How Our Self-improvement is Affected by Age and Gender.

How Our Self-improvement is Affected by Age and Gender.

@Ane Krstevska

Have you ever asked yourself why some people are so defensive when it comes to critical feedback, but others react completely the opposite?

If you have, we have the answer for you. We thoroughly researched the issue and collected data about people’s reaction to feedback. While doing so, we created some nicknames for the groups studied. “Proving” is the name for the group who become defensive about feedback, and “improving” is the group who are accepting of feedback. The first group always have something to prove, and the second group are willing to admit that they very much need improvement.

Our nicknames in this self-improvement arena are similar to the nicknames used by Professor Carol Dweck at Standford University for her discovery of  “fixed” and “growth” mindsets.

Her discovery was that people who have growing mindsets always tend to improve, learn, and make efforts. On the other hand, people with fixed mindsets believe that they can change and improve anything. Their beliefs are based on innate talents.

The growing mindsets are always seeking new challenges and love feedback, even criticism. The fixed ones always try to prove themselves in front of others and avoid getting any feedback. These kinds of people always choose to do things they are incredibly good at and never take any risks. They simply don’t like criticism and don’t believe in self-improvement.

What did our research show?

In our research, we examined 7000 people. Our questions were phrased so we could measure the “proving” versus the “improving.” For example, we asked people how they react when they are criticized and get negative feedback. We asked whether they got mad or took it personally.

We also asked whether they believe that such feedback is appropriate and right. Another question we asked every one of them was their opinion of how their co-workers see them. Do people around them consider them resistant or open to feedback and criticism? To be frank, the questions were tricky.

This self-assessment was specially designed to provoke self-improvement and personal development. In addition, it minimized the effort people make to look good to others. Such effort is a characteristic of the proving group. The end results were that 8% of the people had proving orientation, 83% had improving orientation, and 8% had divided orientation.

The result was not that surprising, because we selected people who were by nature interested in personal development. And we had them self-assign. Of course, most of us like to think we are the improving type, and we believe we respond positively to feedback.

These results later helped us identify the factors that influenced the mindsets of the people selected. Here are those factors.

1. The first factor is Age.

We have come to the conclusion that as people age, they change their proving mindset to an improving one. These changes occur only with time and age. Perhaps as we grow older, we are more self-aware. And the older we get, the more ready and open for self-improvement we are.  

2. The second factor is of course Confidence.

There is a complex relationship between confidence and improving. As people grow older and become more experienced, they get more confident. Men have rising confidence levels up to their 50s, and women start less confident than men but end up much more confident.

We also have come to understand that people who avoid feedback and don’t like criticism usually try to convince others that they are very confident. But in fact we find that these people are the ones who actually lack confidence. Of course, this is not absolute and depends on the individual. But our research clearly showed that 90% of the proving group lacked confidence or had none at all! And the ones who have an improving mindset have high confidence.

Some in the proving group feel that they don’t show their true selves, and they fear being discovered. They believe that doing something different will lead them to fail. They don’t believe in self-improvement and think that people remain as they are.

3. The third factor is Gender.

Our study showed that women are more likely to have proving mindsets than men. There are many reasons why this is the case. The first and most important reason is that women are less confident than men, and men are overconfident.

But we also found out that as women age, their mindset improves and they believe in and want to work on self-improvement. Elderly women even have more developing mindsets than men at their age. It’s a boomerang.

Self-improvement: How to shift into an improving mindset?

Mindset, no matter whether proving or improving, is a complex set of attitudes. Our advice for those of us who want to work on self-improvement is first to ask our co-workers for feedback. Start small and with time grow the desire to know what people think. Their feedback or any criticism will be of enormous benefit for us and our self-improvement. Such an attitude will even elevate us in the eyes of the others.

We all need to think about this, work on improving our mindset, and work on our self-improvement overall. If we don’t believe it’s that important, we should just reflect on the fact that every successful personal development has a great mindset as a foundation. So start looking for ways to improve. And do it now. One needs the right mindset to adapt and flourish in this ever-changing world.

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  1. Great tips on self improvement! This is such a critical step in any success business or even to improve your life. Personal development is great! Thanks for the tips and share!

  2. I am surprised to find that proving category had lower confidence. I felt they should be confident and daring to pose arguments.

    Self-improvement is so important I believe it can change the fate of a person in course of life-time.

  3. I’m surprised about the age finding. Would’ve expected that the older we get the more “set in our ways” we become and therefore unable to change and improve. But that’s good news!

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