Most of the PhD students I talk to are perfectionists. You probably are too.
With perfectionism comes a desire to have control over day-to-day life, knowledge of what’s going to happen in the short term, and the certainty that the PhD thesis will be, well, perfect.
And then along comes coronavirus.
Your day-to-day life has been disrupted as you work from home and away from you normal routines, you’ve got no way of knowing what will happen in the short or long term, and you may worry that your thesis will be sub-optimal as you step away from fieldwork, labs and supervisors.
The perfectionist in you is panicking, right?
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it can fill you with drive, passion, dedication and motivation. It can inspire you to try your hardest and do your best. It’s likely what got you on to your PhD programme in the first place.
But at the same time, it has a dark side. For as much as it can inspire, it can lead to panic. Anxiety, worry and dread often follow in the footsteps of perfectionism, such that when you lose control over your reality, or when you get things wrong, make mistakes or produce something sub-optimal, you panic. What starts off as a simple mistake can quickly become the end of the world.
Part of the challenge of doing a PhD, and particularly in the current context, is learning to embrace imperfection and recognising that sub-optimal does not necessarily mean failure. Managing perfectionism involves reminding yourself that you’re only human, and that humans face stresses, make mistakes and sometimes struggle to produce their best work. Even the brightest and most competent of people have off days.
The more you can remind yourself of that, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with what life throws at you and your thesis.