Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Posts tagged ‘Science in Society’

Why So Negative?

So, I have a had a number of posts, and by now, you maybe could have realized

Thought Bubbles

Thought Bubbles (Photo credit: Michael Taggart Photography)

that I am a naturally positive person. Not only is the glass half full, but I can give you 2 reasons why you should be happy about it. I am also naturally energetic. These attributes make me very able to organize and lead not only my lab but other committees at both the department, college, and even national level. Yet, I am often faced with immediate negative opinions from my colleagues when I put out new ideas, discuss changes, or organize on the departmental level.

Sometimes, they have non-specific comments including, “We tried that 10 years ago, and it didn’t work.” Although this is non-specific and doesn’t give any hard evidence of the “not-working” nature, at least they claim to have tried something new. Other times, they just say, “That’s not how we do that,” without discussion of if it might make sense for us to even try. These attitudes seem unnecessarily negative.

Another place where I find people are negative is about trying to get awards. I recently asked to be put up for a BigAward. Is it a reach? Yes. Am I a shoo-in to win? No. But, again, being the positive sort of person I am, my thought is that your chances of winning are zero if you don’t even try. It’s not that I think I am so great that I will definitely win, it’s just that I see the benefits of trying. When you submit a strong nomination packet, even if you don’t make it to round two, some BigWig, smart people will have to read it. They might be impressed with you. They might remember your application. It might help you out in the long run – you never know. So, my thoughts are that it is worth the time to help your junior colleague get their name out there and support them.

Again, being positive, my take on these people is that they have taken the idea of “critical thinking” to an extreme. We are all taught to be critical thinkers in science. And criticism turns us to the right direction and is helpful. I am not against criticism. It has definitely helped me write better papers and write better grants. But, sometimes, I think that people are so fixated on the “critical” part that they forget about the “thinker” part. They become negative just to be negative for no good reason. Why? Do they do it with everyone? Or am I special because I am so positive? Sometimes these things get me down, and I start feeling bad and suffering from impostor syndrome due to all the negativity. Luckily, I am positive, and one good science interaction or pat on the back from a visitor makes me happy again, but it is disturbing how often the criticism becomes overpowering. If I was a less positive person, it could be crippling or debilitating.

So, what about you? Have you suffered from overpowering criticism? What is justified? Or unnecessarily over the top? How did it affect you, your science, and your attitude? Tell your story in a post or a comment.

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