Life is a series of dynamic events accompanied by countless emotions, guiding the path to the next stage 𑁋 whatever it may be for each and every one of us. Whenever there are challenges in our journey, many of us make it our goal to try not to make the same mistake again, or to tackle the problem from a different angle in order to overcome the issue. The next time around when we face a similar problem, the knowledge and the ability to adapt we gained from previous failures act as transferable skills that can help us remain grounded while expanding our horizons to attempt new things. But here is a question for all of us: are we reflective and conscious about our emotions as we are with our success story? Do we acknowledge certain mechanisms that work for you when you are trying to deconstruct large emotions into smaller pieces in order to be able to healthily acknowledge and absorb them? As we tackle this large question, we can incorporate the potential correlation between emotional regulation strategies and the sex (male and female) of the individual and see if it is suggestive of certain trends or stereotypes that exist in our society today. We also look into how it is reflected in the realm of personal and social finance.
Emotional regulation centers around the notion of being able to identify emotions, followed by critical deconstruction in order to respond to these impactful emotional experiences. A pioneer in the domain of toxic positivity and emotional agility, Susan David’s outlook on our current society regarding the management of one’s emotions or the danger of positivity overtaking emotional truth brilliantly sum up the power of emotional regulation. In a podcast with Renee Brown she mentions,
“Rigidity is when there is no space between stimuli and response … when we open our hearts with willingness to the full range of our human experience and our beauty, even if those emotions are uncomfortable … the space is created by showing up to our difficult feelings”1
This space she mentions signifies our values that are reflected in the emotions we feel in that moment. When there is no space, the response to our emotion emulates an action similar to a physiological reflex, where the action seems to be out of control. However, when space is created, it allows for grasping of the emotions. Both emotional regulation and agility revolve around the idea of managing big emotions and breaking them down in smaller pieces in order for us to act in ways that are in parallel with our own values. When making financial decisions, this space could be understanding and acknowledging your anger towards your partner, when without it, it might have led to impulsive money behaviour.
When discussing strategies for emotional regulation, the topic of sex differences tend to arise. A study by Wu, Y., et al. regarding the sex-specific neural circuits of emotional regulation in the centromedial amygdala reports that there are differences between men and women when looking at emotional representation.2 Similarly, Goubet. et al. demonstrated that women use more strategies for emotional regulation and more readily incorporated them than men.3 However, we cannot undermine the significance of separating scientific literature from toxic stereotypes around gender in the field of finance, as it would be a false equivalence.
Despite an increase in the number of females in the field of finance, current literature suggests that prejudice towards women regarding emotional management influence many people’s view towards this area of study. In other words, these harmful stereotypes surrounding women can cause negative emotions, loss of their identify, and decrease in retention at the workplace.4 Additionally, a study conducted of adolescents displayed that there might be a relationship between gender stereotypes and gender disparity in financial literacy.5 While a causal relationship is not be established, it is an indication that our preconceived notion can drive certain mentalities, leading to behaviour. Stereotypes such as “females are emotional spenders and are not good with money” can be easily disproved from the mere fact that human beings do not fit into one box. This toxic characterization can quietly yet lethally situate itself in people’s minds and affect their own beliefs and values.
We have now discussed the power of emotional regulation to align our behaviour without values along with toxic stereotypes that can arise from the misconception of possible differences. When it comes to emotions, we tend to shy away and look the other way, rather than facing our signal from our inner core. Some ways to manage our emotions include6
- Practice mindfulness 𑁋 a state of mind where you can access and understand your emotions.
- Accepting vulnerability 𑁋 this takes courage and effort to accept your emotions.
- Seek improvement, not perfection
While these do not come naturally overnight, its essence can lead to understanding your emotions better, and in turn solidifying your values and beliefs. Financial decisions, too, are a product of our emotions. Just like we have dollars, euro, and yen as our currency for money, our emotions are the currency for our values. Our relationship with money can be healthy and steady when we understand both types of currencies.
- Wu, Y., Li, H., Zhou, Y. et al. Sex-specific neural circuits of emotion regulation in the centromedial amygdala. Sci Rep 6, 23112 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep23112.
- K. E. Goubet, E. G. Chrysikou, Emotion regulation flexibility: Gender differences in context sensitivity and repertoire. Frontiers in Psychology. 10 (2019), doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00935.
- C. von Hippel, D. Sekaquaptewa, M. McFarlane, Stereotype Threat Among Women in Finance: Negative Effects on Identity, Workplace Well-Being, and Recruiting. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 39, 405–414 (2015).
- A. Driva, M. Lührmann, J. Winter, Gender differences and stereotypes in financial literacy: Off to an early start. Economics Letters. 146, 143–146 (2016).
- Sandford, K. (2021, January 12). 10 emotional REGULATION skills for a healthier mind. Retrieved March 09, 2021, from https://www.lifehack.org/844538/emotional-regulation
Author: Lilian Yoffee