The topic of this month’s Scientiae is “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall”: what we see, what others see, what we want others to see, etc. etc. when we look in the mirror.
I haven’t explicitly thought about my self-image in a while. If we’re talking body image, I’m past most or all of the issues I had as a girl and teen, the issues that most or all teenage girls have with thinking their bodies have problems because they don’t fit the beauty ideal. So physically, I generally like what I see, though everyone has their bad days when they notice all the little imperfections, and I’m no exception to that.
But I do get contemplative about where I’ve come in my career and in my life. Overall I see that being goal-driven has served me well, in that I’ve successfully gotten degrees and obtained a job in academia, which was my goal. I’m pretty happy with those things. I also see the privilege that got me here – being white, being middle class, being able-bodied (a huuuuge privilege in geoscience), being thin, being not model-hot but conventionally not-unattractive. Being pretty smart and a good test-taker, by virtue of genetics and class. So I see a good amount of luck. In general I like what I see, but I try to be conscious of the luck part.
Unrelated to careers, I also see my struggles with having a fulfilling social life. It’s tough to keep that up with all the moving an academic career entails. It takes time to make good friends and build up a local social network, and all the relocation makes it a bit lonely (except for science meetings). That’s something I see that I don’t like so much.
I don’t truly know what others see. I wonder about that. On the work side I expect that being organized and someone who gets things done efficiently is a big part of what people see, because while it takes me as long as the next person to get something published, I can push paper better than most. (It’s actually a little deceptive. When I’m stressed out about the important workload, like writing manuscripts or preparing lessons, I deal with the stress by compulsively checking all the other things off my list. It doesn’t really help me get the big things done, but it feels satisfying. It also creates the unfortunate illusions that I am just far more efficient than most overall, that I’m a good person to dump extra things on, and/or that I must not have much on my plate.) And on the social side I worry about what people see more than a bit, unfortunately.
I’m really curious to see what the rest of this carnival looks like. I feel like I have more self-confidence and a better self-image than a lot of people, especially women (thanks in large part to attending a women’s college) — but maybe not when compared to other successful academics. So I’m waiting to see how I measure up against my more-or-less peers!