Saturday, April 05, 2008


Was feeling pretty broken yesterday. Not sure I feel much better today, but there's things to do and I have to be functional.

Read this post over at FSP and that made me feel a little better.

I guess the thing for me is not a lack of confidence per se but a feeling of always getting the rug yanked out from under me for not being good enough.

I was thinking about this yesterday and how I kind of have to blame my mom.

Yes, my mom. I often wonder if she has any clue how much she damaged me.


When I was little, my parents used to sign me up for some activity, and then let me do it for a while until they decided I wasn't that good at it.

And then they'd pull me out.

This happened with dance lessons, sports (of course, I sucked at sports), and with various musical instruments.

Basically, anything a little girl would enjoy doing.

But they wanted to find something I was the best at, I guess.

I ended up doing science in part because they thought I'd have a chance to be pretty good at it.

It occurred to me the other day that my parents never put any of my childhood artwork up on the walls or the refrigerator. Later, my mother would remark on how bad my art skills were when I had to draw anything for projects at school.

It's no wonder, years later, that I hate making figures!

Hard as I try, and all the 'rough spots' I've been through, I still sometimes find myself feeling like there's no point. That eventually someone will decide that my best isn't good enough, and it doesn't matter how much I enjoy research, what matters is that I have to compete. Constantly. Without end.

Compete, compete, compete.

And that, dear friends, is what sucks the life out of me.

But FSP is right. If persevering works, then persevering is what I'll do.



At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Megan said...

waah. waaaaaaaah. waaaaaah.

I've kind of been wanting to post this on your blog for a long time.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous JaneB said...

Sorry to hear you feeling so dragged down by the ick - competition is a painful and unhealthy part of our work, and I wrestle with it. And cannot comprehend how some of my colleagues (mainly but not all men) seem to thrive on it, constantly comparing everything they do with others or with how it will let them gain some minute advantage compared to someone else...

But... the only competition worth worrying about is with yourself - and, like FSP's story, I'm another example where perseverance has landed me in a good place - maybe not the perfect job of my dreams (if that even exists), but a faculty job with adequate lab facilities, decent undergraduates and reasonable colleagues, which is close enough.

Yes, it's tough, yes, luck is involved, yes, it's easy to sucked into an insane spiral of intense competition over every tiny aspect of our work - but there are people trying to break those cycles and to put doing science higher up the priority ladder, you are clearly part of that group - I don't know what to say without sounding patronising, but... hang in there!

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Jenny F. Scientist said...

I'm afraid that your mother, whatever her other sterling qualities, slept through the day in Mom School about how you must love the incomprehensible scribbles your child brings home, and hang them all on the fridge. Distribution to grandparents is also acceptable. Complaining that it's not the Mona Lisa is OUT.

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ask yourself this: is it really always you? Is it not your environment mostly? And by that I mean, you seem to have gone from a crap childhood environment into academia.. which is the same crap again. Maybe you stay because it feels familiar. Academia is a thankless, tough ride even for people who entered with their psyches intact. It's amazing how ill scientists treat each other. I guess what I'm trying to point out here is, what if a 'normal' person wouldn't feel like persevering in your situation, either? Maybe this might not be the best environment for you to get past your troubles in the long term. Maybe you need something where people are positive and helpful - and believe me, it's out there, and it not in academia. There was a recent NYT article on bullying and it garnered well over 500+ comments last time I checked. The major culprits in white collar work? Medicine, law, academia. Sometimes 'giving up' or getting exhausted by something is actually positive and normal. It's worth considering that.

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous JR said...

Thanks for sharing a little of your childhood. I guess that helps explain your persistance in sticking with your search for a academic PI position. YFS post was also very good. Smart, capable people will excel in a variety of positions and we all are capable of more than we realize.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perservering is good. Blaming one's parents for one's professional problems is not.

At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Valorie said...

Love your blog!! Wondered if you would be interested in blogging for a women's site with visitors that range from 18-34 important that young women have support in the sciences...let's chat if you are interested.

Valorie Luther
Creative Concepts

At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of each day what matters is you. Are you passionate about what you do, are you fufilled and happy with what you do? If your best is good enough for you, that's all that matters.
There's always a point, healthy competition is good, but sometimes the toughest competition is with ourselves and we can always work through that! You'll be fine, tomorrow is always a new day.

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is one from Philip Larkin, who surely is way down on your list of poets, but who addressed the issue nicely:

They fucked you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were sloppy-stern

And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don't have any kids yourself.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Thanks for being a great example of a troll. I'm sure you're a wonderfully compassionate person. Thanks for playing. Bye now.


"dragged down by the ick" sounds like something my best friends says. Thanks for making me smile.

Jenny F,

Yes, I often thought that my mom needed to go back to school for something.

Anon 1:45,

I saw that article and some of the comments on it. I have definitely thought about it.


Yeah, this is part of why I try to fight the urge to quit or be kicked out, I guess.

Anon 1:04,

Interesting point, interestingly put.

JR has told me many times to go to therapy. This blog is not a professional therapist, especially not you, and that's good.


I'll think about it and get back to you.

Kareer Woman,

Thanks for the upbeat sentiment.

I'm going to respond to the "competition with yourself" comment a few people made in a separate blog post one of these days.

Anon 7:48,

That is an awesome poem. I love it.

Actually I like some of Philip Larkin's stuff. Thanks for making me laugh.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"JR has told me many times to go to therapy. This blog is not a professional therapist, especially not you, and that's good."

That makes no sense grammatically, but I get the gist of what you're trying to say. I would never try to be your therapist. You do realize that you are incredibly easy to pyschoanalyze though, at least the "you" that you present on this blog? Its obvious to many of your readers what your problem is, but whenever anyone criticizes you,however gently, you respond by calling them a troll.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous drdrA said...

I'm sure someone has told you this before- but the only person that can help you decide if you are good enough is you.

No one is keeping score (and if they are they have too much time on their hands and don't matter anyway, and who the hell are they to judge??)....

And, you are an adult now...the glory of that is you get to decide what you want to do, and then do it!

I hope things are going better!

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Free Will said...


From your recent posts, it appears you always blame someone/thing other than yourself. Do you take responsibility for any of your problems?

You are free to choose millions of life paths in the world. Academia is only one of them.


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