“I am who I am.”
Or if you’re Popeye: “I yam who I yam.”
This is the mantra of people who have a fixed mindset – the belief that we cannot change. I agree with this notion in one respect. I do think we’re capable of growth (growth mindset) to become better versions of our authentic selves but I’ve also realized I have a very limited vision of who I am. In other words, I can be described by this list of, say, 12 nouns and 18 adjectives. I can grow and be better versions of those nouns and adjectives. I’m not any of the remaining hundreds of nouns and adjectives. Thus I really have beliefs that span both the fixed and growth mindset.
That being said, I would also claim that even if I questioned my belief about those hundreds of self-descriptors that, I’m likely not some savant in those areas.
Or maybe I am.
I’ve known of people who have picked up hobbies in their mid- or late-life and have become accomplished and successful in a role that would not have ever fallen into their self-description. For example, I discovered my passion and talent for coaching and development somewhat recently. I had no clue, aside from the scores of times others told me I was good at it.
Yeah, no clue. And I still couldn’t imagine myself beyond those 12 self-described roles.
So maybe it’s not a question of whether I can grow at something, but rather a question of my ability to reconsider my self-conception: “I’m not artistic.” “I’m not crafty.” “I’m not athletic.” “I’m not good at….”
You might’ve read my blog about my Humiliating Art Escapade where I crashed into a self-limiting belief and subsequently decided to identify and challenge such beliefs, specifically in this case about my artistic ability. Fast forward to my gal-group going to Paintnite. Paintnite is this activity where you pay and show up (my favorite) and are led through a painting exercise. No pre-printed grids to guide your paintbrush. In theory, you could paint a rowboat or an alien, but you’re given instructions on how to paint the picture du jour. Unlike my last paint-by-numbers homework assignment where I grumbled and moaned for a couple of hours, much to my delight, I really enjoyed this activity possibly in large part due to the company of my dear, and extremely supportive, friend Anne. I’m actually thinking of signing up for a class.
So the moral of the story is, regardless of whether you think we can change or not, consider rethinking your own assumptions about yourself. You may enjoy who you discover!