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How anxiety made me seem disinterested in my own research

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How anxiety made me seem disinterested in my own research

I feel so excited and energized by a conference I recently attended, and amidst my enthusiasm, I have been reflecting on a conversation I had this past summer with one of my committee members. Here is the story:

I completed my dissertation proposal over the summer, and received feedback about some deficits in my presentation skills (see post).  A few weeks later, once I had the opportunity to distance myself from the negative emotions I felt after receiving the criticism, I asked to meet with one of my committee members to discuss my presentation skills and how speaking anxiety plays into that, in more detail. I felt that I was in a place where I could receive constructive feedback without becoming defensive or emotionally charged.

While talking with my committee member, I learned that my nervousness while presenting a poster or making a presentation sometimes comes across to the audience as a lack of interest in my research. I suppose that I am so nervous, I lose all of my animation and end up appearing timid, less knowledgeable, and unengaged by my work. Hearing that I come across as uninterested is hurtful and disheartening because the truth is that I actually find my research extremely engaging and fulfilling. I CARE SO MUCH for the individuals with the disease that we study, and I feel HONORED to contribute to our understanding of the disease in the ways I can. Finding out that I come across as uninterested in my work is tough to absorb because it is so far from the truth. I am fully and passionately invested in what I do, and I hate that social anxiety has caused that passion to be less visible to others at times.

This story is just one example of a repeating theme – how social anxiety can prevent you from being your genuine, authentic self. I have touched on this theme before in the post “Discordance,” and I can think of many ways in which anxiety causes the world to see me as someone other than who I truly am. My brain is being bombarded with examples as I write this, so perhaps I will dedicate a whole other post to this idea.

The author of this story is a postdoctoral associate in the biomedical sciences where she engages in clinical research using magnetic resonance imaging. She enjoys biking, reading, and warm weather. This story was published on December 2, 2017, on the author’s blog, Science and Social Anxiety (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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Published on: May 22, 2019


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