Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fluid Life

As I'm reading more and more self-help books and seeking out more and more articles on how to become a better person, I now realize that life and identity are very fluid.

After reading Overcoming Low Self-Esteem by Melanie Fennell, I finally recognize how important it is to go along with change and not resist it. People with low self-esteem are typically stuck in ruts, using old information to create rules for living. For example, if when they were little, they were told they were "annoying" by their siblings, people with low self-esteem may think no one wants to be their friends as they grow older because they still have that label attached to themselves. Their bodies and experiences have changed, but their perspectives have not. To improve self-esteem,  people have to realize that they are not "annoying" kids anymore but grown adults that have multiple personality facets.

I'm aware of how "Captain Obvious" this sounds of me. Yes, of course we're all aware that people change, but I think sometimes we forget to accept and acknowledge that change. Hence, people with low self-esteem say "Oh, no, that can't possibly be me. I'm not fun to be around. I'm annoying" even when they've got people laughing and asking to be their friends. We've forgotten to change our self-concept to accommodate our new experiences.

Developing a fluid identity helps us to grow and become better adjusted. Part of fluidity is accepting what is in the present as it comes to us. We no longer focus on the ideal label of "good girl" or "hipster." Instead, we have parts of the "good girl" label and parts of the "hipster" label yet we are not just that label. Someone with a rigid "good girl" identity may say, "I can't believe I just had an argument with my mother. I'm not living up to my ideals. I'm such a horrible person," but if she becomes fluid, she recognizes that arguments are just a thing of life, something to learn from, not something that controls all of her self-worth. All of her self-esteem and identity eggs are not put into one basket. With fluid identities, we adjust standards and expectations as we need to, and we no longer hold ourselves to unrealistic ideals.

Instead of getting stuck with labels we can never fully live up to every second of the day, we develop self-compassion. A "good girl" can say, "I might have argued with my mom, but that's ok. It hasn't ruined my life, just strained our relationship a little." She's not selling herself short, instead she's letting herself simply be, not trying to be something, but just be.

I think this is what frustrates so many children growing up, or at least it frustrated me. We were told we had to be SOMETHING. We had to be good at sports, great at making friends, fantastic at learning, terrific leaders, and even more creative than anyone has been ever before. If we didn't check off our accomplishments and fall into certain categories, then we weren't anything at all, but just worthless nothings. Good luck trying to get into college without that checklist! This is why I think so many people are suffering because we have too many standards and not enough room to just be.

For those of us who are perfectionists, we will never be worth anything until we've done everything right. And as most of us know, not everything can be done "right" every single time. Someone's definition of "right" may not be the same as yours. Yet perfectionists are not worthless, but instead just people who forget that they can just BE instead of have to be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. Our worth shouldn't be caught up in the number of checks on our lists, instead they should be caught in the fact that we just are.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Love for Family

After I finished writing thank you notes to my friends and family, I started thinking about how important my family is to me. I've written before that it's important to spend time with your family during the holidays, but I think it's just important to keep in touch with your family members, regardless if it's your grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, or parents.

Perhaps a lot of people aren't like me and don't have 30 cousins on one side and 20 on the other. When I speak about my family, people are amazed that I address my aunts as "Aunt" and never by their first names. One of my friends mentioned that she didn't really talk to her extended family much, but I always see mine at least once a year.

I find that my family, both my immediate one and my extended one, offers me strong bonds and connections. While many people say they hate their families and don't get along with them, I wish I could give them a bit of my family. Sure, I don't always agree with them, especially when they say ridiculous things like Obama is a Muslim and not an American citizen, but I still love them. I just avoid discussing politics with them and let them talk at me. When I have a moment, I'll change the subject to sports or ask them about their work. Anything else sounds better than ignorant political comments.

It wasn't until college that I realized my family was important. I've always been connected to them in some way, so I probably took them for granted and didn't realize they were a strong support system. As I've gotten older, the way I interact with them has changed. I still don't talk much to them or just in general, but we send holiday and birthday cards to each other. Those cards do a lot to raise my mood a little bit at a time.

Maybe I'm a lucky person to have such a great family that tries its best to keep in touch even if we only speak a few times a year. To be honest, I don't get along with everybody, but it's still "blood is thicker than water" for me. Perhaps it's better to hold on to those you do get along with and make peace with those that you don't.

While I'm up here, 20 hours away from my family, I find that small and brief contact, such as cards in the mail or Facebook messages, helps me feel connected and loved. Even though I don't have friends up here yet, at least I have somebody so I'm not truly alone. Sometimes it's not the big moments that count, but the small gestures that make you feel connected.

