Only big things trigger that feeling in women – while little things trigger it in men
I spend a lot of time sharing with women my research findings that every day, men have far more vulnerability and self-doubt than we realize. That their greatest question is “Do I measure up? Am I any good at what I do?” And thus that their greatest fear is feeling inadequate. Is feeling like a failure.
But here’s what hit me hard today: For me, like for most women, since my ability to do stuff well isn’t my greatest insecurity, it takes something really big to trigger that really bad feeling. Like a big presentation that doesn’t go well. But for a guy, the smallest things can trigger that really bad feeling. Like his wife asking, “Why on earth didn’t you send the kids to school in warmer clothes? It’s freezing outside!” Or after he cleans up the dishes, watching you put everything back in the dishwasher a different way so it is “done right.” Or a colleague telling him, “Honestly, your deal memo was a bit confusing.”
Cue the same big sinking, mortified, stirred-up sensation that I felt driving away from the conference. I realized: this is what inadequacy feels like regularly for a man! No wonder we think they are so “over sensitive” to criticism!
See, for me, if Jeff asks me “Why did you do XYZ with the kids?” Or re-does the dishes, I just shrug. I don’t really view it as criticism, and certainly don’t view it as saying that I failed! But that is because I (like most women) don’t have that particular insecurity always running under the surface. But that insecurity is always there for 75% of men!
My insecurity is different. Mine (as with 82% of women), is not “am I any good at what I do on the outside?” but “am I worthy of being loved for who I am on the inside?” So in my area of insecurity, fairly small things – like an argument with my husband, or him getting angry and shutting down – can trigger a big, unpleasant feeling inside me. (Which my husband, in turn, doesn’t realize, because he doesn’t have that particularly insecurity always running under the surface!)