February 11, 2010

Giving Birth to Myself

Posted in Academia, birthing, feminism, feminist journey, Patriarchy, school and academics, Self Image tagged , , , , , at 6:36 pm by Gina Messina

As a woman in graduate school I have had very little confidence in my abilities.  Every time I entered a classroom I immediately began to judge myself as the least intelligent person in the room.  I was certainly a victim of the “imposter” syndrome, believing that I just did not belong and that eventually someone would realize they made a mistake in admitting me to the program.  As time went on I noticed that in smaller classes that were largely female I was more open to feeling part of the class and willing to participate in discussions.  However in classes that had large male populations my feelings of inferiority would quickly take me over and it was painful for me to offer any comment whatsoever.  Unfortunately, I was half way through my first year of my doctoral program before I realized that I was allowing myself to be intimidated by men and feel inferior to them as a result of being raised in a patriarchal culture. 

Within my own family, as a girl, I was encouraged to just “pass” my classes and move on because my role in life was to be a wife and a mother.  My grades were not important and finishing high school seemed to be just a formality.  My mom often told me “I hope you find a nice man to marry to take care of you, smarts just isn’t your thing.”  I know, it sounds horrible, and it is, but she meant it in the nicest way possible, especially since she was given the same message her entire life.

That being said, my brother was always encouraged in his academic pursuits, he was a straight “A” student and the family was overjoyed when he was accepted to UCLA.  As a male his role was to achieve great things and his goals were valued.  He was the one that would have an important role in our society.  While there were great expectations for my brother, there was very little expected of me.

It astonishes me that I was in a doctoral program and in my 30’s by the time I made this connection.  It was so embedded in me that I was second rate that even as I was achieving great things in graduate school I could never recognize myself as being on par with my male as well as some of my female classmates.  Once I made this realization, I was able to pay attention to it and work on my overall confidence.

Early on in my graduate career I often thought I would never make a good scholar.  I felt overwhelmed and incapable of achieving anything that would be noteworthy in a world of brilliance.  However, now that I have realized where my confidence issues have come from and that it is not my work that is inferior I have been able to encourage myself if many ways and grow as a person, woman, and academic.  Instead of hiding in the background I have started stepping forward.  I am motivated to demonstrate my true abilities and so I am putting myself out there.  I will be presenting at my first conference in March, submitted an article for publication (which I am still waiting for an answer on), and I have created files of ideas I intend to pursue that I believe will impact the academic and greater community.  It is exciting to finally have confidence and know that I am capable of those things I thought were impossible for so long.

I have stopped allowing myself to feel inadequate and have started encouraging my creative and scholarly abilities.  Making the realization that my confidence issues were imposed and not warranted changed so much for me; I have grown into an entirely different person.  Through my own hard work and dedication to moving past the limits that have been forced upon me all my life, I have given birth to myself, and I love her.

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October 27, 2009

9 Months Later…

Posted in birthing, mothering, Parent, Relationships tagged , , at 5:04 am by LadySophie

As a 34 year old woman, I realized recently that my “clock is ticking” for birthing children. I have always liked kids and imagined I would have my own. I do not have that burning desire that I see in so many of my friends – the deep need to be a mom. I always figured that I could adopt if I marry too late. Should I feel so ambivalent about something so important?

The closest experience I have had with my own children is the birth of my nieces. They are twin girls (one has my name!) and they are about to turn 8. I remember the night they were born. I was driving to Dallas for a conference when I got the call. I diverged from my path and drove to Austin instead. After a few hours and surgery, we had twin girls. Right then and there – my life changed.

Driving on to Dallas later, I knew that my life would be worthwhile if I could influence and be a part of their lives. No other great thing in life would matter, as long as I could have that role in their lives. I wept the whole way to Dallas. I love them with a passion and would do anything for them. If they just call me Tia – they can have almost anything they ask.

I have done lots of birthing in ministry. An Asian youth camp grew from 100 to 300 in four years. Timid middle school students became capable leaders as a result of concentrated effort and time. Right now, I am birthing a dissertation. I have a 9-month plan on my wall – ironic it would be exactly 9 months.

I am serious about a man with a 9 year old son. What would it look like for me to be a step-mom? It seems like the perfect plan for this ambivalent woman. I don’t think I have missed the boat. I am not worried about the “clock”. What I have learned is that there are so many people in need of love and I have it to give. That will be my impact. That will be the result of my life’s work – the love I have to give.