Are You A Stubborn Ass Like Me? We Can Thank Our Amygdala For That.

stubborn ass header

It’s not something I’m {always} proud of, but I can be a h u g e stubborn ass.

I’m a stubborn ass because I am a perfectionist.

stubborn definition

I am a perfectionist because I hate being wrong.

Being wrong doesn’t produce good feelings and because of that I fight so hard to be right.  Why does being wrong have to feel bad?

I am not alone on this, so why is this tendency so prominent?

Well, we are socialized that way and because no matter what, winning feels gooooooood.

When we win an argument,  our brain floods with different hormones.  In particular the “feel good” ones like adrenaline and dopamine [4].   They also come pre-packaged with feelings of dominance and invincibility.

This creates the desire to repeat this feeling.   So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again because we become addicted to being right.

We are overcome with a sensation to fight for our point of view but in the process tend to negate how we may make others feel in our conquest for victory.

“If one person is getting high off his or her dominance, others are being drummed into submission, experiencing the fight, flight, freeze or appease response I described before, which diminishes their collaborative impulses.” [4]

Even with this awareness, we insist on winning, we insist on being right.

Kathryn Schulz, journalist and writer, is the author of the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.  In it, she explores why we are obsessed with being right and why we despise being wrong.  During her TedTalk she broke it down in a very concise and captivating manner.

If you have the time to watch it I recommend it highly:


In the video she goes over how we do everything we can to not be wrong. Touche.

Take a moment and think about something you believe in… Can you point out one of those which you may be wrong about?

Probably not.

That’s because we live in a cloud where we can’t possibly believe something that is wrong because that would make us wrong.

That is unacceptable.

Even though we are aware that we, as humans, are fallible beings and make mistakes being wrong about something we believe in: “when we think of our own beliefs, that abstract appreciation of fallibility goes out the window.”

Why are we so set on the feeling of being right?

Schulz proposes two arguments:

stubborn one

The feeling of being wrong SUCKS

That dreaded feeling of embarrassment when we’re wrong is our perception once we realize we’re wrong. In actuality being wrong in itself, doesn’t feel like anything.

UNTIL the error reaches our full conscious awareness, we still feel like we’re on solid ground – that we haven’t done anything wrong.  Once awareness strikes, it feels like shit.  Most of the time we don’t have internal cues telling us we’re wrong/right – most are social.

stubborn two

Cultural influences

At a very young age we’re socialized into believing that people who get stuff wrong are “lazyirresponsible, and dimwits.”  As a result of that embedded perception, we then learn that the way to succeed in life is to never make mistakes.

Enter the world of perfectionism.

The solution is to overachieve and get nothing wrong.

This then creates a vicious cycle where we freak out at the thought of being wrong because getting something wrong means there is something wrong with us.

As the author indicated: Being right makes us feel smart, responsible, virtuous and safe.

There are huge practical and social problems that stem from this incessant need to be right all the time because overconfidence on our abilities to be correct all the time can be dangerous.

Us being right is an indication that our beliefs perfectly reflect reality.

Far from it.

What this does is now present a problem of:

Defending and explaining your position to someone who disagrees.

This leads to what the author deems a series of “unfortunate assumptions”:

  1. The Ignorance Assumption – “they must be ignorant and lack adequate information.”  So you present your arguments but their counterarguments are just as good if not better than yours.. So we proceed with assumption number two:
  2. The Idiocy Assumption – “If they are not understanding my point of view, they must be stupid.” We simply classify them as stupid but when we see this person is not stupid at all, but actually quite intelligible, we then proceed with assumption number three:
  3. The Evil Assumption – “They must be distorting the truth for their own malevolence!”  Yeeeah..

Her final thoughts conclude that this keeps us from preventing mistakes when we need to and promotes the poor treatment of one another.  Being wrong is fundamental to who we are; it is not something we can eradicate or overcome.

We need those moments of reversal and wrongness, for example, in our stories. In stories, we love being wrong.  We think one thing is going to happen and BAM something else happened instead. We enjoy that element of surprise.

One of my favorite lines in the talk is when she states that:

The miracle of our mind is not that we can see the world as it is but that we can see it as it isn’t!

So what occurs in our brain when we’re being stubborn?

Being stubborn has been attributed to an increase in amygdalan activity and a decrease in prefrontal cortex activity [2].  The problem with this dynamic is that the amygdala is your emotional center and the prefrontal cortex is the area responsible for reality-testing, judgement, and conscious awareness.

The amygdala plays a central role in the storage of ‘emotion memories,’ unconscious memories of past hurts, especially during childhood.  The problem is that the hormone created by these memories is activated upon retrieval of an emotional memory which inhibit the reality-testing function of the prefrontal cortex.

