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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Who's Afraid of the MFA, the MFA, the MFA?

My friend Kate was reading my blog yesterday. Said that my rant about being who people think we are rather than who we think we are reminded her of something she learned in Sociology last year, called the Looking Glass Self:
"Looking Glass Self- the process of developing a self-image on the basis of the messages we get from others, as we understand them. There are three components to the looking glass self: 1.We imagine how we appear to others; 2. We imagine what their judgment of that appearance must be; 3. We develop some self-feeling, such as pride or mortification, as a result of our imagining others' judgment." [Definition courtesy of University of Colorado doctoral students.]

I wonder if some of us (namely, me--it's all about me, y'all. Deal with it) place more significance on the judgments of others? Or tend to imagine that the judgments will be harsh? Note that this is based on how we imagine we appear to others. And on "the messages we get from others, as we understand them." (Emphasis mine.) If our perception is faulty or skewed towards self-criticism/mortification, then it's easy to see how someone (again, me) might avoid taking risks for fear of appearing even more stupid.

On a related note, I got a call last night from the Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at one of the schools I'm applying to. He asked if there was anything he could help me with and I actually, so help me God, said, "I don't suppose you can help me finish my application?" Then we laughed, ha ha ha, and I had to confess that I'd done the easy parts and was procrastinating on the hard parts, the dialogue/statement of purpose and the creative sample. You know, the parts that really count? The ones that help them decide if an applicant deserves one of the seven nonfiction writing slots available? Why not just write in my dialogue, in big bold letters: "I HAVE TROUBLE MANAGING MY TIME AND TEND TO PROCRASTINATE AND THEN DO A HALF-ASSED JOB AT THE LAST MINUTE"? Yeah, I can put that in the section where they want me to provide evidence that I can work independently. Yeah, that's it. I'm sure he put a big black mark next to my name: "Hannah B., not a serious contender. Not as committed as those who have sent their applications in well before the March 1 deadline." Crap, crap, crap.

But I was thinking about it later, and asking myself why I was having so much trouble making myself finish the application: fear of failure? Fear of success? Do I not really want to go? And it hit me. (Almost literally. I was brushing my teeth at the time and nearly bonked my head on the door to the medicine cabinet.) I'm not afraid they'll reject me. I'm afraid they'll accept me, and then I'll have to actually go. Do. Be an actual graduate student. And that's what I think I'm not capable of. I think I can fool them into thinking I'd be a good candidate, but that I wouldn't actually be able to do the work required, and then, then I'd be exposed for the imposter that I really am.

Ah, but if I put things off until the last minute (which is rapidly approaching) and do a half-assed job (something I'm very good at, by the way, having decades of practice), why, then they'll be forced to reject me and I won't have to go! Brilliant! La la la--I'm off to finish my application!


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