Comparison: the buzzkill

There are some days during my PhD journey that I feel like a winner.  Emails come through with definitive answers and advice, words flow onto the laptop screen and goals are checked off the list.  These days are deeply satisfying and are what keep me pushing forward through the PhD marathon.

This moment of feeling accomplished can be quickly stollen by the biggest thief around – COMPARISON (just ask Theodore Roosevelt 😉 *Like my tricky citation there??  A few minutes on Twitter, a conversation with a fellow PhD student, a meeting with my supervisors or a quick read of a blog can all turn my smug joy into insecurity and doubt.  It seems like every other PhD student is more 1) experienced, 2) doing more complex research, 3) have already published books and journal articles and are 4) feeling stressed about how ‘busy’ their life is.  These points can quickly ramp up the imposter syndrome for me big time.

  1. Never having conducted formal research before is a bit of a stumbling block for me.  I’ve been trying to apply for grant money and scholarships but leaving entire sections of the application blank doesn’t seem promising.  How does one get into research when you’ve never done it before?  You have to start at some point and can’t be born into the world an experienced researcher (I assume this statement is true)
  2. There’s a lot of people out there saving the world, curing cancer and reducing poverty.  That’s all very good and important but in comparison, my project seems so small and insignificant.  When I talk about it with others I hear myself and think ‘is this worthy of a PhD?’  Still not sure…
  3. Again, with no research experience I have no publications, no history of attending conferences and no published books.  Fingers crossed this year sees me at least publish a journal article
  4. Everyone on the twitter sphere who is a PhD student appears to be so stressed, busy and frantically meeting deadlines.  This makes me deeply concerned for my lack of stress.  I’m cautiously waiting for those moments where I’m slammed and my supervisors are riding my back to meet deadlines so I can feel so important.  I’m almost 12 months into starting my PhD and to be honest, it’s gone very smoothly thus far.  I feel disappointed that I’m not more stressed and that I’m not feeling more pressure. This makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong and someone’s going to pop up one day  to tell me I am failing and need to go back to kindergarten (maybe one of my reoccurring nightmares)

There are times I feel more stressed by what other people are doing than what I should be doing.  At these moments, I take a bit of a social media break and give myself some positive self talk – “you can do it”, “don’t worry about what others are doing”, “someone will tell you if you’re failing”, “just fake it ’til you make it”, “you don’t want to be one of those self-important people”, “they are so boring anyway”.

My mantra for the week: Don’t let comparison steal your joy

Published by Delena-Mae PhD


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