Imposter syndrome or am I just...not cut out for this?


Hi everyone.
I've not started my PhD yet, I'm in the process of applying to do a political philosophy PhD at Brighton University. I'm in contact with a couple of potential supervisors and they've very generously agreed to help me write a decent research proposal so I've got a better chance of being awarded funding. I sent my third draft to them today, and before that the last time I sent them anything was before the summer (I currently work in a school so I'm still on the academic timeline). I just worry that I'm not good enough to do this. I want to do a PhD more than anything, I've known roughly what my project was going to be since my second year as an undergrad, and did a PhD preparation module as part of my masters course. However, I also suffer from untreated ADHD, and I'm at the point now where I don't know if my over focus on philosophy is going to be enough to get me through this level of study. I don't know if my brain will let me examine things at the micro rather than macro level. I really struggled on my masters course and I genuinely worry that I will just suck as a PhD student, even though its what I want most in the world. One of the reasons it's taken me so long to get my third draft together is just complete paralysis due to feeling like this. I'm terrified to write in case its no good. I didn't have this problem as an undergrad, I just wrote. But since halfway through my masters (start of the covid pandemic) I've had little to no faith in my ability as an academic or researcher. All my normal coping methods were taken away from me due to lockdown and my work suffered as a result. I haven't written anything academic in over a year now, and haven't written anything I'm particularly proud of since I finished my undergrad dissertation about 4 years ago. Do I even still have what it takes? Did I ever?


Hi BrightonBound
I'm not in the humanities, but to be honest it sounds like you're just the type for a PhD! It seems like yoy have genuine drive and interest in a specific area, which are the only "mandatory requirements" for such a project. Any other demands placed upon you are likely to be particular to your supervisor, so I would advise you to be as candid as possible during applications and interviews (don't say or promise things because you think they want to hear it). Be honest about your condition and how it affects your work, and be ready to collaborate with your supervisory team on adjusting things for you, but this is definitely something a good supervisor should be willing to help you with. Academic writing comes in waves, even for neurotypicals, so if it isnt coming easy at the moment dont panic! Give yourself some credit for how far you've come, and push for restarting your coping mechanisms. You can do this!


With good supportive supervisors and your previous masters and undergraduate training, I do think that you have a chance of completing your PhD.

I am more concerned with your ADHD. You will need to see someone about it ASAP because untreated it will get worse. A PhD is very draining emotionally and mentally as it is and it may worsen your ADHD which may lead to a horrible PhD experience for you.

My suggestion is apply for the PhD if it is truly what you are after, but get treated for your condition. Your health is far more important than any PhD. And if it helps, apply but delay start date until after your ADHD and mental health has improved.