If there’s one thing that perfectionists can’t handle it is criticism.
Ring a bell?
It does for me.
Let me give you an example. I like to think that I’m a pretty great proofreader and PhD-coach. My feedback and reviews are, on the whole, glowing.
But sometimes I get a bad one when someone isn’t happy.
Now, the rational part of my brain tells me that I tried my hardest and that one negative review out of hundreds isn’t the end of the world, however disappointing.
But the perfectionist side tells me that my business is doomed. The imposter syndrome kicks in; ‘they’ve found me out!’ it screams. I panic, think about that one review all day and give it far more space and energy that it deserves.
And you may be the same when it comes to your PhD. Most of the PhD students I interact with tend to have perfectionist tendencies — some more than others.
When you get feedback on your work, or when you are at conferences or other public speaking events, you sometimes have the same response to negativity. It can feel like the end of the world, and it can feel like your entire PhD-journey is in vain.
Sometimes this can be a good thing. Your worry and attention to detail can mean that you fix problems faster than most and that you’re more careful to avoid them in the first place.
But it can also be detrimental. Much like me giving too must space and energy to that one review, you may find that negative feedback and critique can become more significant than it actually is.
Step one in overcoming this is recognising if and when it’s happening. Ask yourself if you’re putting too much focus on critique. Once you’ve begun to foster greater awareness, you can start to shift your perspective from one of ‘I’m doomed’ to one of ‘okay, what can I learn from this?’
Above all though, recognise your humanity and give yourself a break. We all make mistakes.