Guest Post: Tales from the “other”

Today’s guest blogger NotYourOther is a doctoral candidate at a large public university in the Midwest.

As a multiracial woman I have always been an “other”. From childhood on I have struggled with what box to check to identify my racial heritage. Then there was that ever annoying “other” option that further disenfranchised my developing racial identity. My racial ambiguity was never really an issue for me, but always seemed to perplex others, particularly my peers, who often asked the dreaded “so what are you?” question. It seemed as I moved into adulthood and started my career the focus on my race was slightly diminished. I consciously chose to work in agencies where people of color were not always the minority [in number] and my brown skin did not indicate an “otherness”. I contently existed in this fabricated environment for several years until I decided to return to school and pursue my PhD in Social Work.

I am the first to admit that I was desperately naïve in believing that my return to academia would be a utopian experience. I assumed that there would be a higher level of consciousness and self-actualization among faculty and peers. I mean we are social workers, right? Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Early on feelings of “otherness” began and have resurfaced periodically since my first year in the program. I fight with all my self-esteem to keep them at bay and to pack away the subtle microagressions I encounter. I move forward by focusing on my goals and using self-affirmations to get me through the inevitable next set of “other” remarks. I have acquired these coping strategies to survive in an environment that sometimes does not feel ready for me. Such coping mechanisms also keep me guarded and distant from those whose “other” remarks have attempted to damage my spirit whether consciously or not. But eventually, each new encounter adds a little more weight to my load, making it too heavy and I succumb, self doubt creeping in. Continue reading

Guest post: Acknowledging and overcoming self-hindrance

As a graduate student nearing the end of my degree, I have started thinking a lot about what I plan to do when I graduate. Thinking about the future inevitably leads me to think about confidence – am I confident in my abilities as a scientist? Do I think I have what it takes to “make it” in academia? Through conversations with female graduate students and postdocs, I’ve realized that this lack of self-confidence is pervasive (I’ve written about this more here), but in what ways does this materialize, particularly in early career stages?

There is a lot of discussion on gender biases and stereotype threat and how these (often implicit) biases hinder women from staying in academia. Some biases are commonly talked about (i.e. imposter syndrome – here and here), while others are rarely acknowledged. Continue reading