Welcome back and to part 2 of the Mind, Body, Spirit series on Self Worth. Part two picks up with the interesting fact that the female brain differs from the male brain; and, in ways that often contribute to women experiencing low self esteem more often than their male counterparts. Let's start with how the male and female brain differ and what that means.
1. The Negative Bias of the Female Brain
The critical differences between the male and female brain are small; however, they are likely the factors that contribute to the low self-esteem seen among young women. Harvard Medical School conducted a study that compared MRI scans of male and female brains. The study found that females have larger volume in the frontal and limbic cortices. The prefrontal cortex functions include focus, forethought, impulse control, organization, planning, judgement, empathy and insight. The limbic system sets the emotional tone (bonding, charged memories, libido). This may explain why females tend to be less impulsive than men and to a greater extent more affected by emotion. It’s also likely why females tend to be collaborative, intuitive, empathetic, exhibit better self-control, and tend to worry a little less. The traits of discernment and a healthy measure of worry are advantageous to women. These characteristics lend themselves important in the aspect of protection; for self, children and the family. There are drawbacks to these female traits that likely lead to a female’s mind being more active and/or more anxious; this is often the reason for automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Women’s automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) tend to be self-directed and this frequently plays an integral role that leads to low self-esteem.
Females tend to compare themselves to others in various ways; and, it is usually quite negative. Sadly, these thoughts lead not only to low self-esteem, but also to anxiety and depression. Also, research shows that starting in adolescence, females are two times more likely to be depressed than males and are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Interestingly, research demonstrates that men have 52% more serotonin production than women. Serotonin is the “happy” neurotransmitter that is responsible for social engagement, sleep regulation, mood stability, and appetite control. A common cause of depression and anxiety is found to be due to being low in serotonin. Being low in this neurotransmitter is also why people tend to get stuck on negative thoughts. Additionally, the anterior cingulate in the female brain tends to be more active, according to SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography) studies at Amen Clinics. The anterior cingulate gyrus is known as the “brain’s gear shifter” because it allows you to shift attention. The anterior cingulate functions include cognitive flexibility, seeing options, ability to go with the flow, and forgiving. However, when it is overactive, one can get “stuck” in negative thinking, worrying, and obsessing.
2. Social Media/Body Image
There is an abundance of research that shows a negative relationship between social media use and the self-esteem of young women. Sadly, a 2011 survey conducted by Glamour, revealed that 97% of young women admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment every day. When females made the decision to no longer follow the idealized beauty content on social media, 70% reported feeling better.
Trauma can lead to low self esteem. Some forms of trauma include generational trauma, life-threatening accidents/events, sexual/physical abuse, and neglect. Before a trauma occurs, most believe in their ability to exercise good judgment and stay safe. Unfortunately, after one experiences trauma, that trust may be destroyed; leaving a person feeling doubt, fear, helplessness, shame, and blame. Self-esteem often plummets. Females are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic event than men, according to The American Psychological Association. Also, females are more often to experience sexual trauma than males at a younger age; impacting their self-esteem in a negative manner. Emotional trauma (harassment, adverse childhood events, alcoholic parents, parental separation) also results in a self esteem that suffers.
The good news is that you can recover self-esteem, heal your brain and enjoy spiritual health and well-being. Stay tuned for part 3!
1. “Why Do Young Women Have Such Low Self-Esteem?” Amen Clinics Why Do Young Women Have Such Low SelfEsteem Comments, 26 Oct. 2022, https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/why-do-young-women-have-such-low-self-esteem/.
2. Amen, Daniel G., and Tana Amen. “Training of a Brain Warrior.” The Brain Warrior's Way: Ignite Your Energy and Focus, Attack Illness and Aging, Transform Pain into Purpose, Berkley, New York, 2017, p. 215.
3. Petey Silveira’s website is New Pathway to Healing and can be found at https://newpathwaytohealing.com/
4. Petey Silveira, LMFT https://newpathwaytohealing.com/about-petey/
5. Soul Learners Membership https://newpathwaytohealing.com/soul-learners-membership/