Worry Energy Drain Time Sink
I’ve been doing my tenure-track job for 5.5 years. This past summer I was awarded tenure and it really felt as if a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Like all of my other junior colleagues I was worried about whether I had met the bar for research, teaching, and service in order to earn tenure at my institution. I have only recently realized that only part of the oppressive weight that I felt prior to tenure was due to these particular factors. The rest of the weight came from inside myself and I have suspected for a long time that there was a gendered component to it. My suspicions were confirmed when I read a post this week on the Xykademizq blog.
The part that really caught my attention is what I’ve directly quoted below:
“Also, I wonder how much of it is socialization across gender lines. I see my DH and Eldest, and they spend vanishingly little time thinking about what anyone else is thinking or feeling; they don’t want to hurt anyone, but they go merrily on their way, doing what they want, until someone complains. I see it in my male colleagues, too, even very junior ones. I was a complete ball of nerves and insecurity when I was a junior professor, nearly paralyzed by a combination of the fear that I would mess things up because I didn’t know what I was doing and the fear that I would be inconveniencing people by asking them for advice. My junior male colleagues are much more bold (even when they objectively ought to ask for advice) and much more unapologetic about requesting help (or anything else they need). They are laser-focused on what they need and want, and perhaps only in the rear-view mirror they occasionally glance at the effect they might have left behind. In contrast, many female colleagues and I spend enormous amounts of energy wondering if we are entitled to do what we want or even need, and who might be inconvenienced or upset by our actions. I bet this stupid energy-drain channel is a major cause of burnout.”
I was so happy to see my feelings articulated in this post! How I envy those who go through life not worrying about the hurt feelings, inconvenience, and catastrophes that they leave in their wake! How freeing it must be to chug along oblivious to your impact on others unless they complain. This problem was a major energy and time vampire for me in my first 5 years on the job. Coupled with an unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome, this outlook can be paralyzing. I still felt this way despite being in a supportive department.
Tenure has afforded me a bit of relief from these concerns. I think that I now have a much healthier viewpoint.