A great basketball coach once told me, "On average, men think about the mistakes they make on the court for ten seconds. Do you know how long a women thinks about her mistakes?
On average, women are more likely than men to ruminate. This drives underperformance. It takes your head out of the game, removes you from the present. It causes anxiety and regret, which kill confidence and creativity.
People who ruminate are also more likely to get depressed -- and, indeed, women are about three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. (Howeeeeever, there are some problems with this statistic. For example, doctors tend to attribute female sadness to internal and stable causes, while they attribute male sadness to external, temporary ones. Or the fact that men are socialized not to seek medical or psychological help. Or that women are more likely to talk about their feelings to their friends -- and are, therefore, more likely to be referred to therapy. But still.)
Researcher Patricia Bryans, while at the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University in England, found that men even have a harder time recalling failure than women. Their stories are "tidy" -- they blame external forces (e.g., It was too soon for this idea), and are brief and concise when describing a failure.
Women's stories are "messy." They blame themselves for what happened, get more emotional, and are five times more likely than men to say that they are "still living with their mistake." In Bryans' study, there were 64 occurrences of women feeling stupid, silly, foolish, embarrassed, mortified, devastated, gutted, terrible or losing sleep over it. There were only 20 usages of these words among male participants.
In other words, women agonized over their mistakes and blamed themselves. Men recovered and blamed others.
This mindset manifests itself in sucky ways. In a 2011 Institute of Leadership and Management study, half of female managers expressed self-doubt about their job performance and careers, versus a third of male managers. Linda Babock, author of Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, found that men negotiate their salaries four times more often than women -- and that, when they do negotiate, women ask for 30% less than men.
Fear of failure and lower levels of confidence may also mean that people think less of you. In a recent Atlantic article, authors Kitty Kay and Claire Shipman write,
Cameron Anderson, a psychologist who works in the business school at the University of California at Berkeley, has made a career of studying overconfidence. In 2009, he conducted some novel tests to compare the relative value of confidence and competence. He gave a group of 242 students a list of historical names and events, and asked them to tick off the ones they knew.
Among the names were some well-disguised fakes: a Queen Shaddock made an appearance, as did a Galileo Lovano, and an event dubbed Murphy’s Last Ride. The experiment was a way of measuring excessive confidence, Anderson reasoned. The fact that some students checked the fakes instead of simply leaving them blank suggested that they believed they knew more than they actually did. At the end of the semester, Anderson asked the students to rate one another in a survey designed to assess each individual’s prominence within the group. The students who had picked the most fakes had achieved the highest status.
Confidence, Anderson told us, matters just as much as competence.
In the following TED Talk, Dr. Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, encourages everyone to practice their victory stance for two minutes before interviews, meetings, competitions, etc. Do this by standing up straight, pushing your shoulders back, widening your stance and holding your head up high. Then raise your arms up in a "V" shape.
I could go on and on about the research on this. But I won't. If you want to know more, check out The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance --- What Women Should Know. I haven't read it myself, but I hear it is fabulous.
Instead, I will stick with Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen's sound advice: Mistakes happen. But all the greats have short memories.
Want to know more? Check out:
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Gif All Women Need to See ASAP
- Why Most People Suck at Saying No - And How You Can Start Improving Today
- These Specific Behaviors Will Make You More Charismatic - Starting Right Now
- This is the most powerful psychology hack ever invented - and most people have never heard of it.