Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #1: Intelligent Girls and Women Limit Themselves

Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit is the book I'm working on — and plan to have published. As part of the Introduction to the book and included in the book proposal, I explain my mission, beliefs, and supportive facts and research for the beliefs. Here's a bite. The other four beliefs will be showing up here as May moves along.

"My mission and the purpose of this book is to:

•  Motivate and encourage women to break the NST habit – now.
•  Tell and show readers specific techniques for eliminating negative thinking and feelings.
•  Guide and support readers in attaining and sustaining no-negative-self-talk practices.

If you’re wondering, “Who’s this person who thinks she knows what’s going on in my mind, what I should do about it, and what’s best for me?” I’m glad you asked. I’m a psychologist who, like many women over 60, no longer spends much inner time or energy dealing with negative self-talk. The realistic thinking that prevails produces a sense of relaxation and acceptance, comfort and confidence, energy and efficiency. I’m writing this book to teach, motivate, and invigorate women in their teens, twenties and thirties, forties and fifties to dump the ugly NST habit now instead of waiting until the wisdom of older age convinces you to finally let it go. Lynn Redgrave, the late actress, noted that she was in her sixties and coping with breast cancer before she chose to abandon what she labeled her ”inner critic and fearmonger.” Don’t wait. Use your time and smarts in pursuit of outcomes more profitable than lowering your self-esteem, increasing your stress, and decreasing your productivity – the harvest of negative self-talk.

I have a firm infrastructure of beliefs, grounded in science, related to what I write, advise, suggest and, yes, push at you in this book. Here they are. I’d like you to read them and understand.

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #1: Intelligent girls and women are more likely than intelligent boys and men to limit themselves because of their self-talk.

In a presentation to a 2009 conference, “Nurturing Gifted Girls into Gifted Women,” Lori Comallie-Caplan identified barriers to the achievement of a successful transition from gifted girl to gifted woman: fear of success syndrome, the Cinderella complex, the imposter phenomena, and the pre-adolescent self-esteem plunge. All are variations on the same theme. All are products of critical self-evaluation, manifested in negative self-talk, which leads to a scarcity of self-confidence, self-regard, and self-esteem. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who identified the imposter syndrome in 1978 noted, “Women who experienced the imposter phenomenon maintained a strong belief that they were not intelligent; in fact, they were convinced that they had fooled everyone.”

The imposter syndrome illustrates attribution theory: how individuals interpret events and how they relate their interpretation to their thinking and behavior. Women, in contrast to men, generally believe any success they experience is due to luck or other factors outside of their control. We hear it from each other all the time. “I never would have gotten anybody to read my proposal if my mentor hadn’t strong-armed her agent.” “There was nobody left in the division to promote but me. They’d all left because it’s such a lousy place to work.” Rarely do women say, in answer to a compliment, “Thank you. I think I’ve done a good job of parenting too.” And when that kind of response happens, the conversation ends because that’s not how women are accustomed to playing the game. It’s usually compliment, denial, increased reassurance, increased denial until one side or the other tires.

Although attribution theory research results have been mixed, a recent study of women in engineering concluded, “Women are more likely than men to attribute success in engineering to hard work or outside help and failure to their own lack of ability.” Wow! No wonder we have problems.

Bottom Line #1: Women’s negative self-talk restricts their potential achievements. Limited achievement causes further negative self-talk, which keeps women stuck."

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