There are weeks in science when even your successes feel like a failure.
That is, if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky there will be months of it. The criticisms will stretch out before you and though they may be paired with encouragements, you’ll only see the words:
- “We’re sorry to say your application was unsuccessful”
- “We cannot recommend this paper for publication”
- “This was interesting but I didn’t quite understand this bit . . .”
We think the praise is there to soften the blow, because it’s how we pull our own punches when we’re trying to help.
You’ll be scored on your teaching, or on a job application, or a grant proposal . . . 3/5 they’ll say and instead of concentrating on the 3 points you got, you’ll stare at the 2 you didn’t. You’ll be given feedback on a paper and you’ll gloss over “this is interesting” and jump straight to “I disagree with this conclusion”. They’ll tell you they wanted a range of subjects on offer, you’ll hear “you weren’t good enough”.
Sometimes you might think about leaving, working for an NGO, or industry, and you’ll wonder if you’re weak, if you just can’t hack it. Maybe, sometimes, in the dark of night, you might even think that about your friends who got out, but I guarantee you won’t think it for long because you know it’s not true.
Be kind to yourself. You work in a very stressful field, one that is under unprecedented threat, and it was never that stable to begin with. You put too much pressure on yourself, and you always have.
You are awesome.
You were awesome when you stopped what you were doing to explain that thing to your colleague. You were awesome when you pulled a bunch of slides together and stood up to talk about thing no one in that room had done. You were awesome when you listened to their opinions. You were awesome when you cried because it hurt and you were awesome when you were able to shrug it off and you were awesome when you reined in your training and left good feedback for the next person.
You are awesome, and you will continue to inspire awe in me no matter what you do.