Welcome to the very first post of The STANDOUT Professor blog! I’m so glad that you’ve decided to check it out! I know that you’re incredibly busy, so before we go any further, let’s take a few minutes to assess whether you’re likely to find The STANDOUT Professor blog helpful. All you have to do is check your reactions to the statements below. Are you nodding in knowing agreement as you read? Or are you shaking your head wondering how anyone actually came up with this stuff? Let’s see…
Virtually everyone who knows you—especially your oldest friends and your family—would describe you as amazingly smart. Inwardly, though, you reject this characterization. In fact, whenever the subject of your outstanding intellect comes up, the quickest, deepest thinkers in your field immediately come to mind and you can’t help but fixate on how much smarter they are than you. (Bonus points if you actually dared to voice that opinion to your mother and she responded, “No one could be smarter than you.” Additional bonus points if you’ve already started coming up with concrete evidence to the contrary.)
You spend a lot of time in your head—thinking things through, turning ideas over, considering issues from every angle. Reflection is definitely your friend, and you love to learn about yourself and the world around you. That’s all great, except when it devolves into rumination or “analysis paralysis.” (There’s also the problem of stepping out of the shower and realizing that you have no idea whether you actually washed your hair.) Despite your cerebral nature, you enlist both your head and your heart when making decisions. And your polished exterior sometimes leads people to believe that you are calm, cool, and collected, but they don’t see the storm of emotions and uncertainty that often brews just beneath the surface.
You have perfectionistic tendencies. When you were younger, you viewed that as a good thing… after all, high standards = high quality work! As you’ve gotten older, you’ve experienced the darker sides of perfectionism, like a harsh inner critic who seems to have more to say every day and/or an inability to stop working on something even when you know you’ve gone beyond the point of positive returns. This might apply to you if, say, it’s 1 a.m. and you’re adjusting the formatting of your PowerPoint slides for your early-morning lecture tomorrow (which is actually now today) because, even though the students have already printed the slides, you know that they’ll look better this way and, importantly, you won’t have to cringe at the screen each time you see Calibri and Cambria kicking it in the same bullet point. And if you can’t relate to this relatively extreme example ripped from the pages of my past, maybe you’ve suffered from major bouts of procrastination or an unexplained sense of dread when reviewing your to-do list, both of which can stem from perfectionistic tendencies.
You are inertia personified. When you are in motion, you stay in motion. You’re on. If you have a million things to do, you get a million—and one!—things done. You love the sense of accomplishment that comes from checking things off your list. But if you’ve slowed down and maybe even stopped moving, you have a tough time getting up off the couch. And if you have 2 things left to do, you might be lucky to get one of them done. Maybe. You’re not really sure. Because you’ve never had fewer than 100 things on your to-do list and you haven’t sat on the couch in 6 months, at least not without a computer or a child—or both—in your lap (which—you guessed it!—earns you bonus points. Make it ½ point if the creature on your lap is a cat).
You have felt both conspicuous and invisible in the very same moment, and you sometimes wonder if you truly belong anywhere. Your academic colleagues understand some parts of your experience, but not others. Maybe this is partially because you don’t really feel comfortable revealing your full self to them. You want to be accepted and respected professionally; you’re not looking for a new best friend. Still, a part of you longs to establish deeper, more fulfilling connections at work. Outside of work, your non-academic friends and family love you but have no sense of your professional life and the constant pressure you’re under. In an attempt to be supportive, they say things like, “You’ve always succeeded. There’s no way you won’t get tenure.” On a good day, you appreciate their kind intentions. On a bad day, you cut the lunch date short and go home to eat a bag of chips and a pint of ice cream. Or, if you fall more on the disciplined end of the scale, you burn off steam by going for a run. Or something. (I’m guessing here.)
As my grandpa used to say, you were born tired and never got a rest. You don’t really mind being tired because you thrive on productivity, and there’s always so much to do. You have noticed, though, that it’s getting increasingly difficult to focus on the things that feel really important because of all the “urgent” requests that get in the way. Even if you worked 24-7, which frankly feels like the expectation sometimes, you’d struggle to get everything done. More than once, you’ve wondered if maintaining this pace will eventually lead to complete burn out. And as the tenure clock ticks louder and louder, it begins to feel more a question of when than if.
So how did it go? Did any of these resonate? If so, I’m pretty confident that you’ll find some helpful content in future posts. If you couldn’t relate to any of these statements, it’s possible that The STANDOUT Professor community isn’t a good fit for you. It’s also possible that I missed the mark with this little screening mechanism, so I hope you’ll consider coming back once or twice just to find out.
The overarching goal of The STANDOUT Professor community is to help faculty and leaders who challenge stereotypes thrive. I hope that you’ll feel a sense of belonging here and that the resources on the site, including this blog and Voices of Authentic Excellence (our upcoming podcast, scheduled to launch in early 2019), will make your life at least a little easier… happier… better.
In future posts, we’ll talk about things like:
Managing our time and energy
Finding balance by getting clear about what’s important and living out our values
Going a little easier on ourselves (trust me… it can have amazing benefits!)
Getting unstuck and finding flow
Combatting perfectionism and the imposter syndrome
Questioning the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves
Dealing with email, working with grad students, saying no,… and much more!
I’d love your thoughts and suggestions… Which parts of this post connected most with you? What topics would you like to see addressed in future posts? Please comment below (you’ll be prompted to set up a free account on the site or sign in with Google or Facebook) or shoot me a message to share your thoughts. And if you haven’t already, please join our mailing list to be notified of future posts and other STANDOUT Professor happenings! (New posts will be released every other Thursday.)
Thanks so much for making the time! I look forward to seeing you here next time.
Take good care,
p.s. Please share this with friends and colleagues! After all, there’s strength in numbers. :)