What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe the process of rewiring an individual’s brain. People have always been able to unknowingly and indirectly tap into this type of brain conditioning, but the actual science wasn’t discovered until the 1970s.
The Science Behind Neuroplasticity
Neurons (nerve cells) connect and communicate with each other in the brain through axons. These connections formed between axons determine the way we learn and interact with the world at large since they help us process information. When neurons are injured, new axons can grow and pick up where the injured ones left off, making new connections throughout our lives and continually changing the way we think.
The fact that axons have the capability to grow and create new connections is why we can change the way we view and think about the world despite preconceptions; this is what we refer to as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is not only interesting, but it’s also an incredible tool. We often hear people discuss staying positive and many seem to obsess over this state of mind. Although this idea gets thrown around, many people don’t understand just how much weight it truly carries, its importance in realizing one’s goals, and how relevant it is in our everyday lives.
Maintaining a positive attitude during life events improves the way you handle other circumstances by creating an overall positive view of the world. This helps reduce stress and will allow you to better manage negative or fear-evoking situations.
Every new experience we encounter (ie. meeting new people, exposure to different philosophies, education, travel, etc.) helps us to continually create new connections and change our way of thinking. Rewiring our brain becomes an ongoing process as long as we break old habits and accept new ideas.
Our brains have a need to categorize everything, which means that our brains have created a pattern or a protocol for how to respond in certain situations. Since we have been taught social norms and try to conform to them, we have created restrictive ways of responding to stimuli as a learned response in a Pavlovian-dog-like manner.
Take the old adage, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.” If you really think about this statement, what can we learn from it?
Fear is just a word and an emotion. As humans, we are capable of tempering ourselves and controlling our emotions, control being the operative word. Fear does not control us; if we can control our emotions, we can certainly control what plagues us with fear. This type of insight is not only helpful, but it’s necessary.
Neuroplasticity comes in handy when we are faced with these situations, and helps us reset old patterns in our brain. As we change the way we react to fears we encounter in a productive and positive manner, we can rewrite our story to redefine who we are and how we respond. In other words, we have reorganized our brain so that previously scary or intimidating situations are no longer viewed as such.
This is great news since we can now confidently manage our current situation. We can set new goals and take action toward a better future by turning fear into a victim of our circumstances, rather than becoming victims of fear itself.
How to Reshape Societal Norms
Society has always imposed restrictions on both sexes, but women have especially been victimized by its expectations. From the beginning, they’re told everything they can’t do, along with everything they have to do too. It’s no wonder that they have written this script, committed it to memory, and have recited it for years to come:
“You should not be too assertive.”
“Make sure you speak softly.”
“Wear makeup to look pretty.”
“Learn how to cook so you can find a husband.”
“If you don’t have children, you’ll be lonely.”
Essentially, this internal dialogue that women accept is telling them to not be themselves and become what society expects of them.
Add the pressure of having children and the responsibility of being a mother on top of everything else, and something’s got to give. It makes sense that women have experienced fear for decades; one misstep and their entire character will be in question.
Thankfully, neuroplasticity can help women reassess and rewrite their internal script. Women can now apply what’s important to them instead of what’s important to society. We all have different needs, dreams, fears, and expectations of ourselves. By rewiring your brain, you can take control back, work through unnecessary fears, and take action toward a different outcome.
Challenges Faced by Women in Business
The business world seems to clearly outline what a woman can and can’t do. It highlights their flaws in the eyes of men and other women who conform to society’s implicit norms. Those who are perceptive know how to rework these “flaws” just enough to try and blend in; they fear being judged against the stereotypes that many women are reduced to if they try to behave like their male counterparts: authoritative, determined, and confident.
Becoming a female entrepreneur comes with an added level of uncertainty. Women have to work harder than men at being respected for their ideas. Pitching ideas to investors can be intimidating since most investors are men who may have difficulty seeing the vision of innovative female-geared products or services. In addition, many women fear not being good enough, ridiculed for their business ideas, dismissed, or underfunded. Essentially, they fear failure before even getting started.
Although these are valid concerns, more women these days are following their entrepreneurial instincts and putting themselves at the mercy of the unknown.
How Can Women Entrepreneurs Apply Neuroplasticity?
The best way to combat fear is by facing it head-on. We can think about difficult situations from a different perspective by focusing on a positive outcome. For instance, instead of worrying about your business idea not being liked by others, consider fully developing your idea first. Once you have a clear plan and vision, concentrate on executing it, but remember that every idea can be tweaked, improved, or changed.
This type of strategizing emphasizes all positive aspects. By not focusing on the negative, the plan will either work, or you will have trained your brain to see that even having to rework the plan can be a good idea for your business. This way of thinking is instrumental in reducing fear and can be your first step toward becoming an entrepreneur.
If you’re interested in overcoming your fears gradually, you can take a more conservative approach. Start challenging yourself by taking on fear-inducing activities from time to time. This will help your brain redefine your identity as someone who takes chances despite the outcomes. Every time you conquer something new, your brain will continue to reorganize itself until you’re perceived as a more confident version of yourself.
You will eventually seek and embrace challenging opportunities, once you understand that you always had the knowledge and skills to achieve your goals. Since the brain adapts to new experiences and self-perception, fear will no longer be an obstacle.
Here are some activities you can try to challenge yourself and eliminate fear. These should help you gain more confidence, improve communication and interpersonal skills, and meet others with similar interests who can help you develop as a person. Maybe you’ll find inspiration through others’ support to get you started on your business plan and execution.
- Engage in group activities where you’re expected to meet and talk to different people
- Learn something new (ie. language, computer skills)
- Join a book club where you’ll be expected to discuss different topics
- Attend women entrepreneur events
- Talk to others who have faced similar fears
- Teach others your favorite subject or tutor a child
- Join charitable causes
- Skydive, cliff jump, climb, zipline, or go scuba diving at some point in your life
The most important thing to remember is that wherever you are on the fear scale, your brain can be taught to change. This will provide you with much-needed security to embark on your new endeavors. Always remember, we all have faced fear at some point in time, but it’s when we don’t shy away from challenging opportunities that we have the most to gain. So get out there and embrace whatever causes you fear!