07 Sep Your Guide to Positive Thinking
By Jancee Dunn, Heath.com
Learn the art of self-kindness and feel happier—and more fulfilled—every day.
Recently at a party, I was introduced to a woman who looked vaguely familiar.
When I said “nice to meet you,” she coolly reminded me that we had already met—twice. I stuttered an apology and ran off to greet an imaginary friend I suddenly “spotted.”
You’re an idiot, I told myself. At home later that night, I beat myself up some more. “Who cares what she thinks, let it go,” said my husband. But I couldn’t stop chiding myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
When it comes to self-criticism, women are ruthless. For many of us, this self trash-talk seems to run in a continuous loop:
• Ugh, look at those humongous thighs. No skinny jeans for you!
• I’m the worst mother ever; how could I have snapped at my kids like that?
• I may never work again after I blew that meeting.
What is most worrying, says Brené Brown, Ph.D., a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of The Gifts Of Imperfection, “is that we talk to ourselves in ways we would never, ever consider talking to someone else.”
It’s hard to find a female who doesn’t do it. Consider this quote from someone you’ve probably seen on the big screen: “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?’ And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
Who uttered this little self-negating gem—some starlet on a low-budget horror film? Nope: It was Meryl Streep.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Brown thinks one reason is the idea that “if I cut myself down, it will somehow move me to engage in better behaviors.” But research shows just the opposite is true.
What our brain has to do with it
It’s at least some comfort that we’re biologically programmed to do this. Louann Brizendine, M.D., a neuropsychologist at the University of California, San Francisco and author of The Female Brain, says there is a part of our brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, which she dubs the “worrywart center.”
It’s wired to remember negative moments most keenly, which is your brain’s way of teaching you not to do something potentially harmful again. As it happens, it’s larger in women than in men.
Of course, guys are self-critical, too. “But I think men can ‘feel the fear and do it anyway,'” says Amy Johnson, Ph.D., a psychologist and life coach, “whereas women hear that critical voice and believe it.”
This practice is so pervasive among women that cutting ourselves down has actually become the way we bond. Last year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University found that 90 percent of the college-age women they studied engaged in “fat talk”—going on with friends about how “fat” they were, regardless of their actual size.
Valerie Young, Ed.D., author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, offers a few reasons why we’re such relentless perfectionists with ourselves. “On some level, we know that we’re being held to a higher standard in the workplace,” she says. “And most of us grew up thinking it’s our job to please everyone; so if someone isn’t happy, it must be something that you’ve done, or haven’t done.”
To read full article, visit CNN.