I am 33 and only started my part-time two year Master's in September and in that time I have got two merits out of two assessments, been published in a postgraduate journal and organised an academic conference. I have also been commissioned to write a book review, and conduct an interview for a well-known online journal. I am going to be an editor on the postgrad journal. However I feel like a complete failure. I did a PGDE Secondary English when I was 25 and then taught in the UK for six years and France for two years. I served nine months as Head of the English department in one school. Anyway I left that because I hated it. It was so boring and a total waste of time. Now I have entered Academia again because I want to be an Academic. I want a PhD and a job at a University as a research assistant.
However as I mentioned I feel like a failure. I know another student who is 24, has got a first in his Undergrad, a Distinction in his Master's and is now doing a PhD. Everything he does is better than me and he is doing it nine years younger. He has given a conference presentation, had two book reviews published, conducted five interviews and had them all published, organised an academic conference and edited a postgraduate journal. His Academia profile has had 360 profile views and 450 document views.
My Academia profile (only set up yesterday) has had one profile view and zero document views (the document was published two days ago).
I am not jealous and I am happy for this person especially since this person is very likeable.
Can anyone tell me how to get over these feeling of failure and low self worth?
My self-esteem is fine, I just feel a bit incompetent (which intellectually I know I am not).
It is a bit weird feeling like this. I am usually quite audacious.
I think you will know yourself that there is little to be gained by comparing yourself to others. On the outside, everyone looks like they are doing great, but I'd bet that person also suffers self-doubt, and also has concerns about where they fall down compared to others.
It's easy to feel concerned about what others have done and how you compare, but you will have nine years of other experience that he hasn't had. I'm the same age as you and am older than some of the shining stars in my department, but I have work experience that they don't have, so it's swings and roundabouts.
I'm not sure what to advise, but you need to focus on what you can do and not worry about others (easier said than done in a competitive PhD market).
I can totally relate to you post since I also started my PhD after working for many years in a different field. I think age is a factor that has an effect on what happens after our studies, but it is by no means the most important one. And there is nothing to do about it, so it only makes sense to concentrate on the factors we can control.
Besides, there will always be smarter, luckier, more popular, younger, more attractive ... colleagues. So I think it is healthy and reasonable not to have so high/unrealistic expectations for oneself. It is not a good idea to be frustrated because, for example “I am not the smartest person in the department, or I do not have the highest number of publications and awards (or any award for that case) or I did not gain my PhD in my twenties ...”. The only thing that we should expect from us is to try our best. That might not be good enough, but it is all we can do.
Thinking A BIT about the future, once in a while, has its justification... but overdoing it is no good. Maybe things do not work out as we want or expect it, but at least we tried it and enjoyed the journey.
Comparing us with others can make us unhappy and “ruin” an otherwise positive experience. Just don’t stress out about things outside of your control.
Do your best! Enjoy what you do! Enjoy your studies! Enjoy your life!
Who knows what the future will bring?
You are totally right in everything you have said.
Most of the time I can gear myself up for the competition but sometimes the strength of others just makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach.
I am very good at my subject, have some solid original ideas and methodologies and am a good writer. I don't doubt I will get a PhD.
However the outstanding natural brilliance of some of my peers is sometimes just absolutely overwhelming.
Reading their work feels like going into shock sometimes.
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