New directions (and some thoughts on professional development)

I came into this blogging world with the desire to share about my experiences during my journey to obtaining my PhD. I admit, it's been a minute since I've written a blog post and I've struggled to find the desire to write more. I always hit this roadblock when it comes to blogging. But I've decided I want my blog to include more- more about life, science, health, career advice, all with a little touch of humanity. Our stories aren't written by neat little how-to lists on staying healthy in grad school or crushing a poster presentation (both of which I have blogged about before). Our stories do include these things, but they're also consumed with interpersonal relationships, career development opportunities, work-life balance, activities outside of work, feminist and humanitarian issues, mistakes, failures, personal beliefs and values- I could keep listing more and more, but I will spare you.

So, prepare to see a few different directions in the upcoming blog posts. I will still be posting about my own science and featuring wonderful scientists I know, but I'm also going to sail out into uncharted waters and bridge the gap between lab life and real life. (Disclaimer: I am completely terrified to do this because I'm going to dip my toes into what it's like to bear your heart in an online forum and this is one of the most intimidating arenas to step into. But what is life without a little risk?)

Without further ado, today I'm going to write about one of my biggest fears: being too nice. I spend a week in San Diego, CA before spending another week in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts for an amazing conference on ion channels. (Serious note to anyone in the biomedical sciences- if you get the opportunity to go to a Gordon Research Conference, absolutely do it without hesitation. It's been the best experience of my career thus far.) While my fiance was at work, I spend my time reading a book called "The Myth of the Nice Girl" by Fran Hauser (click the title to be linked to the book). This book spoke so much life into me after years of being ashamed of my own personality. 

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Anyone ever struggle with feeling they are too nice? Anyone ever been told they're too nice? I've experienced both in a professional environment and it is a crushing feeling- I felt like I was going to have a meltdown upon hearing the dreaded, "she's too nice." Why is it that we struggle so much with being nice? There's no doubt in my mind that this is a feminist issue, because it tends to be women in the workplace who shoulder so much insecurity over being friendly. Being too nice brings more risks than I care to count- if we're too nice we tend to get walked over like a doormat in the workplace, in some situations being too nice can lead to awkward interpersonal relationships as well. However, you get labeled a cold-hearted bitch the minute you try to be tough and stern so as to not get walked all over. I've tried to overcompensate for my fear of being nice and it doesn't work well, nor does it feel good afterwards.

So what can be done to overcome this? Fran Hauser makes the best argument to own your authentic niceness in the workplace. But to do so, she highlights the necessity of appropriate boundaries (which can vary from person to person- I'm still personally trying to figure out my own boundaries) mingled with genuine investment in the lives of those around you. Her words empowered me to no longer fear being nice but to develop it instead to truly bring the most to the table in the workplace (and life in general honestly).

In my experience, I see the value of living authentically (and even nicely- dare I say it). The most uncomfortable moments I've had in the workplace (or in any interaction/relationship) have been when I'm trying to fit myself to be someone I'm not. Awkward small talk, trying too hard to be funny in a given situation, or behaving to fit what I think would make a good impression on the other person- all of these things lead me to a speedy downfall rather than just taking things slowly, saying things I align with and listening intently to the person I'm conversing with. If I try hard to impress or say the right thing, I always end up outside of my comfort zone because I'm no longer being myself. However, when I focus on the present moment and the person standing in front of me, everything goes much more smoothly and genuine relationships can be formed.

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Bree Watkins