You’re out meeting new people, chatting and laughing. Everyone has been complimentary, commenting on how lovely you are, saying you must catch up again and asking for your number. You feel on top of the world.
And then you over hear someone say “I don’t know what people see in her. I just don’t rate her”.
Your balloon bursts. Your confidence plummets. And it’s all you can think about for the next 3 days.
The 3 hours of praise completely undone by a 3 second comment.
Why does this happen? Why can’t we override the one negative comment with all the good ones?
We have a very strong urge to maintain our social standing. We want to be liked by the people whose approval we value. For some people that’s everyone – especially if you’ve had highly critical parents (cos then you think that everyone is internally judging you if not doing it out loud).
Then, of course your naughty brain gets on board. Because a criticism is seen as a threat to social standing, the stress response is activated and your body releases cortisol. Cortisol and the accompanying hormones make memories more vivid and memorable. So we’re more likely to remember the criticism.
To top it off, criticising, especially by strangers isn’t expected or normal or usual. And guess what else your naughty brain does – it pays more attention to new things and novelty. So that one disapproving comment is going to stand out even more and have a higher priority for processing in the brain.
The trick is to pull your brain into line and force it to remember all the good things to. They’re not as sticky as the bad but with enough practice you can train that brain to keep the good things in mind too.