It’s hard not to compare yourself to others. We do it all the time, often with disastrous results.
Never is that more true than during your PhD. We all know that PhDs are lonely, frustrating places, but it is precisely because of that hostile environment that we seek solace in comparing our progress to that of others. It’s a way of seeking out reassurance and finding out whether we’re doing our PhDs in the ‘right’ way or whether we’re as far along in the PhD journey as we’re ‘supposed to be’.
But each PhD is unique. Beyond the obvious differences in discipline and subject material, there is a unique personal story behind every PhD and within every PhD student. You are doing a PhD for different reasons than others in your department, and you’re facing different circumstances and challenges. What’s more, you work in different ways, have different priorities and may wish to take a different route to achieve the same goal and reach the same destination.
So all these differences – in subject material, personal motivations and challenges, and ways of working – all mean that there is no one ‘right’ way to do a PhD. Everyone is going to be working in their own unique way.
This means that comparing your progress to that of other PhD students is futile. You’re unique, and so is your particular PhD journey. You may be at a different stage of the journey to a colleague, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it ‘wrong’. Learn to have faith in your workflow and recognise that as long as you do your best and work in a way that is true to your motivations and personality, you’re doing everything just the way you’re supposed to.