A. It’s clear that you were affected by this experience. It is normal to feel apprehensive when being evaluated. There is clearly a power difference here. Professors and mentors do grade us, which determines our professional future. However, receiving feedback is invaluable at key junctures in our professional development. As a woman you may feel more vulnerable with a male professor calling you into his office. I am glad your professor paid attention to your feelings and gave you space rather than more feedback at a bad time.
You also want to look at your previous experiences of getting feedback, especially as a girl at home with your parents, particularly your father or other older male figures and teachers. Were you shamed and criticized? Did you receive negative consequences as a younger student or in your home that felt scary? How do you feel about other people having authority and power over you? This exploration will help flesh out some of your personal history that relates to your high reactivity.
In future finding the courage to tell your professor that you feel vulnerable and scared about this meeting could be very helpful. You could also ask for reassurance from the beginning that you’re not in trouble and will still graduate.
It is often the case that beneath the apparent self-confidence, many students are often quite fragile and self-protective. Both students and teachers need to learn non-defensive communication skills and create an enriching relationship.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com