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Oh, to be an extrovert with self-esteem in the NORMAL range.

Assignment from professional development coach: E-mail Enormous Bigwig in Field to request research/mentoring chat at upcoming conference we’re both attending. EBF was on my dissertation committee, and while she’s rigorous and tough, has never been anything but supportive.

Day 1. Think about drafting e-mail. Feel sick. Do other things on to-do list.

Days 2-10. Repeat.

Day 11. Take self in hand and employ approach learned in therapy many years ago. Yay therapy! Determine what I’m afraid of. Determine probability of that outcome occurring. Determine whether I can take any action to reduce probability.

What I’m afraid of: A horrible reply. Such as:

1. I’m sorry, who ARE you? (Probability: 0%.)

2. No. Also, let me take this opportunity to tell you that I have no respect for you as a researcher, and wish to disassociate myself from you. Please do not approach me at the conference. You are pathetic and unclean, and I will henceforth not admit to knowing you at all. (Probability: .00001%. She did once tell another graduate student that I was strange. The fact that this still stings certainly suggests I am in fact pathetic.)

3. I’d love to but I’m going to be too busy. (Probability: 50%.)

Anything I can do to reduce the probability? No. But I did decide I’d be willing to visit just to meet with her, but was too embarrassed to say so, so I would come up with a pretext!!! to visit and offer that as an alternative to meeting at the conference. (I.e., I’ll be visiting this summer so we could coordinate schedules and ….) Ridiculous, yes. But hey.

Draft e-mail. Spend an hour on it, removing self-deprecating qualifiers. Feel extremely sick the whole time.

Send e-mail. Immediately close e-mail program to avoid thinking about anything to do with e-mail, feel extremely sick, consider hiding under desk.

Rapid heart rate any time checking email during rest of day.

Day 12. Blearily check e-mail before getting yowling baby. Read response from EBF without even knowing I’m doing it.

Response is a warm yes, including phrases a pleasure and looking forward to seeing you.

Feel happy all day.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’d just like to say that the average Enormous Bigwig in Field Anything is more than a little of a weirdo. In fact, ‘complete nutjob’ would describe many of the ones I know. So you’re well on your way to fame, if one of them once called you a little strange.

    (P.S. I’m pretty sure you’re not pathetic.)

    January 31, 2013
  2. “Draft e-mail. Spend an hour on it, removing self-deprecating qualifiers. Feel extremely sick the whole time.”

    Heh. Self-deprecating qualifiers are such persistent, omnipresent little buggers, aren’t they? Nice work givin’ em the slip and hitting the send button on that email. Maybe next time it won’t be *quite* so hard?

    January 31, 2013
  3. EBF makes me think of boobs. Just sayin’.

    Glad you got such a nice response! Win for therapy.

    Or maybe the moral of the story is you should do everything while half asleep and without thinking about it? That’s pretty much my whole life these days.

    January 31, 2013
  4. Love this. I would definitely have been exactly the same about seven years ago which was the last time I did that kind of thing. I like to flatter myself that I have a lot more self-confidence now and that I can get through things like that more easily… Sooner or later, I’m going to find out if I’m right or delusional!

    February 1, 2013
  5. Misfit #

    Strange. I know that would send me into over thinking overdrive. But, coming from a misfit, well, I try to own weirdo. This whole professional development is good to read. I am thrilled that your foray was welcomed. I hate putting myself out there for a favor and then getting crickets. It speaks loads that you had a pretty immediate reply.

    February 1, 2013
  6. SRB #

    This describes every time I need to do something for myself, up to and including calling for a dental appointment. Well done!

    And she likes you! Huzzah!

    February 1, 2013
  7. I am amazed that even now, so close to middle age (or already there, depending from whose perspective one consideres the matter), there are still moments that should have remain in adolescence. When I feel like a teenager (age I thoroughly did not like), I cannot shake off the ‘I am pathetic’ thought for days.
    Glad to hear EBF is looking forward to meeting you again. You must be her kind of strange. 😀

    February 1, 2013
  8. Sounds like me when I need to read referee reports! I cannot stand reading them — even when I know up front the decision was “accept” — so they languish in my inbox for a week or two (or a month or two) until I can stomach looking at them. This is one reason why I like to co-write papers, I can then send the reports to *them*, they can read them first and get started with revisions while I anguish.

