A fixed mindset can have a lot of negative effects on your life when it comes to your career, relationships, education, and any goals you’ve set. But it can also affect your overall mental health.
In a recent post, I compared fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset holds you back because you think who and what you are can’t change.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that a fixed mindset can be particularly bad for your mental health in situations where you’re unhappy, dissatisfied with, or uncertain about your current life or job.
When you view life through a fixed mindset, you view your unhappiness or dissatisfaction as a result of the fact that you are not enough and never will be. You feel unworthy of any good thing in life — unworthy of love, success in your career, overall happiness in life (however you define it). You feel like you’re not simply experiencing problems in life, the problem is you.
And what’s worse, is you feel stuck. Like you’re doomed to always feel this way, like there is no escape. The result is hopelessness.
A fixed mindset can make you feel overwhelmed — now you’re dealing with these feelings of inadequacy, IN ADDITION to all the other stressful factors in life. As a result, adapting to what life throws at you can feel impossible. You’re not equipped to handle it all.
Simple tasks such as taking care of yourself become difficult, and you might shortchange yourself. Even though taking care of yourself is the MOST important thing you can do for yourself and your life.
The more you struggle to take care of yourself, the more your mental health suffers. And the vicious cycle continues.
So how can you break out of it? How do you train yourself to not have a fixed mindset, and as a result, take care of your mental health?
Here are 5 ways to overcome it.
The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, which means “to make steady, to strengthen.”
Affirmations help purify our thoughts and restructure the dynamic of our brains.
You might think it sounds silly that simply repeating words to yourself can change the way you feel or approach life. But try it first.
Below are some example affirmations that might help someone in our scenario (someone with a fixed mindset who is struggling through life).
I am deserving of my dreams.
I am deserving of people who love me and treat me right.
I am not trapped.
My current challenges are just opportunities.
I choose what my life will become.
To overcome a fixed mindset, focus on statements that prioritize improvement. Frame success as a result of effort and your willingness to learn, rather than a result of your fixed traits.
Ever notice how telling yourself you’re beautiful or smart does nothing for you if you don’t believe it to begin with? Focus your affirmations on proactive actions you can take that are within your control.
Maybe not everyone calls them affirmations, but the people with the strongest, most disciplined mindsets do just this. They train their minds (using repetition) to help create their realities.
When it comes to taking care of yourself, prioritize the little things and focus your habits around them
If life feels overwhelming, take a step back to re-establish what should be your 3 highest priorities.
Are you eating well?
Are you sleeping enough?
Are you taking care of yourself mentally and physically?
Unlike the fixed mindset, these are all effort based activities.
If the honest answer to those questions is no, you need to take a step back from everything else in life. Your mentality should be sorry, but I need to do this for myself.
It’s not selfish. How can you expect to be a good employee, a good boss, a good friend, a good sibling, a good spouse or partner, a good parent etc. if you yourself are not at your best? It bleeds into all other aspects of your life.
So take some things off your plate. Say no to things that can wait (it’s a longer list than you might realize), and make sure you’re eating foods that are good for you, listening to your body when you need more rest, and exercising, reading, taking a shower, listening to a podcast, whatever helps you feel better mentally and physically.
Remember that this does not mean you’ve failed. That you aren’t good enough.
It means you’re human and that we need to push back at times against the cultural norms that wear us down (read more on that here).
Once you re-prioritize the little things, you can start to add everything else back and form habits with the little things as your central focus.
Set boundaries in your career
Our careers can be a big source of negativity in our lives, especially as young adults who are still struggling to find what it is we want to do.
They take up 40-60 (sometimes more) hours of our lives per week. They can be a major trigger of our feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or even inadequacy (whether consciously or unconsciously).
Start with analyzing all aspects of your career. If you’re feeling off, you may or may not realize how big of a contributing factor your career might be.
Reflect on coworkers, your work environment, and your responsibilities. Be as honest as possible with yourself about what you like and don’t like. From the list of things you don’t like, are there conversations that can be had, boundaries that can be set to protect you and your mental health?
You might not be able to pinpoint what would make it better (other than doing a complete 180 and running away from your problems in hopes of greener grass somewhere else). But that’s okay. You don’t have to solution everything — if we were that good at diagnosing and solution-ing, we wouldn’t have problems that wear us down over time.
But I’ve found that we’re better at determining the cause of what makes us unhappy than we think. We’re just afraid of being honest with ourselves about it because we don’t know what the future looks like if we do.
So be honest with yourself, and over time, look for ways (both big and small) to establish boundaries for what you like and don’t like in your career.
Practice taking everything as a growing opportunity
When you notice that you’re having a negative, fixed mindset about something (learn more about how you can identify that here), slow down and make yourself list out a few things.
- What is the worst case scenario here?
- What is one thing that is within my power to change or improve?
- Think of a time you overcame a challenging scenario in which you were struggling or feeling very low. How did you do it? If you could do it then, why can’t you now?
A lot of times when we are stuck in our thoughts, it’s easier, safer, and satisfying even, to get down on ourselves, on our lives, on our careers, etc. and wallow in our misery.
What’s more impactful, however, is to gain some perspective on life outside of this period in time.
A lot of times, the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as you make it out to be. And chances are, you’ve already overcome a lot of challenges in the past. Use the knowledge of all that you have already overcome to help transition your mindset to one where everything in life becomes yet another opportunity to grow, rather than a make or break scenario.
Communicate what you’re struggling with. Tell someone you trust and have them help you navigate making positive changes
When all else fails, lean on your support system. Even if there is one and only one person in the entire world who you feel you can talk to about things, and who always helps you carry the burdens you are struggling with. Or if it’s multiple people you can talk to about specific things (one go-to person you trust at work, one friend or family member you trust for matters in your personal life).
Let someone else know.
Tell them you want to overcome the fixed mindset. Tell them you’re aware about the ways in which it’s holding you back and negatively affecting your mental health.
Trust that they can help provide you with an outside perspective.
Ask them to say affirmations to you if you are struggling to believe yourself.
Allow yourself to get out of your head for once, and verbalize everything.
Talking out loud helps us process what’s going on internally, and I’ve always found I feel so relieved when I finally do (even though I tend to be a closed book). If I’ve learned to be more trusting and more vulnerable, so can you. Chances are, what you’re going through is relatable to the person you choose to tell it to.
You don’t have to tell everyone. But if you can find just one person, I recommend trying it. We are meant to lean on our loved ones from time to time. It does not make us a burden. It makes us human.
Pay attention to the fixed mindset’s ability to creep into your life and negatively influence your perception of yourself and your abilities.
If it’s already impacted your mental health, take small steps to re-gain control of your narrative by means of affirmations, prioritizing taking care of yourself through small but important habits, and leaning on a loved one to help you re-train your fixed mindset into a growth one.