I am certainly the one, and I know enough about myself to know that I am also the other despite the strange, intangible confusion that I sometimes feel as a result of the former. Today I'm going to write about biology--my own biology and biochemistry, how it goes on in my life and lab and which I study quite subjectively in myself without any good positive or negative controls, and without nearly enough systematic data (although I wish I could get it!).
See, all the fighting of the good fight, all the discussions about what rationally and objectively should be done as a leader and in difficult situations and when managing people and when running projects etc., all of it becomes like a jello tower of unsureitude at certain times when my hormones change who I am. And that really is what it feels like: you go from one week of being like a razor cutting through the bullshit and carving this amazingly solid beautiful map of what is happening now and where it needs to go... to suddenly overnight wondering how you ever managed to understand anything, seriously doubting the abilities of the people around you, your own abilities, and your ability to even assess other peoples' abilities. You, who are outgoing and friendly and comfortable with people (even difficult people), good at getting what you want and need, turn into an awkward, laugh-too-loud and make weird non-sequiter comments, detail-forgetting airhead, who comes down like a bolt of lightning on anyone who does something stupid. I feel all of this from inside, and some of it shows outside. It changes who I am.
I can't understand things, I can't make decisions, my confidence is gone, my anxiety is huge, my perceptions of people are obsessive and threatened and/or judgemental...
Or are they? Or is it just my own perception of myself that I am wrong? Is it that I can really see the truth and am not blinded by my usual feeling of wanting to be nice? I JUST CAN'T TELL. The worst is how you can't tell.
The scariest part is how I never even know where these waves of body-snatcherism come from until after the fact when the chemical cloud has shifted and my brain is not being overwhelmed by WHATEVER it is that causes this (is it a LACK of estrogen? An OVERABUNDANCE of progesterone? Or just the IMABALANCE or SHIFTING of the two and whatever other ones like prolactin or lutein that are all pummeling or not pummeling as usual or WTF is going on). Because of human biology, this thing that comes over me from these hormonal shifts really does change who I am, my fundamental brain chemistry that determines how I interact with my environment.
So what does this mean for me being a leader? I do, and I have to, fight my way through these things. I suppose other people probably just see them as a part of my personality, the natural range of behaviors I present, probably don't even really notice the difference--but it's so upsetting to feel from the inside that it's some other thing taking over making me somehow different from who I really am and who I want to be, for a significant portion of my life (~25%). And how do I trust myself to lead, and to make the right decisions and judge appropriately and productively from this kind of mindset? Isn't this the fundamental question we all try not to think about and don't know what to do about? Because I might be different and less fair when my hormones change me, and then how can I be trusted to be in charge?
I'm asking this devil's-advocate-facetiously, of course, but it's a real question, and so far the discussions on women as leaders try to set this up as a non-factor and push it out of the way, because it's a freaky problem--both unsolveable and non-understandable. What does it really mean? Does it mean we A) can't make the right judgements, or does it mean B) we have some extra-special supernatural-natural abilities to make even better judgements during the times of harsh no-bullshit critical feelings? It certainly adds another cosmic dimension to the difficulties of leadership, and science too since it gives me such a feeling of ineptitude and mental thickness.
I really don't know, and it is just so stressful to not know, and to find that no matter what you accomplish, how good you are at people, everything else: there will still be recurring, unavoidable days when you're a little kid again feeling like you just said something really dumb in front of the grownups (stupid), or threw a rock at the defenseless neighborhood weirdo out of spite (pointlessly mean) (and no, I never actually did that but that's what it feels like).