I am a first-year doctoral student and very excited to be in the program. We are a cadre of eight students, and the logic has been to foster an environment of collaboration among cadre mates to achieve deeper learning. I am frustrated to death by how some of the people in this group try to marginalize me and give me a sense of inferiority and being unimportant. I don't know whether it is because I belong to a minority group, or if it comes out of jealousy. Whatever it is, they make me feel awful every time I have an interaction with them to the extent that I become unable to study for several days as a result of this bad feeling. Any suggestions as to what I should do to help me?
Thank you in advance
To be honest you need to rise above it. There will always be people who make things competitive and the best thing you can do is be polite and not let it get under your skin. You'll be amazed at how many people get stuck after a while and find they have nothing to be competitive about. Don't let them out you off your work. Head down, do your own thing. Always easier said than done!
What kind of things are they saying that are so upsetting? If it's anything outright racist or abusive, for example, you shouldn't have to put up with that. But if it's just people being weird and over-compensating for their own insecurities, I agree the best thing is to just ignore and focus on your own work as best you can.
Can you bring an example of the interaction you find hurtful?
If the group critises your work, you should never be defensive or feel they are trying to hurt you because they are jealous. You should take the comments seriously and feel lucky that you have the opportunity to improve. In all honesty it gives me the chills when i present and afterwards there is just silence, no questions/criticism.
Thank you so much, Trilla and CR1980 for your compassionate replies. Thank you Tudor-Queen for the link you provided. It was very similar to my situation. I appreciate it. In response to Ephiny and Dr Jeckyll, I should say for example, the professors divided us into groups of two to three people to be learning partners and every once in a while meet or call each other and check our studies together. I was grouped with two other ladies. I texted them and invited them for a coffee, but they said they are busy and would let me know when our study sessions would start. Later, they didn't answer my texts and after that, I understood they are studying together, and excluding me from the group without notifying me. It was just the beginning of the year and they even didn't know me. So I can only assume that it has been because of my difference in appearance because none of us knew each other yet. Later during the semester, whenever there is a common concern that needs everybody's approval, I am the only one whom they never ask whether I am comfortable with the new change or not. They treat me in a way as if I do not exist!
You wrote in another thread that you are married, have a twelve year-old daughter, work in an elementary school and so on. Could it be just the age-difference and the fact that you only work part-time? As the typical UK PhD student is usually relatively young, it wouldn't really surprise me if they have more in common with other PhD students at a similar life stage. They are often not just colleagues, but also close friends. Maybe they just want to stay among themselves? Not saying that this isn't rude behavior, but I think it is much more likely than discrimination or jealousy. Especially in the early 20s some people can still be quite immature. I remember a thread where someone that was doing a PhD in his late 40s also wrote that he had a hard time in the department and was excluded of many things mainly because he was over 20 years older than the other PhD students.
I'm the OP of the thread linked by Tudor_Queen.
I don't know if this will be helpful but I'll give you an update to my situation. Long story short, it has improved. I took the advice of those who responded to me and decided to stop wasting my time with people who were rude/competitive/unresponsive. I spend time with my husband, keep up with 'pre-PhD' friends around the UK and see two other PhD students for drinks from time to time, where we complain about other people in the department :)
It will take some time but hopefully you will find one or two people (you don't need more than that) who are on your wavelength. It's definitely easier said than done but try to remember that you got accepted for the programme, so you have no reason to feel inferior. It's tough but you'll get there. If you are a bit older than the average PhD student, maybe there's a club for mature students? Or look outside the uni for hobby clubs or sports that interest you and meet people that way. It's good to get out the PhD bubble especially if you're feeling anxious or upset.
Hi again Bah, thanks for explaining the situation more. It still may have nothing to do with your appearance... I feel quite strongly about this as it is so easy to attribute reasons for people's behaviours, and those reasons may be completely wrong but can still lead to the individual getting a complex about X or Y that is different about them. If you looked "the same" as the others, this may still be happening - seriously. People are weird. They may think that they click and that their bond is made stronger by excluding a third person. That is just one other potential reason - there are many many more. Anyway, whatever the reason - even if it is differences in appearance - I hope you soon get to meet some people are more friendly and considerate of others.
You just need to act indifferent to all this.
We humans tend to get worried for such bad things,
and unfortunately we channelize our energies towards all these negative things.
If you really want to work for your dreams, just stay positive
and use all your stamina in the right direction.
Have a bright future!
Thank you so much for all your kind and supportive responses! It feels so GREAT to see there are some people who care about my feelings. I truly appreciate it. To give you some details, we are students in the US and not the UK, so the social setting is mostly racist by nature. There are only eight students in my class and two of the ladies are even a couple of years older than me. In fact, the one who is most similar to me in age and family situations is the one who leads these racist reactions towards me. Basically, she gets close to whomever that acts friendly to me and after a few interactions with her, I see the friendly behavior of that person changed to ignorance and rudeness. I even spoke with my instructors about this because it is a real mental torture for me, and the best solution they offered was changing my major, to be able to be in another class! They said there are some other people from the part of the world where you are coming from in that other class, so you can make friends with them. I see these as racist comments. Instead of solving the problem, they offer to send me out. This society is sometimes really unfair!
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