Many PhD students are perfectionists, and with that comes a pressure (often internal) to succeed at the very highest level.
This perfectionism is bred in the school system, particularly amongst the high achievers that go on to start a PhD. There, there is an implied sense that perfection is the ideal and, with that, that imperfection is, heaven forbid, failure.
Internalised over many years, this fetishisation of the power of perfection can have a lasting effect. It served as fuel to propel you to where you are today. Most likely, you capitalised upon it to excel in exams, ace your undergraduate students and go through the rigorous process of applying for a PhD programme.
But in the context of a pandemic it has come under threat. Perhaps for the first time, you aren’t able to achieve perfection, no matter how hard you try. You aren’t even able to get close, in many cases. This is particularly the case if lockdown has forced you to abandon fieldwork, or cut short (or call off) experiments. For many, the pandemic may even spell the end of your PhD journey.
Perfectionism isn’t possible in a pandemic.
And for many of you reading this, that means that the pandemic poses more than just a logistical challenge as you try to redraft your research design, or a public health challenge as you protect you and your loved ones.
For many, it presents an identity crisis, as you struggle to come to grips with perfectionism no longer being possible.
So if you’re struggling, remember why.