This is part 2 of a 2 part post featuring the books, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, and The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Click here to read part 1.
I really thought I’d get in. I told all my closest friends I was applying. I’d worked hard to master mathematical equations I hadn’t thought about in 20 years so I could do well on the GRE. It just seemed like the stars were aligning: now was finally my time.
Except it wasn’t. And I had a choice to make: I could choose a fixed mindset see this as a failure of my intelligence … which would mean that I might never get into another PhD. program because I wasn’t smart enough. Or I could take a growth approach … which would mean believing that I could improve my application, maybe get a higher score on the quantitative GRE section next time around, work a little harder, and try again.
I know what approach I’d want my kids to take. But that was easier said than done.
And that’s why Dweck’s book pairs so well with Brown’s. Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher – which sounds really depressing, if you ask me, but also seems to lead to some incredible insights. (She gave a TED Talk last week. Here’s the link.) Brown has authored several books, but The Gifts of Imperfection is born out of what she calls her
Breakdown Spiritual Awakening. Essentially, she had to let go of perfection and allow herself to be vulnerable. That means, for example, feeling comfortable telling trustworthy friends when you’re excited about a new possibility (like a Ph.D. program) and trusting that they’ll love and welcome and see you as worthy even if the opportunity falls through.
Brown’s book is imminently quotable (expect more in the coming weeks), but let me share just a few ideas:
- “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive ones.”
- “Mindfulness is taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.”
- “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see how important these messages were to me in the days after getting that letter in the mail. But those lessons are important even if you haven’t just been forced to take a second look at what you thought the future held: our striving to be seen as one thing (and our crippling fear when we aren’t perceived as perfect) is an outcome of our fixed mindsets. And it’s holding us back from our potential.
Thanks to these two books, I’ve been reminded to cut myself some slack … while still believing I can change and grow. That’s a good lesson for this Ph.D. disappointment phase, but also for life. Writing this post is my coming out party as a growth mindset person who believes in being vulnerable and authentic, despite my imperfections.
Here’s a few questions to help connect these concepts to your relationship:
- Do I believe our relationship can change? Can grow? How am I investing in that growth? How can I use words that reflect a growth mindset when talking with my spouse?
- Have I been numbing my emotions (both positive and negative)? Do I let my partner see my authentic emotions, without suppression or exaggeration?
- Is the desire to be perceived as perfect giving people a false perception of who I am, or what my relationship is like? Could I be more authentic with those I trust? What would it mean to be authentic, with a growth mindset?
Do yourself a favor and check out these books. And, for fun, share your suggestions of great book (or other) pairings.