Ladies, Ever hear this advice? You’re thinking too much, stop overthinking everything! Just think positive! Just relax and don’t think about it! Stop making it so much more complicated than it needs to be! Just be confident!

I think we can all say in unison, YES.

And when we get what sounds like such simple advice, we try to implement it. And we fail miserably.

One of the simplest and most brilliant descriptions of the difference between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain I’ve heard is this:

Men’s brains are broken into boxes. He has a job box, a money box, a school box, a wife and kids box, etc. And when a man is in that box, he’s not thinking about any of the other boxes. It’s simple. One thought at a time. AND they say that a man’s brain has a “nothing box.” Men can actually think about nothing. I can’t even fathom it. It’s beautiful simplicity.

Now, let me tell you about a woman’s brain. Get ready, because it’s not so simple!

We, as women, would absolutely love to be able to turn off our brains and think about nothing! But that’s impossible. Our brains are described as a ball of wire. And EVERYTHING…..I mean everything is connected. So, when we have a thought, it’s like dominoes falling, and that thought leads to the next thought and on and on it goes. That is why we have 1200 thoughts going on in our minds at all times. When we are at practice, we can focus in on practice, but in the back of our minds is 1199 more thoughts and they’re all connected. So, we are ALWAYS thinking about something. ALWAYS. We have no “nothing box”. Yet, we often get told, “don’t think about it.”

Last year, I worked with a high school senior that swam for a very successful club team, and she was having anxiety and fear behind the blocks. So, her coach had told her that instead of standing behind the blocks, she should go to the warm down pool, swim easy, stay relaxed and think about nothing. Then when the heat before her dives in, she can jump up and get behind the blocks. His thinking was, If she’s having fear behind the blocks, don’t get behind the blocks. And she can keep the fears from coming by not thinking about anything. Simple, right?

But of course she failed miserably, because we, as women can’t think about nothing. She had the same thoughts, fears and doubts in the warm down pool that she did behind the blocks. (Location won’t change that, FYI.)

But the major problem was that she didn’t wonder about the advice. She wondered, What is wrong with me that I can’t turn my brain off and just relax? She was doing something that women NATURALLY do, yet she wondered, what is wrong with me? (And if you read my last blog, we already live in a world that works really hard at making us think there is something wrong with us. We’re never pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, successful enough, etc.)

Ready for more complexity? This big ball of wire is energized by emotion. Yes, I know the men reading this are uncomfortable even hearing that word. Emotion: There’s a lot of power in that word to make most men run for the hills. But emotion is not a bad word. Emotion helps us as women go deeper with our thoughts and think in a way that a man wouldn’t even think to think. Emotion helps us experience events and life at a deeper level. Emotion is why our souls are so deep and mysterious. Emotion gets a bad wrap because a lot of men are scared of it. And they are scared of it, because they have no idea what to do with it. But we shouldn’t be ashamed of our emotions. It’s not a weakness, it’s a unique strength of ours, and part of who we are.

And because of our emotions, we can remember almost everything. When you take an event and connect it to an emotion, it gets ingrained into your memory and we can remember it forever. When men fight with their friends, they can punch each other in the face, and two hours later, they are drinking a beer together. Everything is fine. If we fight with our friends, emotion is attached and grudges are held forever. We remember how it made us feel, and that’s very hard to forget.  Men, you know this is true. When you argue with your wife or girlfriend, she can bring up certain events from a million years ago that you’ve completely forgotten about!

It’s pretty amazing that we can experience so deeply and remember so much! But we also remember our failures. We remember them well, and we remember the disappointment, deeply. We remember the pain and embarrassment attached to them. And the thought of going through that kind of pain again is agonizing. The thought of failing again brings a lot of fear.

And speaking of fear, let’s get even more complex. In this big, beautiful ball of wire, we have a fear wire. And that fear wire is connected to all our other wires. So, every thought, every emotion, every decision we make, the fear wire is somewhere in there. We rarely think about something without a “what if?” attached. And that’s not a bad thing. Again, we can think about things that men don’t even think about thinking because of that wire.

But that fear wire also has the power to keep us from moving out of our comfort zones. That fear wire has the power to keep us from taking risks, and moving into our greatest potential. That fear wire is very powerful, and we can’t jump into a “nothing box” and ignore it. (next blog)

Beautiful complexity, right? Unfortunately, no. This complexity is often called “crazy” or “psycho” or “basketcase”. When we think about things deeply, we get asked, Why do you have to overthink everything? (What is wrong with you?) When we show emotion, we get asked, Why do you always have to get so emotional? (What is wrong with you?) And when we experience great fear, we get asked, Why can’t you just be confident? (What is wrong with you?) And the biggest problem? We, as women, believe there is something wrong with us, and feel ashamed. And we have no chance of having REAL confidence.

So, male coaches, next time you want to give simple advice to your women, think about this blog. And though you will never fully understand the complexity, I will give you some tips on how to handle this beautifully complex mind soon. And ladies, I know you’ve tried and failed in the past with simple advice. We all have. We’ve all wondered, What is wrong with me? Why do I overthink? Why do I get so emotional? Why can’t I get rid of this fear? Well, I’ll tell you why. We are not simple, and we should NEVER be ashamed of our complexity. And the next time you get “simple” advice, Declare loud and proud, “I got wires!”