Woman Wednesday: Julia Butterfield


"If there’s one thing people learn about me right away, it’s that I play ultimate and I really really love it. I did my laundry today after a couple of weeks, and as I was sorting through my clothes, I realized that the only piece of “normal” (non-ultimate) clothing was one pair of jeans. When I first started grad school in September, I was worried about what my labmates would think of me, so I tried to make an extra effort to “dress up.” In my case, that translated to wearing jeans instead of soccer shorts, a shirt other than a cotton t-shirt or jersey, and some shoes that aren’t running shoes. And I would spend the day being less comfortable than if I had just been wearing a jersey and track pants, and constantly worrying whether it mattered anyway because I still didn’t look as nice as the rest of them.

Eventually, I realized that part of why I had leaned into graduate school was that I would be able to dress however I wanted most of the time, and that if my labmates were going to judge me for this, that was their problem and not mine. My advisor had explicitly said that we could dress how we wanted, and I knew it did not affect my work. In reality, my labmates probably don’t care one bit what I wear; I was just creating a story in my head. Now, I obviously realize that there will be days when I need to actually look professional (i.e. days when I am testing subjects or attending a conference), but on most days, the only thing that was stopping me from dressing in the way that I felt comfortable was my fear of what the people around me were thinking about me. And I’ve decided that’s not a good enough reason to put effort into something that I don’t care about.

Identify what it is you’re doing not because you need to do it or want to do it, but because you think other people expect you to do it or hold judgement. Then decide if you think it’s important or not. It shouldn’t matter what other people think about your choice. Take that small step, whatever it is, to be strong enough to be in control of one more aspect of your life.”