And this is the just the cousins of the smaller side of my family.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Go Learn You Some Professionalism

Out of all the things my college education lacked, it was business professionalism. I can describe facts and theory and after theory. I can even apply those theories, but I have a limited idea of how to act in a business setting.

My lack of professionalism got me into some trouble. When I thought I was discussing my opinion, my boss thought I was back talking her. Well, I can see why she told me I might need to consider a job in a different field.

College is a highly democratic process. In class, you can discuss changing deadlines and even changing assignments. Your teacher invites you to disagree on theories and create your own. In business? No way, Jose--if you disagree with the business's theory, they'll show you the door.

Business meetings and lunches require different manners. It's very awkward to be the only one who doesn't put the napkin on your lap while eating. You start to feel left out and unrefined.

Leading a group of your peers is very different from leading in the business place. You'll probably agree more with your peers since you'll share experience levels and be of similar generations. It's also very different from working under an employer. Pretty much everyone in your group has less autonomy because you have to work towards your employer's mission, not your individual mission (yet it's expected that your individual mission align with your company's mission), and you have to work together without stepping on other people's toes. Imagine a dance where every single person is doing different motions on a tiny stage. It's pretty hard not to bump into others.

I fully understand now why businesses say that colleges do not train students for the business world. It's true. They don't. Colleges train students for jobs in the future, not for current businesses that are available. For example, so many medical students are trained to use technology that's too expensive for the average hospital or doctor to afford. So with your college degree, you can basically say, "Look at all these skills and theories I have that don't matter to current employers." Yet...you get paid more for having a college degree. I don't know what to make of that. You get paid more for having skills that employers don't even need.

My advice to current college students is to take workshops on professionalism. These workshops weren't offered at my college. My college only offered workshops on resumes and interview skills. You're gonna need a lot more than that to survive in the business world. I'm lucky that my employer offers workshops online about professionalism and business etiquette. (My boss and I agreed that I should do these workshops and then implement these skills. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have survived in the workplace.) Those workshops focus a lot on personal accountability and communication. I highly encourage college students to seek out information on these topics because you're mostly likely not going to find these things in the classroom.

Again, colleges will help you get the job, but you have to learn how to act once you've gotten the job.

P.S. You can talk about your personal business in college and everything will be ok. Talk about your personal business in a professional environment, and poop will hit the ceiling. I don't recommend it. Keep your poop to yourself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The College Entitlement of Free

While in college, organizations advertised "FREE FOOD!" for almost every single event. In fact, if you wanted people to come to your event, you had to offer something, and that something was usually free food. Housing companies trying to attract leasers would offer free things, such as pens, drink holders, and ID holders. Even the ROTC program offered something free. The big keyword in college is "FREEEEEE!"

Outside of college, things aren't so free. You have to pay for your own meals, and when you eat as an organization, people request that you bring a few dollars to cover the costs of meals. I've found out that food and those "free" items are really pretty expensive. College students are very lucky to get all those goodies.

Since I've just graduated, I still have to get the idea that I should get free stuff out of my head. In fact, one day my supervisor took me to lunch and paid for it with her own credit card. The lunch tasted great, but I realized too late that I forgot to thank her and ask to split the bill. I just automatically assumed the company would pay for it since it was my first lunch on the job. I was wrong. Lesson learned.

Now that I have to pay for everything myself, I'm a lot more careful about how much I pay, and I recognize that free is nice, but it's not something you should get used to. Everything just seems so dang expensive! I think I've become a bit more thankful for all the free things I got from my college.

My work  has a "store," where you can toss in a few quarters or dollars and get a drink or snack. The tin can where you place the money is called "The Nittany Bank." The store mostly runs on the honor system, and lately it's been coming up short...The point of the store is to buy new things, such as faucet filters or more snacks, and to give small bonuses when someone at work does something beyond expectations. The store can't even do that now. It barely gets enough money to replenish snacks.

Thinking about the store at work and how I have to buy everything myself now makes me realize how important money is. Yes, college is ridiculously expensive, especially at a time when jobs are scarce and don't pay that well, but at the same time, you get a lot of "free" benefits, such as a gym membership, access to career counselors, access to health and mental doctors, and also lots of connections and great research (that's probably part of why tuition is so high, to provide "free" access to services). No wonder why college students seem so spoiled to some outsiders! I honestly think it's much cheaper to get services at college than outside college. For example, at LSU, you can get a general doctor visit without extra payments, but if you're not at college, you have to pay anywhere from $20-$150.

If there is one piece of advice I can give college students concerning money, it's take advantage of all the "free" opportunities that you pay for with your tuition. You're probably not going to get such a great deal after you leave college. Everything gets a lot more expensive. The piling expenses never seem to stop.

