Sunday, April 17, 2005

Feeling Inadequate

I have been thinking all weekend about why I feel so inadequate all the time. Who am I comparing myself to? Scrivener is always chastising me for not giving myself enough credit. Dr. H writes about feeling like you have a good life and being grateful for it, while New Kid writes about blog envy and conversely, her feeling that she's too presumptuous in her advice. And buried within a post about abortion, Dr. B made an offhand comment about women not being able to toot their own horn. And, I could also point to Prof. Synecdoche's post about choosing an academic program which is fraught with comparing the goods and ills of one's future based on the name of the program. After reading Paradox of Choice, I know this problem of feeling inadequate is not a problem unique to academics, but one wonders why we all seem to so often ponder why we don't measure up, or if we feel we do, why we can't just be satisfied with that. Is it because there are so many hoops, so many times your measured--MA exams, Ph.D exams, dissertation defense, conference papers, journal submissions, the job market, tenure, full professor. How many times in a career can you reasonably be asked to measure your performance?

In my position there are no yard sticks. I have nothing to measure myself against except my own imagination. Yet, when I think of myself as being successful and perhaps getting promoted to be, say, Head of Academic Computing, I think, "Could I really do that? What if I totally screwed it up? What if I hate it?" And I also think about how one would measure my success--by the number of attendees at my workshops, by the number of faculty using Blackboard or "smart" classrooms, by the number using technology to teach? I hate such outcome-based assessments. They always seem flawed. And yet, somehow, I feel the need for some tangible proof that I'm doing a good job.

And then there's the rest of my life--what I do as a mother, a wife, a writer, a human being. There are plenty of comparisons to be made there. When do I just stop, step back and say, "This is good enough? You're happy, satisfied. Everything is okay." Maybe because part of me is not satisfied. Part of me is still thinking about those roads untaken, and the many possible futures. Somehow, I think this is hard to stop, that there are always moments of reflection where you look backward, forward and around and think, "Am I doing okay? Did I make the right decisions?" But hopefully, there are an equal number of times that you stop and think, "Things are pretty good right now. I really don't need much of anything. I have people who love me, appreciate me and what I do."

I think that this kind of writing--blogging--can often lend itself to that more reflective mode of thinking, because at those moments, we need to reach out and we need reassurance and we need to just think out loud. In the other mode, we might feel like we are bragging or being too self-indulgent.

I still haven't answered my question except to say perhaps, that I shouldn't feel inadequate, that I'm only inadequate in my own mind. I can't eradicate the feeling completely, but I can start looking at it more analytically when it comes upon and take more control over it. Maybe.