If success or improvement ever stresses you out, you're not alone. Psychology Today reports that roughly half of us believe that our abilities are fixed — and this false belief can cause great anxiety when we improve or get smarter, undermining future performance.Photo by Jeremy Daccarett
People who believe they are born with only so much intelligence or creativity or other traits — called entity theorists — can freak out when they succeed and didn't expect to. In one study, students were given a test and told they were at the 61st percentile, then later given tips for solving the problems. On the next test, some of students were told that their performance was the same, while others were told they improved to the 91st percentile. Entity theorists were happy with the improvement, but they also reported more anxiety — which affected their performance on subsequent tests.
By contrast, incremental theorists, those who believe that their abilities can change with effort and experience, are less likely to have that anxiety.
It may seem obvious that the more confidence you have in your abilities, the better you perform, and vice versa. This study shows, though, that many of us may need to redefine our beliefs about change and challenge the assumption that we're just born with a certain set of skills or IQ. If you ever catch yourself thinking that you're just not good at something, reexamine that belief, because you could become good at it.
The Belief That's Sabotaging Your Life [Psychology Today]