Another year has come and gone, and like every sappy millennial with a blog, I’ve been spending a lot of time this holiday season reflecting on 2017. “I’ve been through a lot this year,” I think, “Just like every other year, where I have also been through a lot, because 365 days is a lot of time for a lot of things to happen.” Well said.
Actually (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), the way I feel about this year reminds me of this dumb Kylie Jenner gif where she calls 2016 the year of “just realizing stuff”. While I do not, have not, nor will I ever Keep Up with the Kardashians, I do share this sentiment about 2017. I have learned a lot about myself this year from starting grad school, being in a new relationship, and moving to a new city at the brink of adulthood. More importantly, I have also learned a great deal about the person I would like to become.
The single, most important aspect of myself I would like to improve upon in the years to come is finding validation within myself, not others. I see this in my presence in social media, where I sometimes will say things purely for the “likes” without thinking of how it will make anyone else feel. Subtweets are funny, but not when they’re about you. Is internet humor really more important than the feelings of someone I care about and who cares about me in return? Absolutely not.
So I’ve been trying to figure out what lies at the root of this need for validation through the internet? I think the root of this problem is simply a lack of self-confidence. If I can’t give myself the validation I need, then I immediately resort to seeking it through others. I want to be better at finding this through myself.
I also think that a low self-esteem has become my biggest enemy in graduate school. I’m realizing that I have absolutely no confidence in myself as a researcher, and it’s getting in the way of my success. The other day, I asked my boss if I would be able to write a paper about my current project, and he told me, “You need to stop asking me this.When you have discovered something new to add to the scientific community, that is when you will write a paper. Being in graduate school is about taking initiative. If you want me to just tell you what to do and what to write, then you should be an RA. Do you want to be an RA, or do you want to be a graduate student?”
I was extremely taken aback. I told him that I wanted to be a graduate student, but I don’t think I believed myself when I said it. I’ve been complaining so much about my job and my boss that I have lost sight of why I am really here — to be an academic. I don’t want to be a cog in some big company machine. I want to spend my life learning and discovering, but to do that, I need to believe that I actually can.
So I want to begin 2018 with all this in mind. I want (and need) to stop complaining about grad school, because I am really, really lucky to be here. I want to have more faith in myself as a researcher, because it’s the only way that I will actually accomplish anything. And I want to be more cognizant of how my own flaws affect others around me, because I want to improve for the people I love, as well. I think that a lot of issues in my relationship arose from my low self esteem (which isn’t to say they are EXCUSED by this. No personal strife is an excuse for negatively impacting somebody you love). A lot of times, I project my negative feelings of myself onto others, which in turn causes me to treat them the way I assume they would treat me, when in reality, I treat them the way I treat myself. Not good. I don’t like that about myself, and I want to be better.
I hope that in the coming months, I can gain a better sense of self confidence and begin to treat myself and others in a healthier way. In terms of my career, I want challenge myself in more productive ways to be a better researcher. After all, I do really, really want to write a paper.