Six weeks ago I wrote a post about how difficult it is to write conference proposals.
Since then, I've been on a roller-coaster of anxiety about my performance in various job roles. Word comes down that I am thought to be lacking in some significant ways; rumors filter through about serious misgivings people have about my work or personality or habits. I crash into self-doubt, wondering how I could have been so blind to my own failings, or whether the accusations are misguided or misinformed.
Then I get an affirmation that takes me in completely the opposite direction. A compliment from a well-placed colleague about my stellar reputation on campus. Confidence from a mentor about my potential in a demanding role.
And best of all, accepted conference proposals. The latest one came yesterday evening after a long day of meetings here in San Francisco. That proposal I made to the national meeting has been approved -- only the second time I've been placed on the program for the national AAR based on peer review (rather than through invited talks or arranged panels).
I read back over the proposal after going online to confirm that I would accept the invitation to present. It's just as good as I had remembered. Really, really good, if that's not tooting my own horn. I worked hard on it. I thought it was really good when I submitted it. As I posted at the time, I found it hard to imagine that something I've invested with this much substance and thought wouldn't be successful.
But I also know that my job isn't always a meritocracy. My best efforts are not always met with success, with affirmation, with praise. Sometimes what I am doing is not understood, sometimes it runs askew from what someone else thinks should be done, sometimes I am not actually doing it well (even if I think I am).
So when my cherished yet tremulous self-assessment is matched and validated by the assessment of others in a position to judge the worth of my work, I am enormously grateful. I cling to those moments, especially when the critiques and demurrals are not yet resolved and put behind me. No matter what any others might think, here is evidence that I am good at what I do, that I create value that some others recognize and affirm. With that in my pocket, I can move forward with confidence -- at least until the coaster track drops out from under me again.