Accepting Our Limitations

Accepting Our Limitations | New Faculty


I was sweating it out at yoga on no particular Sunday and I was concentrating on increasing my flexibility when I turn left. It’s certainly a weak point. I cannot get my elbow around my knee, my balance is at a deficit on that side, and overall, I find myself struggling when I need to turn left. Blame it on the scoliosis or simply that I’m right dominant, so my inclination is to turn right more often and underuse my left side in general.

Whatever the reason, it gave me pause during my practice:

I need to accept this limitation.

The same is true in the academy. There will always be something. It will never be without limitations. Whether it’s our research (hey, there’s a reason there’s a ‘limitations’ section in our papers), red tape from administration, or limitations with our grand ideas for our teaching, limitations are something we have to adapt too.

I have been ‘fighting’ my left vertebrae and muscles for years. I only accepted my reduced range of motion in the last year or two and began to actually work on it. Through intense yoga practice, better home stretching, and that indulgence of a ‘once a month’ massage, I’m not feeling so tight down the left side of my spine. My range of motion isn’t noticeably better to anyone except me, but I may be able to wrap my right elbow over my left knee by the end of the calendar year. I imagine I will feel the same amount of gratification as the day I could do a headstand for longer than 10 seconds without toppling over too.

Academia has forced me to also accept my limitations: not writing enough or going too long in between bouts of writing. I’m lucky. I have lots of opportunities to collaborate and I’ve certainly capitalized on those. While it’s only February, I’ve already sent out two articles and my name on the by-line is moving up from third or fourth (or later) to a solid second on both of these pieces. I want to contribute more to my scholarly writing. I NEED too, but I’m also limited by time, but who isn’t?

By continuing to not only accept my limitations, but work on it actively, just like my yoga practice, my writing practice is and will hopefully continue to strengthen.

Limitations are also prevalent in our research too. In perfect world land, we’d all have unlimited budgets, students who already knew what they were doing, and unlimited time to dedicate to furthering the notion of science. In real world land, rarely do any of those exist. It is important to accept our limitations as researchers, particularly those we cannot always control and be transparent about reporting those in our findings. As a largely qualitative researcher, being transparent comes with the job as each population and participant is different, but it’s important to note those differences, even if a reviewer sends back a scathing report.

Limitations also remind us that we are in fact, human. There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. and 52 weeks in each year. There’s not enough time for everything. Ever. And we need to accept that. As a young faculty member, we quickly realize that we’re not going to be able to do it all. In fact, we’re barely going to be able to do half on a good day. We need to accept and then forgive ourselves for this instead of constantly beating ourselves up over it, getting in a busy contest with ourselves and with others, and simply step away for the day.

In academia, we need to accept our limitations. In ourselves, we need to do the same. Keep working but also know when to call it a day and go home to the ones we love. Or in my case: lay in a heap on the couch and enjoy life for a few hours with no ‘sounds’ going off on any device 🙂

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