When I first considered talking about this…I didn’t know how to go about it. A video? A blog post? I don’t know. I still don’t know. But I’m too lazy right now to make a video and I’m already sitting at my desk, so blog it is.
I’ve been mulling something over a lot lately and it’s this notion that sometimes these qualities, these things that so often are seen as strengths, well, how they play out in our lives sometimes can be a detriment. Take integrity for example…
I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT INTEGRITY IS SUCH A GOOD THING.
It’s a value that I’ve ingrained so deeply into who I am and, along with authenticity, it’s always been something I’ve pride myself on having so much of. But, you know what? It’s occasionally problematic. I can already see you there, shocked, thinking, “Ellyn how can that
You see, I have followed a plan my whole life. And I did a damn good job at following that plan if I do say so myself. Seriously, I followed it to a “t”. I got my degree, a job out of college, published papers like a good little scientist, went on to get my
Seriously, two full years into my program, and I hate it! And
The problem was that I had built science and research up in my head for so long. They were seemingly the only option for me as a career. So I told myself I couldn’t possibly leave. If I did, I’d have to start over, go back to school and completely change my direction in life. I built this whole thing up in my head to be this huge impossibility. So, dissatisfaction and emptiness be damned, quitting wasn’t an option.
But more than all that, quitting meant going back on my word. It went back on my admissions essays saying that I wanted to be an academic research (let’s be honest, I only said that because it’s what the Admission committees, who are made up of Academic researchers and PIs all want to hear that you want to follow in their footsteps). It meant going back on my world to all my graduate school letter writers, so many of whom had played such an important role in my training. It meant guilt about the person who’s
It was August and I had had a day which would
Shit. Mom called me out. And she couldn’t have been more right.
Hell or high water was already a thing. And yet, despite my hate, despite how much it sucked the life out of me, despite how each day that passed I had to drag myself into work, I had to feign enthusiasm for damn near everything I was doing, I stuck it out. Not because I wanted
How stupid is that?
Ya, integrity can be a bad thing if you take it to extremes. But it’s not the only one…
INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT, BECAUSE, YES, INDEPENDENCE CAN GO TOO FAR TOO.
My mom, sage that she is, used to tell me all the time that I’ve been independent since I could walk. As funny as that phrase is, truer words have never been spoken about me. Except maybe when someone polite said
I pride myself on being independent. On not needing others. On being able to figure it out on my own. On having the internal drive, motivation
People love that shit, right?
Well, there are also a lot of ways in which being so independent and having such pride in that part of my personality has, well, kind of bit me in the ass.
Grad school is a good example. I remember a long time ago I wrote a blog post called “The Overly Confident Rotation Student” (which
Fast forward to later in graduate school. My project was at an absolute stalemate, I was beating my head against the wall doing the same experiment over and over again, and seemingly every single time I felt like I was making progress, something would happen that would derail everything. But, that’s not the point. The point is that I wanted to feel like I could do this on my own, so I never sought out my boss to help explain something to me, to give me a new idea or thing to try until she forced a conversation on me, never expressed my frustrations to her, etc. I would have saved myself so much time and feeling like I was alone in my frustration if I had gotten off my independent, “I can do it ALL BY myself” high-horse (please let me you read that like an angry toddler because that’s how I wrote it) and asked for help. From my boss. From my labmates and peers. From my collaborators. From so many people. Independence definitely shot me in the foot there and it’s definitely something that I did wrong in graduate school.
But that’s not the only place that
In relationships… I’m very independent in relationships. It’s actually something that I’ve written
In friendships… and this is a tricky one for me to navigate. I’m very guarded with my friendships. Like so many people, I’ve had friends that have burned me in the past. Friends who have shared things about me that weren’t theirs to share. Friends who have connected with me and learned my insecurities and vulnerabilities, only to throw them back in my face when they disagreed with something I was doing. It’s made me hesitant to open up. Simultaneously, though, I have a bigger hang-up when it comes to my friendships. One that I’m constantly working on. I’m emotionally independent. What do I mean? I don’t like to burden my friends with my negative emotions and some of the darker parts of my emotions and my past. So, when I’m really struggling with something, even though I have wonderful friends that want to be there for me and want to help, sometimes getting a straightforward, honest answer to something like, “What’s wrong?” is really really hard. I don’t willingly divulge those things. My thinking is, “It’s my shit. And I need to figure out how to handle it on my own without burdening the people I love.” And that’s stupid. Stupid and not productive. It’s something that I still struggle with it. But again, with my therapist, I’ve been making progress. I also often think of something Brene Brown said…
There are people that haven’t earned the right to hear my stories. So when they ask me what’s wrong, I am not obligated to give them an honest, complete,
SO ARE INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY INHERENTLY BAD EMOTIONS? HELL NO.
Having a high degree of integrity is a great thing. Having a high degree of independence and self-motivation is a great thing. Same goes for someone who is detail-oriented, innovative, structured, etc. Those are all characteristics that are inherently good. But we have to use care with taking them to extremes.
Being detail-oriented is
Being innovative is wonderful, but innovation only gets you so far if you are so focused on innovating that you don’t follow-through and carry any of your projects forward.
Being structured is great, until you get so stuck in the plan that you let following the perfect plan hold you back from
All positive characteristics have a dark side. They can all be taken to extremes. And I think that’s important to know and to realize moving forward. Independence and integrity are two of my strongest characteristics. But they’re also some of my biggest Achilles heels. I think it’s important for us to recognize this. Because otherwise, how else do we grow? And you know I’m all about growth… 😉