Feeling massively inadequete


Hi All,

Long time watcher, first time poster - hope you are all keeping well! Basically I am in the last stages of my Physics PhD at Imperial College London and I am feeling really depressed. I cant stop comparing myself to a girl in another university - she is in a different research area in a group in Ireland, but I am really consumed by her success.
She is stunningly beautiful and got married during her PhD at 23. She finished her PhD at 26 with great papers and a long thesis (700 references) and is now a postdoc. I have never met her personally but anyone who has always says how extremely intelligent, nice and beautiful she is.
I feel rubbish, OK, I got into Imperial into a good group and my project is working but I feel like I cant compare. Im single, dont think Im pretty and that people dont like me. I also feel like it was a massive mistake for my supervisor to have hired me and I just need to muddle through with what I can get. I am writing up at the moment but I feel so empty when I think of this woman, I feel as though I have wasted my time on this project and not made the best of my opportunities like she has.
Anyone else ever felt like this or have any advice??


Hi there,

its always dangerous comparing yourself to another person. All you can see is the shiny outside, you don't normally get a peek at the not so shiny inside. Think about facebook - people tend to post and blog about the nice things in life, not about how isolated and lonely they feel. That doesn't mean that those feelings are not there, only that we don't share them with the outside world to keep the picture of the nice, happy, beautiful girl intact.

I can't comment on beautiful, because I am not (although my husband tells me repeatedly that I am), but I can comment on success. If you just look at my polished outside, you will see somebody now working for 12 years in life sciences full time. While working, I did a bachelors degree, a masters degree (in my spare time), got married, got a son and started now my phd. People see me as extremely successful - some are even envy.

What you don't see is that I suffer from severe depression - once in my life it was that worse that I thought about jumping in front of a train. I feel constantly useless, a waste of time for my husband and that my success was pure luck. And I fear that someday, the people will realize that too.

So don't feel bad because you can't keep up with a shiny outside. You don't know what's going on inside! As long as your supervisor is happy and your project performing as you expect, everything is fine. Don't panic, nobody is perfect! ;-)

Kind regards


Hi Blurredlines212,

Rina makes some excellent points. I just wanted to add that it's okay to feel jealously towards another person - it's a natural human reaction! (My counsellor told me this a little while back, which in retrospect is an excellent point). I would start to focus your efforts internally instead and start brainstorming how fabulous YOU are. It could be the personal values you hold, the fact that you are also doing a PhD or how you approach and treat other people. Nothing good can come of comparing yourself to this person. We are all unique. Celebrate your uniqueness :)

Go well,


I agree with Rina, never compare yourself with others. I'd bet this girl you are focussing on felt all of the same things you do, people find it difficult to appreciate their own successes. I think it's awful that in academia people even stop to mention beauty, they wouldn't do that to the male academics! I'm sure you are a wonderful person in your own right, it just sounds like you are a bit down right now. Perhaps talk to your university's counselling service or find a friend to chat to. I'm also at the last stages of a PhD and I know that the stress is completely changing me! I'm normally positive and pleasant (I hope!) but I feel like I'm turning into a sceptical, horrible person. Once we hand in the world will look different I bet!


Ah, I know how you feel. It's normal to feel like this, after all, it must take a self-respecting and competitive personality to pursue a PhD at Imperial. To know someone who is seemingly doing so much better than oneself is a difficult thing to swallow.

However, as pointed out by Rina, it's not worth comparing yourself to other people. Also, to quote George Orwell, "Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible." This person seems invincible right now, but winning the moment doesn't necessarily mean winning for life. The key is to be bigger than winning and losing. It's much more important to find your own path, be confident about who you are, what you want to achieve, and achieving it. Once you have a sense of direction and inertia in your life, and know that you are a step closer to your goal everyday, everything else will seem peripheral and insignificant. The sense that another person is doing so much better than you will then come to pass.

I hope this helps!


I can add something about how tricky it is to judge someone's private life without really knowing the person. There was someone about who I used to think "wow, so many achievements, such knowledge of the field and everything while being a married parent, responsible and happy". Then I accidentally found out that this person had some serious problems in the relationship, problems that were entirely this person's fault. Since then I always say to myself that we can never tell what's really happening in someone's life.


I have been feeling this way a lot lately too. I always look at the other PhD candidates at my university and think "she has so many publications", "she seems to always be attending great conferences", "he has had some great teaching opportunities." For a while, these thoughts were really doing my head in. It's really hard not to compare yourself to others, especially when we're so often in competition for grants and jobs. I've realised, however, that we all have our own research journey and we will all have our own successes. I'm just holding in there because I know my day will come.

Try not to let it get you down. You're clearly very intelligent. Your supervisor clearly sees your talent otherwise he/she would not have employed you!


...got married during her PhD at 23 ...

Doesn't look very successful to me ....


I agree with bankjc. A good example of his/her comment is the comparison of the respective career trajectories of Keira Knightly vs. Felicity Jones (really!)

Both started their acting careers in The Treasure Seekers at the age of 12 (1996). Knightly had a much easier path to success, breaking out in Bend it Like Beckham and Pirate of Caribbean roles, thereafter landing leading hollywood roles consistently.

Felicity Jones on the other hand really had been trying to break in to the industry for 15-18 years, without major acclaim and toiling in mediocrity until receiving an Oscar nomination for The Theory of Everything. Now she is landing roles for Star Wars and Marvel sequels (be all and end all of course). If you listen to her interviews she comes across as blue-collared; describing hard work and family being the most important things in her life, seeing her through the tough years. She even went to the academy ceremony dateless. I mean, it just goes to show how life can turn around if you work hard and keep believing in yourself.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-USUDzycRvM (just look beyond the hot pants and extensions, there's a strong message she's conveying)