’re in, largely influences our own conscience. It talks about the human need of approval and acceptance from those around us. Examples of social persuasion include positive verbal reinforcement and a supportive/uplifting environment for people to work in.

How Can I Put This into Practice?

Although these techniques have been proven to be immensely successful, it does not come after only 1 day of practice. The changes in the brain necessary for the confidence to become natural take time to develop. This is due to a concept known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity, is simply referring to the way in which our brains are constantly developing and evolving. We can harness this evolution through repetitive behaviours, that eventually become habit.

By practicing this process for extended periods of time you are subconsciously re wiring entire sections of your brain! By doing so you will eventually be able to be confident in your chosen endeavour without even trying.

Added Notes:

Some ways to put this information into practice include

  • Positive self-talk
  • Visualisation (manifestation techniques)
  • Acknowledging minor success’s
  • Researching successful people in the field
  • Setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals
  • Adopting new lifestyle changes to accomodate the activity if necessary (eg improved diet, or more study hours)
  • KEEP TRYING
  • Surrounding yourself with positive and uplifting people
  • Self belief, and understanding you are 100% capable
  • Affirmations

It is really important to remember that this process will be different and take different amounts of time for each person.

Thats all from me today! I hope this post was helpful and that you are able to take something away from this read! If you did enjoy this post, please consider dropping a follow and/or like! As always stay safe and have an amazing day!

Success

Success. It is something that everybody strives for, and for some it is this ideal of success that makes them feel complete. But what is success? How do we know when we have it? And is our relentless and tireless effort to find it wasted?

Good morning/afternoon! Today’s post is about success, how we define it, what is wrong with the definition, why we believe it and how we should define it.

Photo from @marcnajera on unsplash

I am sure many of you are aware of how western culture defines success and just how wrong it can be. Success is something everybody wants. And many people have been manipulated into thinking of it in the wrong ways. When we measure success in problematic and misleading ways we are bound to encounter predicaments.

Current definition of success

The oxford dictionary defines success as : “The fact that you have achieved something that you want and have been trying to do or get; the fact of becoming rich or famous or of getting a high social position.”

This is a half a definition. Success is not a one size fits all thing. It is immeasurable as every single person is solely and uniquely themselves, therefore having unique and varying lives. Which consequently results in us having a loose term.

Another point worthy of raising in this article is that success is not money, fame or status. Too often do we allow ourselves to be convinced it is, but success is not wealth, nor is it fame, nor power.

What is wrong with this definition?

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Our definition of success comes from many years of stereotypes, falsehoods and ultimately lies that have been planted in our brains. We are constantly being spoon-fed information from all sorts of places and our brain adapts to this new information accordingly. Through use of media, this is how we allow ourselves to be manipulated; we do not distinguish the truth from the lies. We therefore allow ourselves to be persuaded into striving for an ideal that is eluded from our reach consistently.

When we continuously make strenuous and draining efforts to accomplish something that constantly moves further and further from our reach it takes a toll on our mental state of being.

Falling victim to this cycle of strenuous futile effort, is dangerous. There is much research to show that setting impossible targets drastically increases your risk of mental illness.

Ultimately this continuous strive for “success” is almost like perfectionism. Having to have what we consider to be the perfect life.

In a study conducted by social psychologist Thomas Curran, it was found that more now than ever the “drive of having a perfect body, mind and career” is being indoctrinated in people. Dr Curran say that this is “not only a result of parents are pushing their children harder but rather a larger shift in ideology in a societal level”. According to the same study, pushing people for greatness does not always create inspiration but on the contrary, has detrimental effects on ones mental wellbeing.

After some research I believe striving to please others and achieve an elusive form of “success“ is very much connected to the idea of perfectionism.

Achieving ultimate wealth, fame and power is something many people would deem as perfect a perfect life or “success”. It is also as I previously stated elusive. It is a cycle of which there is no end and no reward. It is not difficult to understand how mentally draining this would be.

Who is feeding us these ideas?

Photo from: @camilojimenez on unsplash

As mentioned before we are constantly being spoon-fed information. From where? Mainly the media. The media are not the only cause but they are a big one.

It is now becoming more and more well known how manipulative the media is. That everything we see is being sent to us. It is no secret that social media can be a very negative thing and it is for this reason exactly. Seeing people with so called “perfect lives” makes us feel like we are not enough. We then therefore strive to be like these people who we have deemed “enough”.

When we see these people with their perfect lives they seem so happy, so content and it really does seem perfect.

So as human beings we feel the need to be happy, content and perfect. This all contributes to your perception of the world around you.

Who is benefiting from these falsehoods?

Photo from: @mufidmajnun on unsplash

The answer is the rich, elitist, famous and powerful.

One thing that I don’t think people realise is that by setting these impossible goals we are consequently idolising those who have achieved them.

We idolise them by following, liking, reading, buying etc we endorse these people. Which subsequently gives them more money, more fame and more power. The people who benefit are benefiting because of our idolisation. We are the ones who give these people more power money and fame.

It is yet again another cycle. We keep giving them more, and so than the bar gets higher, and higher. The expectations rise. These people benefit whilst we work on achieving something that we are likely never to accomplish.

Redefining Success

So now that I have rambled on about all the things that are wrong with our definition of success you are probably asking “well what should I define success as?” And that is what I’m about to answer.

Now I personally don’t think there is a set definition of success and if there is I don’t know it. Success is something that will vary from person to person. However with all that said this is how I define success: achieving something of which you had desired to accomplish; the positive impact you leave on the world. Now obviously not everybody is going to have the same resources or experiences so my definition is not perfect either. But for me personally this is a good and relevant definition.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope that you were able to gain something from this post! If you enjoyed this post and wish to see more articles such as this one please consider dropping a follow. Have an amazing day!