Proving Yourself versus Improving Yourself
My acting career never got off the ground (quite literally!).
When I was 16, I starred in a high school musical performance of West Side Story (photo above from the 1961 film). In it, I played the character “Riff” - the singing, dancing, 1950s Upper West Side finger-snapping gang leader of The Jets. Unfortunately, dancing was (and is) not a particular strength.
In the opening night performance, I slipped up in the big dance scene and ended up falling on a girl’s face; knocked her out, gave her a concussion and sent her off to the hospital. If I had any doubt that my uncoordinated dancing abilities hardly rivalled that of an uncoordinated tree sloth or a newborn giraffe, this eliminated any fanciful thoughts to the contrary.
The scene was a disaster and it spelled the end of my acting career. It felt a bit like this:
Arrested Development (2003)
Actors on a stage?
Whether we are on a stage or in our home; at the office or in our classroom, we are all performing. We could be performing at a high level at work, pretending to be happy when life is difficult, or even intentionally presenting a false persona - to some extent we are all doing this. And why wouldn’t we? It’s not necessarily a bad thing to want to prove ourselves. We want to be seen as able. We seek satisfaction from doing better than others, and when something is difficult we can be prone to giving up too soon and moving on to something else. This is not always bad.
Proving versus Improving
There is immense pressure on schools and parents to raise kids who reach high-levels of academic performance, and this is toxic if you ask me. Not because academic performance is a bad thing in and of itself but because it is rarely, if EVER, balanced with the deeper truth that our kids matter and are loved regardless of their academic prowess.
This imbalance causes an enormous amount of stress, anxiety and burnout, and our kids grow up believing they only matter if/when/because they get good grades and go to university.
It all boils down to our own mindsets and our view of improving ourselves (learning mindset) versus proving ourselves (performance mindset).
Have a look at the rating scale below and find out which mindset you more closely align with. If you have different roles (teacher, parent, etc), do this for each of the positions you have.
(Click to open in a new window)
The purpose of this exercise is not to beat ourselves up if we err toward Proving/Performance Mindset, but to help make us aware that this likely affects how we treat others. As an educational consultant, I recognise that the more I live out, or am congruent with, what I profess the more likely I am to live a fulfilled life and help others do so as well. This is not always easy, but it's a journey we're all on.
How did you score on the scale above? I came out slightly below 25 (toward Improvement/Learning Mindset) but had results on both sides of the scale for my role in schools. I recognise this can look different in different responsibilities I have because I ask for an evaluation for the support service I lead.
What does this have to do with teaching kids?
Let's find out… next week!