Friday, November 7, 2014

RESURRECTION BLOGFEST: Researcher

This is a previous post on March 15, 2014. It has been resurrected for Mina Lobo's RESURRECTION BLOGFEST! 

When I first entered college, I wanted to be a researcher. Working on my thesis has completely destroyed any inkling or want of being a researcher. That dream was shattered into a million pieces because research wasn't what I thought it was.

I'm still working on the same thesis. It's currently been a year and half since I started reading about English as a second language, designing stimuli, and programming the experiment for the participants. I'm glad to say that I'm finally in the experimental stage. It took me forever to get here, and unfortunately, I only have a month to run about 60 participants. I ran 14 in the first week--Yay me!

However...I seem to be having problems with participants. In my experiment, I'm running native English speakers and non-native English speakers. Native English speakers means that speakers have spoken English as their first language and have been exposed to it since birth. I'm also defining it as someone who only learned English from birth and no other language. Non-native speakers have learned other first languages besides English or they've learned English and another language at the same time since birth. Are we clear? Okay, good.

I have two sections for my experiment: native speakers and non-native speakers. However, native speakers have been signing up for the non-native speaker spots and non-native speakers have been signing up for native speaker spots. And all I can do is sit there with my legs crossed and fingertips pressed together above my chest as I stare at them in disbelief. Do people not know how to read? The definitions for native speakers and non-native speakers are even included in the sections when they sign up for the experiment. It's a bit frustrating.

Besides that, some participants just decide to not show up at all. So, here I am, struggling to get 60 participants. When I see someone signed up, I get excited. Woo! More data! Now my analysis will be more reliable! And when that person doesn't show up, I'm immediately let down. I can't draw conclusions from such a small amount of data.

I think I can appreciate researchers more now because I understand the frustrations with human participants not cooperating or showing up or just not signing up at all. I don't think I'm going to support my hypotheses in my thesis at all. Honestly, it's looking like one giant failure, but I guess that's ok. Science can only disprove things and not prove them.

At this point, I just want to get something. If I can get 20 participants instead of 60, I would be so happy. My final project is differing a lot from my original proposal, but at least I'll have something. I would be so happy if people would just answer my e-mails and show up to the experiment. It's the little things that count when nothing else seems to be going right. Research, you are one heck of a challenge.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Not a Failure, Just a Learner

I've been thinking about the idea of confidence and self-esteem for a while. Perhaps I overreacted in my last post about "The Confidence Gap" by the Atlantic.

Lately at work, I've noticed that I'm making a good number of mistakes. I get fussed at for misspelling words or missing some when I proofread, forget to attach documents to e-mails, fail to realize I have to upload documents in multiple places, and also fail to realize that I should have my boss sign her own cover letters. Sometimes, she asks me to sign them for her, but at other times, she wants to sign them herself.

"I'm such a failure," I tell myself. Shouldn't I have known about all these things? Well...no, not every single thing. Some mistakes I've made, I've made them because I made a guess at what I had to do, and it turns out my guess was wrong. I've only been here for about 3.5 months, so how could I do everything perfectly on the first try. There's gotta be a learning curve.
The Learning Curve--Up we go!

Telling myself I'm a failure when I made a mistake isn't helpful to say the least. It doesn't help me fix failures. It doesn't improve my self-esteem. It eats away at my confidence more quickly than I imagined.

Sure, compared to my co-workers, I'm not that great. They can speak at least two languages and tend to get things accurate. They phrase things more professionally than I do. But most of all, they've been here longer than me. They are older than me and have different experiences. I don't think it's a fair comparison between them and me. I'm like the $50 dollar printer that can do a good enough job, and they're like the $1000 mega-monster printers that do everything you want--even make coffee.

I've got a lot to learn, yes, and if I keep my mind open, maybe I'll learn even more. No one's a perfect expert in a day. No one's perfect ever. Perhaps the trick to becoming a valuable person, in general, is to be open to learning and admit you are wrong. It's okay to ask for help. Being able to bounce ideas off of people and come up with new ideas is where it counts. I have to learn skills to add on to my $50 self to become the $1000 mega-monster. It will take time, patience, and the will to admit I have more things to learn.

It's a bit frustrating sometimes because I want to be perfect and awesome now at this minute. But work isn't as easy as elementary school or high school. In some ways, it's more challenging than college. I'm the underdog that has a lot to learn, and I'm not the smartest kid in the class anymore. It feels weird yet I think it's a good weird. It means there's room for improvement and challenges. There's not a ceiling holding me down, and I have room to grow now. I just have to seize new opportunities, give it my best, and learn how to do it better.

Seize the opportunities by the horns