Do you see yourself as a work in progress, as someone who will continue learning, growing, changing and developing throughout your life? Or do you view yourself as a finished product and believe that you’re as clever, talented and attractive as you’re ever likely to be?
How you answer this question could explain a lot about how you bounce back from broken relationships.
Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that we either have a ‘growth mindset’ or a ‘fixed mindset’. Someone with a growth mindset will see new experiences as opportunities to learn and change, while someone with a fixed mindset will see little point in learning new lessons. Things just are the way they are, is likely to be the motto they live by.
What does all this have to do with relationships? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Stanford’s Dr Lauren Howe divided a research group into those who identified as having a fixed mindset, and those more focused on growth. Though both groups were able and willing to reflect on past relationships, those with a growth mindset did so with a view to learning about themselves and wanting to improve for the benefit of future relationships. Those with a fixed mindset, however, were more likely to be overly self-critical, and ultimately find it harder to find peace and move on.
“It can be very healthy for people to reflect on what they have learned from past relationships and what they want to improve on in the future,” says Howe. “But a healthy behavior can become unhealthy when people take it too far and begin to question their own basic worth as a person - feeling like they are flawed or defective, and that this prompted the rejection.”
“When people see a breakup as revealing a flaw that they have, they feel more upset when reflecting on the rejection. Because they believe that the rejection is linked to a negative characteristic of the self, it makes them feel more ashamed and embarrassed, and they tend to be more bothered when thinking about the person who rejected them. In addition, they worry that this negative characteristic will surface in other relationships and damage their romantic prospects in the future.”
So the key then to moving on in a healthy and productive way is to develop a growth mindset. To find out where you currently sit on the growth/fixed mindset scale you can take this online test.