anxiety

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Tue Apr 15 21:48:48 EST 1997


JFRUGOLI at BIO.TAMU.EDU wrote:
> 
> Aloisia wrote:
> (SNIP)
> >And maybe this is more to the point.  When you all are feeling really
> >low
> >and really down in the dumps, because maybe you haven't produced as
> >much
> >as you feel you should have or because you are having to deal with
> >surly
> >creeps....(and I mean surly creeps beyond all comprehension!)....  What
> >are the ways you all talk yourself back into being positive and up-beat
> >and motivated to keep on working?
> 
> Does this ever hit home!  I've been hitting the wall on 3 experiments
> for 4 months now, watching my defense slip farther and farther into the
> future, and getting really down.  I just read a popular magazine article
> about how women (more than men) tend to get these little negative tapes
> going in their heads. For me, they say things like "I'll never be able
> to do that", "I'm not a good scientist",  "I wasn't cut out for
> research", etc. 

How about hitting the wall on a project that is not going anywhere
and never will, and having your advisor say, "you arent a very
good scientist if you don't stick with this"?  It happened to me.  
Yet another of those little booster experiences....one that has
taught me how NOT to handle my own students.

Another example of sensitive advising:  finishing up and moving on,
to be told that "you'll never have this much success again".  Now
THAT'S a confidence booster.  Note heavy irony.

> I think this is reflective of a bigger problem, though.  While this is a
> gross oversimplification, in my own experience with fellow grad
> students, it seems like many women magnify every failure to the point
> where they're always sure they're the most unqualified student in the
> department, while many men gloss over glaring failures, chalking it up
> to bad committee members or poor equipment, and see themselves as Nobel
> prize material. Neither one is correct (there's an awful lot of us here
> in the middle), but I wonder if others see these extremes at work?

It's a truism, but none the less accurate for that:  men blame the
system, and women blame themselves.  

Women also believe it when someone criticizes them and do not believe it 
when someone praises them.  I think that reflects all the negative 
reinforcement we get in choosing to do science and to shoot high. 
At some point the air of disbelief does begin to wear one down.
I've had people assume I'm my own technician, because they  "know" that 
technicians are women and PI's arent.  I was at a meeting last year when
someone assumed I was the postdoc of a male colleague, since I couldnt
possibly have a lab of my own...what's depressing is how often WOMEN 
make these assumptions.  Seeing their faces rearrange to fit me into
their world view is amusing in a not-very-funny way.

As for the meeting question Aloisa had, about going without presenting:
meetings are all about politics.  You can be doing the neatest stuff in 
the world, but if you arent in the in-crowd, you won't get to talk. It's
frustrating, but not embarrassing.   (see the paragraph above!  ;-)  If
people ask, you have several choices: you can say it just didn't work
out,
you can tell them it's none of their business, you can rail against the
organizers, or  you can play cagey and suggest that you have something
 really exciting on the burner and it would be "premature" to talk 
about it.  ;-)  

-- susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 

forsburg at salk.edu
http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg/lab.html



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