Gremlins.

Per a discussion on Twitter today, I’m going to take a few minutes to address my gremlins head on. Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 7.05.51 PM

One thing with addressing all of these is that one way of combating them is to challenge what they are telling you with evidence to the contrary. I’ve dealt with all of these more or less almost my entire adult life and unfortunately, it is hard to truly counter these voices with concrete evidence. I am often left saying to these voices ‘you just don’t work and keep me down, and I need to not listen/think differently’. Evidence for a hypothesis in science is a powerful thing. In the absence of it, it can be hard to operate, trying to force myself into what my depressive voice would call delusional thinking (note: most people would call this normal, day-to-day non-catastrophe, do it anyway thinking…denying reality to some extent to push forward).

impostorism– This voice is always saying ‘you don’t fit’ and that is true enough. I’ve always felt different, like an outsider. I think more than I do, for instance. Part of talking to this voice head on is to just say, yes, and that’s OK. As an adult, I don’t necessarily have to fit in (I don’t really do anything that out-of-the-ordinary)…in fact some of the things that make me distinct are good. 2% of the US population has earned a Ph.D….I am one of them. Now, I probably won’t have a job in academia and that might bring all sorts of impostor feelings up as I explore other fields, but the postive side of impostorism is that it also indicates that I am trying new things, pushing myself and probably failing routinely, and that should be OK. Leap anyway.

perfectionism– Don’t put that out there! It’s not ready, it’s stupide, it’s not fully formed yet. You can write that better. It has to be flawless, otherwise it will be ripped to shreds. You’re doing yourself a favor by being your own harshest critic. Deadlines be damned, you had better be satisfied 100% before showing anyone.

Well, no. Anything I put out does have flaws. I’m human. Feedback, especially specific feedback, helps make things better. Invite it. And done is better than perfect. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to tackle new things.

depressiveness– You don’t belong amongst the humans. You’re less than, not worthy, and will be alone forever. Just end it…not much worth living for here. Truly, you’ve done messed up your life completely and can’t come back/recover. Game over, you lose.

Maybe so. I acknowledge I’ve been far from perfect. And I’m not an astronaut, I’m not pushing frontiers/burning up new frontiers or contributing in a loud big way to the world yet. And I many never. But I am still here. Made it this far despite you weighing me down the whole time and that takes some sort of inner strength I still don’t understand. I am grateful to be here, to have close friends that I want to see more of. The world is an amazing place and even if I just get to bear witness to some slice of it and share an even tinier part of it, it’s worthwhile. I want to share/learn/teach/write about and hopefully affect positive change in the world. I don’t have it figured out and I’m nearly 40, but I have largely freed myself from the worst of depression, I think.

shyness– Everyone thinks your ideas are no good, not worthy, not worthwhile and you should keep yourself hidden away. It’s safe. Invisibility is a shield.

All the good things happen outside of the walls, the bubble I’m still in too often. Yes, I say a lot of obvious things. Yes I’m not the best of the best at anything. But I have ideas, sometimes they’re appreciated, sometimes not. I’ll keep putting them out there. Everything good that has happened to me has come from putting caution to the winds to some extent and putting my voice, myself out into the world. I need to do it more, not less. Yes, it’s scary out here. But also exciting. Sometimes, I need to return to a bubble to recover/recuperate, but make no mistake, I’d rather fight in the arena and dare greatly, not just shout from the stands.

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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