These emotion memories are recalled unconsciously, so we’re not even aware they’re taking over – but along with their revival comes a resurgence of that same hormone.

Emotion memories are very durable and without intervention last a lifetime. Many times, they generate feelings that are not appropriate to the immediate situation.  They also call upon ‘Implicit’ memories: these are unconscious and automatic memories that are made and not forgotten.

There are many different variations of implicit memories, from muscle memory to emotional memories: these memories aid in the automation of much of our daily tasks. However, they also retrieve responses to previous experiences, including our reactions.

While emotion memory is active, our assumptions about the current circumstance becomes distorted. Our brain leads us to believe and even defend these distorted views of what is going on. Sometimes we transfer these emotional memories and implicit memories and reactions where they do not apply.

A group of psychologists at HP’s Social Computing Research Group found that found that humans more likely to change their minds when fewer, rather than more, people disagree with them [1].

They summarized that a small amount of social pressure to reverse our opinions was far more effective in getting people to change their minds than if pressure was much greater.

The conundrum is: humans like to conform so isn’t the whole notion of stubbornness contradictory?

Well there are two conflicting theories:

stubborn one

Psychological Reactance Theory:

When exposed to opposition to our beliefs, self-preservation kicks in to make us stick to them.

stubborn two

Social Influence and Conformity Theory:

Being socially connected with others is important to us all and we’ll reverse an opinion to “belong” (the ‘peer pressure’ effect).

These psychologists believe that the first theory becomes more powerful when we’re confronted by the opinions of many others but the latter when we’re in smaller groups.  This is because when many others start going against our beliefs, we tend to feel “attacked” and the need to defend ourselves kicks in.

What we believe is important because our experience is likely to be twisted in ways that support those beliefs [3].  We perceive things we expect to perceive and behave in ways consistent with those beliefs and changing our attitudes is not an option.  That would imply that we should change our behavior which risks ridicule and failure. It’s easier to continue our current course.

I should change my stubborn tendencies but even with all this evidence: I’m not going to.

…That’s what makes me a stubborn ass after all…  

I love arguing and being difficult – it’s no fun being a conformist and just agreeing with people all the time.

It’s not easy.  Yes, my boss is spreading “rumors” around the entire department that I’m mean and evil.  Yes, most of my family discussions are all out verbal wars.  Yes, I love to get in at least one ‘discourse’ with my partner in crime on a weekly basis.

Being argumentative makes life more spicy and interesting.  PARDON ME for being right more than ninety-nine percent of the time, that one percent can be attributed as an ‘off day’.  Even if you catch me on an off day, prepare for an epic battle, because although my blog title no longer states it, and in case you haven’t heard: yes I’m crazy and that’s why I’m awesome.

stubborn somecard

Are you a stubborn ass like me? Do you have a hard time accepting when you’re wrong?

Sources: Header Image, 1, 2, 3, 4

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  • Tamara
    July 21, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    Yes like you! And my kids are too. We are especially noticing it now that we’ve been potty-training Des. He’s stubborn until the end. Scarlet too. I think it’s a good thing.

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 22, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      Good! Glad I’m not alone. 🙂 LOL omg I want to squeeze Des! It is a good thing indeed! My son isn’t that stubborn, he’s very flexible and ‘goes-with-the-flow’ sorta kid – as long as a) tablets and/or b) 3DS are involved, he’s happy. Lol 🙂 Have a great one love talk soon Tam Tam! -Iva

  • Charlotte
    July 23, 2015 at 4:51 PM

    Well, this one was written for me 🙂 LOL. Yea, I have what’s known as a “block head” and don’t like to be wrong. That said, I have learned the unsuccessful art of talking in circles which is annoying and never gets me anywhere, but like you mentioned, it’s this weird obsession with having to prove my point.

    You know what’s kind of helped? Arguing with someone just as stubborn. I find it’s better to cut my losses and walk away b/c really? Who wants to spend hours going over the same cr*p in circles. Talk about beating a dead horse. I love that all of these metaphors are about asses, LOL.

    Thanks so much for sharing this–I love this stuff 🙂

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 7:42 AM

      LOL Glad this resonates with you 🙂 I do it all the time – I continue to persist with my point of view even if clearly wrong. Just because. I have truly come to enjoy it – even if I lose. I’ll tire you out before that happens!

      LOL!! YEs!!! My boyfriend is SUPER stubborn – I do the SAME DAMN THING. I don’t have energy with him UNLESS I clearly know I’m right then he concedes. Haha I think the stubborn ass metaphors are very accurate because that’s what I think of myself when I start arguing to no avail, especially when wrong. Haha!

