….but we are all fabulous.
I was fortunate enough to get promoted to Senior Lecturer this week (equivalent to Principal Lecturer in post-1992 universities or Associate Professor in US). I am delighted and relieved (although it is taking a little while to sink in) but when I was thinking about what to write about this week, the thing that really struck me was the difference between how I felt about my department before and after finding out I’d been successful. The promotion process takes 5 months at my university – at least from submission of application to final decision. In reality it takes at least another 6-12 months prior to applying to think about the process, seek advice, attempt to fill any gaps in one’s cv etc. As the time drew nearer to hear the outcome, I found myself fluctuating between certainty that they had to give it to me and despair that despite all my efforts they might not. At the times that I became convinced that I would not be successful, I found myself ruminating on the 2 colleagues I am finding especially challenging at the moment, the “unappreciated” work I have contributed over the past few years over and above that of some other colleagues both at my and other universities and so on. I started thinking about what I would do if I was not successful – apply for other jobs – even if slightly lower or equivalent to my exiting job. Of course as soon as I discovered I had been successful, much of this shifted and I feel positive towards my department once more. Apart from the recognition (and modest pay rise), in reality, none of the things that made me angry before have actually changed – my 2 colleagues are still challenging, workload isn’t as evenly distributed as it might be and teaching and admin is still higher than at comparable departments. Despite this, I am now thinking about how collegiate most of my colleagues are, how supportive my HoD is, how many opportunities for self-development I am being given and how fortunate I am in having access to the research resources I have. The rather obvious reason for this shift in my feelings is my changed perspective.
(Source: Εσύ που ήσουν [Facebook])
(For anyone who finds themselves not successfully promoted, this might be a helpful way to start thinking about moving on: http://www.wikihow.com/Respond-when-a-Promotion-Is-Rejected).
Perspective and memory
Perspective affects much about how we not only perceive the world around us but also how we remember it. In 1978, Anderson and Pichert conducted a study* in which they asked participants to read a story about two boys playing truant either from the perspective of a house buyer or a burglar. They then asked participants to recall what they could remember from the story. Participants remembered more information relevant to the perspective they had read it from. Astonishingly, when they were then asked to recall the story again from the alternate perspective, they actually remembered additional details not relevant to their original perspective.
*Anderson, R. C., & Pichert, J. W. (1978). Recall of previously unrecallable information following a shift in perspective. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 17(1), 1-12.
Perspective on ourselves
Social Comparison Theory, originally proposed by Festinger, suggests (amongst other things) that we feel differently, more positively or more negatively, about ourselves depending on whether we compare ourselves upwardly (to those we see as better than us) or downwardly. We can easily see how another perspective change can also affect how we feel about ourselves. Have you ever looked at a photograph of yourself from a few years ago and thought how great your younger self looked? I have and the sadness of this is that at the time I would have thought I looked too fat or uncool, yet now I see a young woman of her time, not fat at all, lovely soft youthful skin, looking vibrant and with endless possibilities ahead. It’s a lesson worth learning for how I view myself now. In another 10 years no doubt I’ll look back and see myself more favourably than I do now. I sometimes try to shift my perspective on myself by trying to imagine how others might see me, or how I would view myself if I were a friend or even that older-me looking back through time. I get a flash of realisation that my self-esteem is not a reliable indicator of my worth, but that’s hard to hold onto.
Perspective in art
Perspective in art of course means something rather different and in my art class this week (I’m a complete beginner), the exercise I was working on was getting to grips with pen and ink whilst attempting to copy one of Van Gogh’s drawings:
Van Gogh: Pollard Birches (1884)
As you can see, he captures perspective in this drawing with the use of many devices but the one I was especially interested in was the direction of the tiny lines in the clearing in the centre.
Final word on perspective
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations