When I go shopping for new clothes, I engage in one of my regular dressing room customs. I fold over my arm as many items as I physically can carry around the store and/or the maximum number of items allowed per the store dressing room policy just so I don’t have to hobble out in a too tight dress to ask for a new size. I typically find fault with every item because they, ‘don’t look anything like they do on the mannequins on me in this horrible three way mirror!’ Although, I would say I’m a confident woman, I admit I’m also somewhat preoccupied with minor, and often imaginary, flaws in physical features. I’ve had the ‘I would like to get the pudgy part under my chin,’ talk with my husband many times and he insists I will ruin an already beautiful face in his opinion.
So plenty of us have the same self-doubts, whether regarding our physical appearance, our abilities at work, our success as a wife or mother etc. even though these doubts may be completely false, for some reason the bad stuff is easier to believe.
But a University of California neuropsychiatrist believes there is a part of a woman’s brain that causes this kind of self-critical thinking. “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, author of The Female Brain. “It’s judgmental. It says ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too old. The worrywart part of the brain is the anterior cingulate cortex.
In women, this part of the brain is actually larger and more influential, as is the brain circuitry for observing emotions in others. “The reason we think females have more emotional sensitivity,” says Brizendine, “is that we’ve been built to be immediately responsive to the needs of a nonverbal infant. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.”