Friday, March 6, 2009

Shrinking violet.

That'd be me. Some who know me might be surprised at that admission, because I have--shall we say--quite a large personality. I may have mentioned in some previous post that I couldn't play guitar well enough to be a rock star so I became a professor instead. I am tall, loud, aggressive, assertive, and (I'm told) project confidence in all my interactions.

Why is it, then, that when a lovely friend invites me to get involved in the scholarly organization with which she does a lot of work, my first response is to quail, inwardly, and feel the chill of terror, and wonder whether anyone would want me there besides the lovely friend?

Why is it that I feel so awkward introducing myself to other scholars in my field, and often become a graceless babbler when I should be mustering up my most impressive behavior?

Why, with some decent publications and a good degree, do I think I am completely without worth in my field--an imposter, an interloper, a presumptuous fraud?...and will that feeling go away if I ever (and I think this is the root of it right here) can write that rat-fracking-sonuvabitchen book?

(On one hand, I hope it goes away if I by some miracle get my shit together and publish that book. On the other hand, it'd be nice if it'd just go know, as if I had some value independent of my cv.)


Lisa B. said...

Yes, I believe I know whereof you speak.

And even though I know it doesn't address the real demon, you do have worth independent of your cv. Maybe you should just play that guitar some more, because in my opinion, you are already a rock star.

dkm said...

You’re not THAT tall. It’s those killer stilettos you wear :) And it must be this crappy weather getting you down, cause your colleagues all know you’re the real deal. So do your students, who worship the ground you walk on. Except of course for the ones who are scared stiff (lol). Seriously, though, we know how lucky we are to have you wandering down the same halls.

Anonymous said...

Why do successful people do this? I was talking with Very Successful Author last year and he said the number one drive for why he or any author writes: so that someone will tell him it's good and he can feel confident for another 12 seconds.

But even that isn't enough. When does it become enough? At what point can we say "Well, my life's a been a raving success so's coasting time"? Does one reach that point? Where is it? Let's say, for argument's sake, in three years.

See you in three.

Renaissance Girl said...

Anon--three years. You're on.

Thanks, LisaB.

And dkm, I AM TOO that tall. 5'10" is well within the range defined as "tall" for girls. AND I like to augment it a little bit. I wore these to do my little keynote speechy thing for a grad student conference tonight....:

squadratomagico said...

Ok, those are some hawt shoes! And on a 5'10" frame? You must look amazing. I hope you got the purple.

As for the confidence thing? For me, it was getting out a critical mass of scholarship, and getting consistently positive responses to it -- comments at conferences, people recognizing my name, book reviews, occasional "fan mail," invitations to speak, &c. I felt much more unsure of myself when toiling in obscurity, than I do now.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I, too, love the shoes. If I were to wear them, however, I might fall over. I have to wear chunky heals if I'm not going to make a fool of myself, but I do love admiring other people's lovely shoes! Darn my inability to balance and walk at the same time.

When I was a young, naive little thing in the first years of my PhD, I was always looking for an opportunity to talk Shakespeare with other people. I was so interested in other peoples' ideas and sharing my own -- until (add scary music here) I went to a conference. Not only was my paper torn apart during the Q/A, but when I went to another person's presentation and asked a question, another audience member yelled at me (literally) and shamed me in front of an audience of about 30. Since then, six years or so ago, I keep my mouth shut around other Shakespeare people, and I find myself very reluctant to go to large conferences (unless it's for interviews). I find it hard even to talk to people in adjacent fields.

And yet, my students think I'm great. I get excellent evaluations, and several students have asked if I'd teach a class on the history plays because they liked the ones we did so well. (How many people can boast that?) But I still feel like I'm a know-nothing. Granted, I just graduated last year, so I have a long way to go as far as publishing and so on. I thought maybe if I got a tenure-track job that I'd feel confident, but so far that hasn't happened.

But I don't know if this lack of confidence is such a huge problem... maybe it keeps us trying harder and makes us more productive than we might otherwise be. If you always feel like you have to prove yourself, then maybe you'll keep churning out good work in spite of your confidence problem. (At least, this is what I am telling myself...)

Ink said...

I wonder if it's not just built into the academy? Sometimes it honestly feels as though no matter what we do, it isn't--and will never be--enough. (Which I tend to translate into "I will never be enough.")

Flavia said...

Even if your value were derived solely from your C.V., you'd be worth a hell of a lot.

That being said. . . dude. I feel you.

Johnsons Part Deux said...

Because even with all your many WONDERFUL're also human! I think it's a good quality to have a little humility. It will drive you to be even more amazing in the work force! Those shose!!! Do you own them? I've never seen you wear such things...but I love them.