How a growth mindset can increase confidence and reduce anxiety

Our mind is a powerful tool, It influences how we think feel and act. Our mindset can influence the life we lead and the opportunities and experiences available to us. Having a growth mindset can help us try new things, overcome fears and lead a rich and vibrant life, creating opportunities we never thought possible. On the other hand, a fixed mindset can limit our belief in ourselves restrict what we feel able to achieve and undermine our self-esteem.  


Our mind is like a computer that runs certain programs and is in control of the way we feel and behave. Having read 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck radically changed the way I think about the mind and the possibilities and opportunities the growth mindset can bring. Learning about having a growth mindset has certainly influenced me in my role as a counsellor and hypnotherapist. I have also seen how having a growth mindset can help people to try new things, learn from their mistakes, see how change is possible, get back up and try again.

As children we can sometimes pick up on messages that our abilities are fixed, dependant on our genes or inherited and this view can give no hope for personal growth or change. However, I believe that we are very much in control of our own destiny and have the power to create positive changes in our lives. Yes, there are many things that are fixed such as our height, eye colour, shoe size etc., but there are also many ways in which we have the power to change our circumstances learning and growing and achieving our goals.

So what the difference between a fixed and growth mindset?

Fixed mindset

A fixed mindset is where we believe that we have no power to change, that our intelligence/abilities/talents are fixed, they are determined by genetics, pre-determined and there is nothing we can do to change them.   

Growth mindset

A growth mindset is where we believe we have some control over changing our circumstances. A person with a growth mindset would believe that with time and effort, they can get better. That there are things we can do to support ourselves to improve and learn from our mistakes. For a person with a growth mindset they believe that making a mistake is all part of the learning process and with every mistake, they get closer to reaching their goals.  


Neuroscience supports the theory of having a growth mindset. When are learning something new, our brain makes new connections and neural pathways, the more we use these pathways, the stronger the connections become. For example, when I first learnt to drive I had to think really hard about where to put my feet, and how to operate the accelerator and brakes and I had to think about where to move my hand for the signal. But now it just comes naturally without even thinking and this is because I have practised so much I don’t even need to think about it now and can do it on autopilot.  

Neuroscience helps us understand how we can grow our brains to learn new things and stretch and shape the brain depending on what we put our energy into. Neuroscience supports the idea that it is possible to change the brain. It is therefore possible to make changes in our lives, this may be through reducing anxiety, stress or depression with the support of a therapist. Having a growth mindset can help in therapy as it gives you hope and belief that changing your circumstances is possible. Also, the knowledge that the brain is plastic and can be changed demonstrates how even the most difficult of circumstances can be changed with the right form of support.

How having a growth mindset can help in making positive changes in your life

  • Believing that change is possible and that the brain is plastic.
  • Building resilience in seeing mistakes as part of the learning process moves you closer to your goals.  Helping you deal with knockbacks and disappointments.
  • Using feedback as information on how you can improve rather than a criticism or taking it personally.
  • Knowing what are the things you have control over and what you can change in your life.
  • Knowing you can always improve and get better is something if you are willing to put in enough time and effort. You can get really good at something if you are willing to put in the time.
  • Being grateful for what you have and have been able to achieve.

It doesn’t serve us to have a fixed mindset, we are much less likely to achieve our goals or create the change we desire if we believe it's not possible. It’s always good to question our beliefs and whether they support what we are trying to achieve.

'Your Fantastic Elastic Brain'  by Joann Deak is also a lovely storybook for children which helps to explain the growth mindset. I believe that talking to children about having a growth mindset early helps to prepare them for life’s inevitable challenges and creates resilience in dealing with failures and setbacks.  

However, one thing to bear in mind with having a growth mindset we must also know when to stop, maintain self-care and when it may be time to let go of a goal. For example, if you are putting your time and energy into achieving a goal, but are feeling it is no longer what you want and no longer feels right for you it is also fine to change direction. Listening to yourself, your own wishes and feelings, being authentic to yourself and what you need and knowing when to stop is also important in maintaining your well-being.

What is possible

However difficult things are at the moment change is always possible. Adopting the values associated with having a growth mindset can help in reducing anxiety and building confidence and self-esteem as it allows you to see that change is possible and can be achieved especially with the right support in place.

Even when we have held a fixed mindset for a number of years, it is always possible to grow change and learn new things. The brain is plastic throughout our lives which means we always have the potential to learn and change with practice.

In therapy, this can be that we can learn different coping skills, we can develop and build on confidence and self-esteem and we can make positive changes in our lives making us more able to cope with stress and anxiety and building resilience. Sometimes it can take time, especially if we have had a lifetime of holding certain beliefs that have held us back it can take time to reprogramme them. However, with perseverance and the right support, change is always possible.  

Having the support of trusted family or friends or a therapist is important in supporting you through these changes. Also being kind, being self-compassionate and practising good self-care is essential in this process. Making changes can be difficult and anxiety-provoking in the short term, however, in the long term can be hugely beneficial in creating the life you desire.


  • Dweck.C (2017) Mindset, Random House Inc, New York
  • Deak. J (2017) Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, Sourcebooks Inc, Wisconsin USA

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB
Written by Sunflower Empowerment, Prof.DipPsyC, DipCST, CertHypCs, BA Hons Social Work
Birmingham, West Midlands, B43 5SB

My Name is Claire and I am a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist.

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