By Subaita Rahman

I came to Cal knowing I was going to switch my major. I didn’t know to what, nor could I really pinpoint why, but I just knew I didn’t want to settle until I felt truly content with what I was studying.

Here, a year and a half later, about to declare my major as Political Economy, I’m trying to think back to what feeling I was looking for when I made my first switch into L&S from CNR. I don’t think I’ve found it, but frankly I have to say I’m glad about that.

I’ve realized that finding a field of study where I come in feeling 100% comfortable might not exactly be possible, but more importantly shouldn’t be the goal. Growth is good, challenge is good, and I’ve found a little bit of uneasiness allowed me to keep my mind open to possibilities and not have tunnel vision over a goal, which has so far left me pleasantly surprised with what I can find out there. So, with this in mind, I’ve learned to accept a sort of positive lack of comfort in what I was doing, and a sense that even if I might not love something 100% right now, I probably will get close to that eventually, because I love it just enough for now. And with that, I clutch my declaration forms a little harder.

However, certain discomfort can come from a tougher place to crack, and this is where much more growth had to occur.

As a woman, I find it’s easy for me to feel out of my depth in a room of majority-male upper-division classes for my major, or to be easily bummed by lower grades due to a strange need for me to prove to myself and to who-else-knows that I deserve a spot to excel, too. If you hear your own thoughts here, you’re not being dramatic – actual research indicates that women are more likely to feel discouraged and drop out from a B- grade in a class than their male peers, and to take it into account more heavily when considering long-term career decisions. Statistics points to women spending more time studying and being disproportionately affected by a desire to get straight A’s in a subject they’re choosing to major in, further cementing this tendency to drop out of a major when this desired result isn’t achieved.

Maybe you’ve witnessed this yourself, too – the feeling of self-doubt that comes when you pull a B in your introductory Econ class, wondering if you should really stick around when, to you, you don’t even seem to be all that great at it. Meanwhile, maybe the guy down your hall is taking his B as a green-light to go forth and prosper, enough of an indication that he’s not half-bad at what he’s doing and can skate by the next Econ class.

And it’s true: he’s not half-bad at it, and neither are you. Whether this is a feminist issue or a personal issue over not feeling welcome or feeling unnatural pressure in the field you’re going into, it’s okay to lower the standard for yourself if you feel it’s worth it in the long run. The “C’s get degrees” mindset might not be totally universal, but it’s still worth it to keep in mind that B’s and C’s will not doom you, either. There are actual, legitimate barriers for women in so many fields, be it systematic or social, and the knowledge of this is psyching us out too early. Be kind to yourself, because you still need someone on your side.

(And as a tip, it might be useful to start carrying the confidence of an underqualified man during an interview in your own outlook, too. If they’re so ready to accept mediocrity, why can’t we?)

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