This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
Most of us have been in situations when a meeting has gone badly. The moments that follow are difficult to be sure, but some of us make them way more difficult than they need to be.
Failures are a part of life, but as women, we tend to get stuck in these moments. Whereas men can often shrug a negative incident and move on, women tend to absorb criticism and get discouraged as a result. This reaction is a result of both nature and nurture.
Female brains function in disparate ways to men’s. fMRI scans have shown that women tend to activate their amygdalae more easily in response to negative events and have a larger anterior cingulate cortex, commonly known as the “worrywart center.” As a result, they tend to have stronger emotional memories of negative events and ruminate about them longer. Evolutionarily, it helped them stay away from danger and keep their progeny safe. In our day and age, it may be holding them back.
Likewise, upbringing and societal demands placed on women facilitate the tendency to beat down on themselves. Women have been held to a higher standard of excellence through the ages, making it habitual for them to see the world in black and white. In the 21st century, when they fulfill multiple roles, they need to call on their natural flexibility and adaptability instead to getting wedded to the unreasonable notion of perfection that is mostly unattainable. Even when attained, the bar gets shifted higher, leading to a hedonic pursuit that is never achieved.
Have biology and society conspired against women? On the contrary. By tapping into their heightened self-awareness, women can recognize these tendencies and use their unique strengths to restore their confidence when faced with a negative event such as a meeting gone badly.