Hhhm. That last post seemed to strike some insecurity nerves. It is causing me to reflect (in that corny kinda barfy way) upon the issue of academic insecurities. Let me just say straight up that I am currently operating on very low insecurity levels. Am I full of myself? Yeah, a little bit. Am I normally this full of myself? No, not really. But recent events have been great for me. Tenure an awesome vacation, shit, you’d be high on yourself too. Plus, full-of-my-selfness is fundamental to my anonymous persona.
But academia forces us to be neurotic and insecure. We have to constantly get ourselves to do things that go far beyond our basic job descriptions. We do this daily. We can’t just do some writing, or lab work, or research, or teaching…we are compelled to read about our topics obsessively, try far too hard to teach students, spend insane amounts of time drafting the perfect figure or slide, and just generally feel the need to strive. This basic compulsion drives us to be insecure, ferociously competitive, arrogant, and pathetically needy- all at the same time. Every time I get a manuscript accepted for publication I think to myself “I won.” What did I win? I have no idea. Why does that particular phrase come to mind? I have no idea. (And no, I’ve never thought about my career as a “race” or in any sport related terms, nor do I have any clear competitors in mind that I “beat”) I just think to myself I won. Like I somehow won over the insecurity, competitiveness, arrogance, and neediness.
And here’s the kicker, I don’t think I’m weird to be thinking that. I suspect some comparable thought occurs to all of us. Early on I considered it extremely important to avoid seeing myself as only my vita. But then as your vita grows and the win column tally starts to look respectable, it becomes a thousand times easier to do that. Of course it does. The thought I am more than my vita just flows across neurons much more efficiently when you know your vita is solid than when you suspect it isn’t. That’s just how it is. Serious chemical intervention is needed for us to operate otherwise. I am not giving license to anyone (myself included) to outwardly act as raging self-absorbed assholes. You have to avoid the egomaniacs who flaunt their vitas, but we have to indulge our own personal competitiveness or else nothing in our fields and universities would get done. So yeah, you at least have to get naked with yourself about these things (masturbation optional).