Bugged by a Fixed Mindset about Science

Bugged by a Fixed Mindset about Science

By: Angela Cleveland
School Counselor at Hillsborough Township Public Schools (NJ)

Organization: Co-Founder, ReigningIt

Call to Action:
ReigningIt was co-founded by Angela Cleveland and Saqi Mehta. It is working to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurial women to delve into STEM. By profiling inspirational women in STEM, we offer a unique opportunity to see the many applications of technology in a real world setting. Our goal is to create a dialogue inclusive of every woman’s unique background, life experiences, and beliefs. ReigningIt is ultimately a call to action: What problems do you want to solve? How can we use technology to make our world a better place? How can we build a strong, empowered network of mentorship to reign our lives? Find out more! You can follow ReingingIt on Medium, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram!

Bugged by a Fixed Mindset about Science

This past summer I found these little guys on my parsley plants. I was curious to know more about them and did a little research to learn about their life cycle. These are parsley worms, and you can find them chomping away at your parsley plants, carrots, celery, and other similar plants. I noticed these guys were eating more of my parsley than I was, and I was faced with some decisions. Should I pick them off my plant and relocate them to my neighbor’s garden (just kiddin’!)? I could relocate them to nearby woods or let them devour my herb garden. When I learned that they would one day transform to beautiful black swallowtail butterflies, the opportunity to watch this spectacular miracle of nature felt like a gift.

I decided that I wanted to have a closer look at the transformation these parsley worms would undergo. I placed them in a large vase with several freshly cut parsley. I took photos or short video clips of them every day for about 10 days. I started to wonder if these guys would survive my care with me not being known for having a green thumb. I read that if they formed their cocoon, they could survive the winter and emerge in the springtime. But would they really form their cocoon this late in summer?

I spoke to few friends about it. While I received supportive responses, I also received curious responses. “I didn’t know you were into science.” or “I didn’t know you would be the kind of girl who plays with bugs.”

“I’m not!” I quickly replied. I’m not into science. I’m not a “science,” girl, whatever that meant.

I realized that, even as an adult, I was making the very mistake I caution children, especially girls, against making. I had a fixed mindset about who I am, what my interests were, and that mindset dictated my imagined limitations.

These were my fixed mindset beliefs:

  • I’m not good at science.
  • I’ll probably end up killing the parsley worms.
  • I don’t know anything about raising butterflies.

I reflected on this thought process and realized that the following growth mindset beliefs were what drove me to step out of my comfort zone:

  • I may not know a thing about parsley worms and butterflies yet, but I can certainly learn!
  • I watched a YouTube video someone made explaining how to care for the parsley worms, and I felt inspired to experience this miracle for myself.
  • It would be something different to learn about and to try raising butterflies.
  • I reframed the questions from curious friends and family members in my mind. These people care about me and weren’t saying I couldn’t do this – just that I hadn’t explored this interest yet.
  • What’s the worst that can happen?

I created a video montage of my parsley worms, taking photos or short videos every day until they formed their little cocoons. It happened very quickly, and I felt like a proud mama as I peered at the parsley worms through the glass vase.

If I had maintained a fixed mindset of what kind of woman I am, I would never have considered taking a closer look at the little green and black caterpillars enjoying my garden. I wondered about limitations I place upon myself, and I found one great way to challenge fixed beliefs. The power to challenge, to change, and to grow rests in one three-letter word: yet.

The next time you find yourself saying, “I’m not good at [insert skill/ability],” simply add the word “yet” to the end of your sentence. For example, “I’m not good at raising butterflies…yet!” That little word opens up a world of possibilities. It gives you room to grow as you think about what you need to do to gain that skills, knowledge, or experience.

This little parsley worm isn’t a butterfly…yet! What statement do you need to add the word “yet” to transform your beliefs and your life?

Evolution to ReigningIt

My ReigningIt co-Founder Saqi Mehta was a supportive sounding board, and she encouraged me to see that the fixed mindset belief I held was the very reason why our work with ReigningIt is absolutely critical to affect real change. I had to check my own bias around what it means to be a “science” person. We are committed to this cause and know there are a lot of things we need to work on and get to, but the main takeaway we’ve learned is not to get hung up on feeling like we have to be perfect. Being able to reflect on our experiences and beliefs in an authentic manner with a trusted friend has helped me to grow professionally and personally.