Perfectionism, self-doubt, feeling like an imposter.
Chances are, one or more of those term resonates with you personally.
Many PhD students I know are perfectionists, and many still doubt themselves and their ability to complete the PhD.
These negative thoughts can manifest themselves in procrastination, over-work, worry, anxiety and more.
But often it isn’t the task at hand that is to blame. Rather, it is the way we relate to and understand them.
Over time, we can develop thoughts that are far removed from reality (“I’m not good enough”, “I haven’t got what it takes”, “I will get found out”, “It has to be perfect, otherwise I’ll fail”) which, when replayed often enough in our minds, becomes fact.
We truly believe them.
And as we start to believe them, we then find ourselves anxious and under/over working to compensate. This then ties us up in knots, and we start to loathe the entire PhD.
But you aren’t your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t accurate reflections of reality; they’re narratives you’ve created and translated onto the world.
Does that mean a PhD isn’t hard? Or that you have to produce work to a high standard? No. Those things are objectively true.
But your internal narrative about your own failures isn’t. You’ve created that narrative, and replayed it so many times it now just seems true.
To effectively change the way you relate to your PhD, it pays to start by questioning these thoughts, and to ask yourself whether, and to what extent, the way you view and understand the PhD is impacting upon your interaction with it.
Over the next few months, all of us here at The PhD Proofreaders are developing new tools and techniques that can help you do this (more on that next year). But in the mean time, when you notice that you’re questioning your own worth or ability, ask yourself whether you are basing such judgement on false assumptions about the world around you and your place in it.
Good luck and have a great weekend.
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