    February 1, 2013
    • Ooo, Imma start adding random co-authors just so I can do this!

      (One of the top bigwigs in the entire field of Psych once told us that his process in responding to reviewer comments is much like the stages of grief–anger, denial, bargaining, etc. Just knowing someone who has published ALL THE PAPERS still has normal human reactions makes me feel better…)

      February 1, 2013
  9. Well yay for a good response! I have that same problem dealing with my own EBF, who was my diss director a million years ago. Maybe someday you will be an EBF and someone else will have this dilemma 🙂

    February 1, 2013
  10. Ooh-er! I will forgive Bigwig for her bizarro comment about you, which was most unprofessional at very best, quite apart from being WRONG, on the grounds that she agreed. You may rest easy in your bed, Bigwig. I have cancelled my plans to hunt you down and show you what strange REALLY is. [Insert menacing smile.]

    Also intrigued by the strategy you learned in therapy. I sort of do that, but mostly I make myself do things by giving myself A VERY NICE REWARD (Sorry about the caps. I am caffeinated, and can’t help it.) after The Trial. I find this helps too. I am extraordinarily happy and relieved after, like you. It’s worth it. I am also thinking of devising a sticker chart for adults that build you up to Some Mega Reward. Yes, yes. Hrmm.

    Sometimes it’s a pain being an introvert, it is true, things Other People do easily take huge effort. On the other hand, Interesting Interior Life! YAY FOR THAT.

    February 1, 2013
  11. Good on you, lady.

    P.S. Strange is totally a compliment.

    February 2, 2013
  12. Oh Bunny, I do understand, having felt those same feelings and adopted the close email box and hide strategy on many occasion. I have had to work very hard to function as a non-introvert in the workplace, and sometimes I still find my self tongue-tied. I am so glad that you received a positive response from EBF! And I do agree with the previous comment that one day you will be an EBF, and you can strike fear into the hearts of grad students everywhere.

    I do also adopt the “what is the worst that can happen and how can I reduce that/what would I do if that happened” approach to deal with The Fear. It does work, and for me, I think it is because it enables me to plan a response. I don’t know – I am no psych expert – it just helps.

    Alright, I will stop babbling now. 🙂

    February 2, 2013
  13. Go, you! That’s awesome! I have the same habit of somehow never quite having enough time to get done the things that I’m nervous about doing. I like your approach–and am so glad it paid off!

    February 2, 2013
  14. This is like when I’m collecting data (as a social scientist) and have to interview people. People LOVE talking about themselves, and I’m invariably interviewing them about some project they’re passionate about. Yet it takes me effing for.ev.er to just dial the damned phone. And then I’m somehow shocked that they seem enthusiastic about it. Wha????

    I can’t even imagine asking for mentorship. Even though I really, really should.

    February 3, 2013
  15. As others have more eloquently expressed, the response to the strange comment is ‘takes one to know one’. I think it’s a requirement in academia anyway, isn’t it? I still can’t get the strange off me, and my brush with academia was only grad school.
    I was all smiles reading that EBF so quickly affirmed your request. YEAH! I hope you have an inspiring meeting of minds, and that you feel supported by this person you hold in high esteem.

    February 5, 2013
  16. Ana #

    Are you in my HEAD??? I hate hate hate what I call “talking to people”—even when the “talking” is by email. Asking for favors, including reference letters for grants/etc…? CRINGE. Calling for pizza? NOT IT! I am working on it. It doesn’t help that I actually HAVE been rebuffed before (you want a reference letter? who ARE you again? ouch.) I like your CBT approach but it is far more practical for me to just distract myself with other tasks after I’ve hit “send” so that I don’t waste the day picturing worse-case-scenarios and how I would extricate myself from them.

    February 10, 2013

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