      You’re welcome lovely – happy to hear you enjoyed this article!! Take Care Charlotte! Talk soon -Iva

  • Jen
    July 25, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    The only time I refuse to be wrong is when I’m talking to close-minded-idiots like people who protest at gay weddings and military funerals. Those people get my stubborn side like alllll daaaay. Otherwise I gotta say Im fairly open-minded. I’m wrong about a lot of stuff, especially spelling…and how to pronounce words the right way….am I the only one who says “helicopter” like “hill-o-copter”…? It kinda downgrades my credibility when I’m telling people to turn left at the “wind-meal” (windmill). But you know what f-’em. I’m pretty cool in other regards and while I’m no expert, I’ve got some good lessons, hard-earned and ready to share with whoever wants to hear em. Even you stubborn folk 😉

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 7:53 AM

      That’s my mom – her religious sermons definitely fuel my stubborn, argumentative self. It’s always interesting to see when she starts to give up – because she eventually does. In particular the legalization of gay marriage because.. why does it bother her so much? Oh because it goes against HER religious beliefs – like I told her: that’s a personal problem. Lol. It’s fun. She gives up after a few arguments.

      LOL Yes I have never heard the word ‘helicopter’ being pronounced as ‘hill-o-copter’ 😛 It’s ok, it’s quirky. I am open minded as well but yes, it’s certain people that bring that out in me. I figured if you brought it out in me, you earned it. 🙂

      Hahahaha I’m cool too! I’d love to listen to your good earned lessons! I always love hearing other peoples journeys and life lessons 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the article and talk soon Jen!! Take Care -Iva

  • GiGi Eats
    July 26, 2015 at 11:54 PM

    I am actually really NOT stubborn!! If I am wrong, I will admit it and move along. No biggie here!

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 7:54 AM

      Lol it depends who it is – There are some people that doing so would disrupt every fiber in my being. Onward with the stubbornness!! Have a great one GiGi! -Iva

  • Liz @ I Heart Vegetables
    July 27, 2015 at 7:33 AM

    Haha I’ve never really thought of myself as stubborn but I definitely don’t like to be wrong 😉 My husband and I have made so many silly bets over random things and I think I’ve been wrong more times than I’ve been right!

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 7:55 AM

      Silly bets are fun though, that’s different. When it comes to proving a point, if you irritate me, I will fight to the death to prove my point. Lol. So yeah I think of myself as stubborn indeed. You really have to bring it out of me though 🙂 Have a great one Liz! Take Care -Iva

  • Melanie
    July 27, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Really intersting to think about! Thanks for sharing!
    Melanie @

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 7:55 AM

      You’re welcome Melanie! Take Care -Iva

  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table
    July 27, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    Whatever. I’m never wrong.


    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      Ha! Agreed Laura. Never. 🙂 Have a great one! -Iva

  • Noor Unnahar
    July 28, 2015 at 4:29 AM

    Woah! That’s a whole pack of information on my most focused oh-so-bad trait these days. Being stubborn isn’t that bad (I am defending myself here), at least we have something to stand for. I am saving this TED talk in my app, going to listen it for sure.

    • AwesomelyOZ
      July 28, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      LOL Yes I did action pack a lot of information here but such a fun topic to read up on. 🙂 It’s a good talk, hope you enjoy it! Take Care Noor! -Iva

  • Shelly
    August 6, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    I am so NOT stubborn for many reasons:

    1) I’m just very nonchalant and could care less about most trivial things.

    2) I don’t like the feeling of being wrong, so I only argue with someone about something if I’m %103 sure I’m right.

    3)…besides, most everything in life is gray matter, and I find that very few things have a right or wrong answer. So when people hold on to their views or beliefs so tightly, their zeal kind of freaks me out. I’m gonna go stand over here ——–> mmmkay? Lol

    Girl, I just love your posts. So interesting as always!

    -Shelly <3

  • workingonworkingmom
    August 14, 2015 at 12:17 AM

    My initial reaction, is no I’m not like that, I admit when I’m wrong and I use it as a learning opportunity. This is the case SOMETIMES but it’s certainly not the case all of the time. And when it comes to fights with my husband, it’s probably never the case. Maybe after the fight, I can think that I was wrong, but during it he is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I am 100% certain he feels the same way about me. He is also extremely stubborn, which is fun when he’s arguing with someone about something he believes in, and not so fun when he’s arguing with me about anything! My son is stubborn too, he’s a lot like his dad, and I take comfort in the fact that he drives my husband nuts. It’s sweet, in a crazy sort of way.


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