UK Relationships/Professor


Dear Steve,

Hi again!  I wrote to you second last, and again I want to say thank you for your detailed response.  I have one more question regarding my professor - it's a bit of a silly one - but it's been bothering me.  My friends have different takes on it.

Basically, in a few days, I will be finishing my last course, with my professor whom I've had for a year.  I have been excelling for the past year with grades well over 90% in the French language.  He's even called my academic ability ``inspiring.``  Unfortunately, due to many pressures in my head, I did horribly on the last major test.  I told him that when I feel a certain way emotionally, I tend to shut down.  Unlike the others who are taking these courses for degree credits, I am not.  I just wanted to learn the French language, in hopes of teaching at the elementary level - I am already a teacher.  Anyway, I have a major speech/presentation in a few days, and I have severe ``public speaking phobia``/ stage fright - whatever you want to call it.  He said to me that I could be accommodated and present just in front of him.  I said ``thank you, that would be great.``  But he then added this comment which I don't how to take, or if I'm reading something into nothing.  (He's gay by the way)  He said verbatim  ``And don't think it's favouritism, because I would do this for anyone``  I responded  ``I know that, you are very generous with make-up tests for others, and the such``.   I don't know why he felt he had to emphasize to me, that it was not favouritism - is he deliberately trying to tell me that I am not favoured, and that I should get that clear in my head?  This is the same guy that extended a drinks invitation to me and my previous classmate last term, and I had written you asking if the invitation to me seemed like a pity invite, or an afterthought. Drinks haven't happened yet, and sometimes I feel he is really warm to me, then other times distant.  Two weeks ago, we had a pretty heart felt conversation where I, without mentioning names, told him there were a couple of people in this class who were gay bashing him behind his back, and that he should keep his guard up. I told him only some very generic things, as to not hurt his feelings, but feel I may have indirectly.  When I approached him the following day to apologize for potentially indirectly hurting his feelings with information that essentially wasn't uplifting or constructive, he said not to worry about it - that it didn't affect him. He had said the day of that heartfelt conversation that he would bring me a movie related to the issue we were discussing.  Well he never did bring it, and when I asked him about it, he said he forgot.  The following class, he still didn't bring it.

The reason I mentioned all this, is because I'm wondering if by sharing those things with him, (I was trying to protect him) if I somehow turned him off from my personality. The truth is that yes, I have always felt a bit favoured - only because I've had him so long - but my grades were only the result of working extremely hard - which I'm proud of.  But this comment of  ``Don't think this is favouritism, I would do this for anyone``  Is he telling me back off, you are indeed just anyone - and I don't want you to think you are special in anyway?  My friend said this comment was cruel - I don't know how else to interpret this - and yes - I know that I am extremely  obsessing over this!!!
Thanks again for taking the time to respond to me - if I've even made any sense.


Hi Victoria

I'll answer your specific question shortly but I'll make a couple of observations first.
Firstly , I'm not sure you should be seeking counsel from your friend ! I'm not commenting on her as an individual , I'm sure she's a great person and a loyal and loving friend but is this is the same person who advised you to take the lack of invite as a personal insult and refuse to attend the drinks, the same person who is now telling you to take a perfectly everyday comment, as a "cruel" slight on you personally?
She may be a heck of a friend but she's a pretty emotional and reactionary advisor !

Secondly, and we touched on this in my first mail but, I know this guy is gay and therefore I know this is all platonic but you do clearly have an overwhelming need for this guys approval and if we're being honest , I think you want to feel special. I think you want to believe that he sees you as something exceptional , personally and academically , and therefore any suggestion that you're not, any hint that you may be considered one of the flock, is something that clearly sits uncomfortably with you .

Victoria - you need to get over this. Its not healthy for you, and its not healthy for him.
I'm sure he does note you as academically excellent - your grades make it impossible not to. I'm sure that he also likes you as an individual but you must remember that in his position he has a contractual, ethical and indeed moral obligation to treat everyone the same and consider everyone in the same light. In fact , we're he not to do so he'd be a pretty poor professor.

So please, you need to stop concerning yourself with securing his constant approval. I'm sure he respects your work and likes you as an individual, but I'd also be pretty sure that he doesn't hold you up in some remarkable light and value you above all others. So if you understand that, and appreciate it you'll be just fine.

Now let me close with a story. In my other "offline" life I am a manager with a major international firm. One of my staff has been here , and been with with me for along time. We get on well and I trust her. She's great at her job, works hard and socially we get on well.
Recently she asked for additional leave, outside of her allowance and I worked with human resources to ensure that she received it.
When she thanked me I made sure that she, and the people in her team, saw that it was transparent that I had done this and that , if anyone, even those who are not as good employees, came to me with a good reason , I would make sure that it was similarly considered.

I HAD to do that. Again it is my contractual and ethical obligation to do so. If there's a suggestion of favouritism then that undermines the team structure, it undermines my authority and it ultimately undermines my relationship with everyone else. Clearly this is not, in any shape or fashion an insult to the girl in question. The message is not "Remember you are ordinary. Remember you are nothing to me" - the message is simply "You like and respect me as a fair manager and a fair guy. I'm glad that you appreciate my efforts but you know I'd do this for anyone - and that openness is part of why we get on so well"

I don't see any difference whatsoever between my conversation and the one he had with you. Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well often insults are in the mind of the receiver and I see no real insult of any kind. You are highly sensitive to a perceived slur because you're kinda hooked on this guy and want to feel special in his eyes. That's okay but at the same time, you need to allow him to appreciate you but also allow him freedom to be the man he has to be, and the professional he has to be, without seeing as as any form of insult.

Its just not.

Take Care

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Steve Wilson


Any questions on families or relationships are welcome. As are any issues or problems that you have with communicating or simply being understood by those around you. I have voluntarily worked as a counselor in the past, both with individuals and families. I cant promise to have an answer to everything but will help as and where I can, without making judgements.


Both a former telephone counselor with a well known international support organisation and a former police officer within a major UK city. I've helped with numerous issues and worked with individuals and family towards conflict resolution.

Bachelor of Arts (Honours). I've received training in family and teenage counselling.

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