I need to let things go but don’t know how...
I used to compare myself to “super star” PhD students and envy them for how confident they were. So I worked harder and harder each day and as I did I found myself in a much better place, knowing my field and it’s growing branches well enough to confidently speak out about it and manage to link sub-branches and ask meaningful questions. But I’m still not as confident or happy and I have seen a clear pattern in those “super star” phds and me. And this is: moral support of their PI!
I’m at a meeting this week. I was listening to a well-presented student talk (who wasn’t a complete super star as she couldn’t answer her questions) yet, despite how well she performed there was photo on twitter couple hours later where her whole lab were drinking wine in celebration of her performance. THIS is motivation. THIS is positivity and moral support. When you are happy, you shine! When you are happy, you can be confident.
What I saw amongst the Broad guys and many successful research groups is that they celebrate and care for each other’s milestones - how ever tiny - they use anything as an excuse to celebrate and congratulate each other. This is why they’re happy, they’re successful and come across as “super star” when in the broader scientific community.
In comparison, half the time my supervisor doesn’t even email me back! Even when I do well and random PI’s I talk to say “wow, that’s quite a lot you’re doing there for a PhD project!”. In the two years of my PhD so far we have celebrated once - a goodbye party for one of her favorite Bsc students!
I want to learn to deal with this psychologically. To learn to not feel let down by my supervisors dissapointing behavior. I’m not sure what’s the best way of learning this, accepting this and moving on from this.
I agree with TOL. Social media is terrible because it allows people to only show the good side of themselves, having an amazing time. It doesn't show the blood, sweat and tears. I know people for whom this has triggered their depression, because "everyone is doing better than them".
If it's true and that they celebrate every little thing, it's probably nothing to do with the supervisors, rather the team as a whole - Some teams are a lot closer than others, they do more stuff together. That's life and it happens in every organisation.
If you want to do more and celebrate the achievements of people in your team, why don't you take the initiative? Next time someone achieves something, suggest going for a drink, or bring in a cake. Make them feel special. Then they might do it for you. Don't leave it up to your supervisor who probably doesn't even know your team might need a morale boost.
I would ABSOLUTELY take the initiative. The only thing is, our research group consists of only me and my PI.
And TreeOfLife, good advice however I’m certainly not leaving the work I’ve worked so hard for now. I love my research. I can’t let another human being, however senior, to stop me from doing what I love. I just wondered if anyone had any advice on HOW to deal with it... I know I have to deal with it for the sake of my research but I’m tired of constant disappointments *sighs*
I'm not advising you to quit, I'm just saying that there are only two choices in a situation if you want to "deal" with something that is out of your control: accept it or remove yourself. I like this quote "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference".
I can't help with the how to accept or change in this scenario.
Advice on how to deal with it... list the positives and the negatives. To be honest, from your account it does sound like there are a lot of positives. I would much rather be on top of my game and know the ins and outs of my field than the "super star" things you describe. Don't get me wrong, I know what it is like to work with someone who is a bit of a wet blanket. It is awful. But, as long as it doesn't affect your research (if it does, you need to change supervisors) then I suggest you just focus on the positives and get on with your PhD, passing with with flying colours by the sounds of it! Then, you will be able to move on, and hopefully end up in a larger research group with a more sociable PI (after all, I think that's what it boils down to here - and you can't change their personality unfortunately). You need to find that motivation from within yourself, your work. And also, be in touch with other researchers who appreciate your work (I find that very motivating and rewarding). They may be your future PI!!!
I think what you describe does not really represent the scientific community as a whole. I could name you several people who did exceptionally well during PhD and Post Doc without any celebrations or back patting by the supervisors. You just have to stop making your self esteem depend on your supervisor's feedback. Some supervisors are like you described above, many, many others aren't. This should not be the source of your motivation. I am over 2 years into my PhD, in a relatively big group and there very rarely celebrations and certainly not for presenting at a meeting. You maybe get a short round of applause in the lab meeting when your paper got accepted ;) Yet, the working atmosphere is great and people are happy. It is hard to give tips on how to overcome that but maybe think about why you are doing what you are doing? For social media and a group that celebrates you? I doubt that this is the case, so why care so much about it? :)
I am not one for beating around the bush so here is my analysis. Believe it or not the following is an attempt to help you.
First and foremost stop using Twitter, Facebook and any other "social media" tool. They are all, without exception complete and utter poison. Nobody has anything useful to say and you can't trust anything you see there.
Secondly, stop comparing yourself to others. By definition, absolutely nobody is on the same path as you. Comparing yourself with others is guaranteed to cause you problems. Those darling, happy clappy superstars are going to have to stand on their own two feet one day and no amount of cake, support and partying will make that any more pleasant. In other words, they will have to tread the path you are on at some stage. They cannot avoid it. They are BEHIND you in this regard. You mistakenly think they are ahead of you.
Thirdly, stop using the phrase "superstar" to describe other people. There is no such thing as a superstar, a hero or whatever other word you want to throw around. Humans use these words as excuses for their own shortcomings. Isaac Newton and Einstein achieved brilliance but they were not superstars so I can guarantee these people you are referring to are not either. Have any of them cured cancer or any other major disease yet? Have they changed the world by saving millions of lives? Unless the answer to those questions is Yes, they are nothing more than ordinary academics. Perhaps they are very good but they are not superstars by any stretch of the imagination.
Fourthly, you need to address your fundamental problem of severe neediness. Stop looking to others to provide your mental stability and focus on doing it yourself.
Finally, find out why you are not personally satisfied with your own results. This should be a period of your life where you emerge as an independent researcher, a period of self discovery and wakening ultimately revealing a lot about who you really are. Instead of celebrating this you seem stuck in undergraduate dependency mode.
I didn't get prizes when I was a PhD student. I've started out four years later, which in the eyes of scientific community means I must be dumber than the rest (a lot of "young scientist" grants has a literal age cap). I was one of these awkward, bumbly blonde girls you meet at the corridor everyday, not the talented one, really. But I've finished it with very good papers and then my PhD was awarded with a distinction, which is a rare ocurrence. Despite all my troubles at the postdoc - which were not my fault, or not the PI's, just science being science and hypotheses not working as the state of art was implying, I've found something very real and probably a breakthrough and I want to stay because I want to find out what it is. If someone finances the dumb postdoc, I guess - but they don't look at my face when they read my proposal. I was told it almost made it and the sole reason it was not funded that I was competing with people like my own PI for this particular grant, actually very literally with him. It's not appearances that matter.
Well, welcome to academia ;) That your proposal didn't get funding does not necessarily mean there was something wrong with it. My boss is also regularly sitting in these comissions and most of the proposals that make it to the final round are worthy of being funded but that doesn't help if you have to pick 2 out of 10. There will always be good projects without funding.
You seem to do well with your PhD and your Post Doc research, now all you have to do is being proud of your achievements and ignore the rest ;)
That's what I was trying to say: you don't have to look like a superhero and you don't have to be praised to do good science. Sometimes it is possible to look quite the opposite and still do a very good job. Also, I'm not giving up on getting funding, and this time I'm not going to get sick just in time for the proposal deadlines for my career stage (I've spent over a week in a hospital and I was still trying to write from there - stopped only when they told me there's no other way than surgery. Sometimes bad luck is bad...). If it was almost there in the panel for the biggest grant in the scheme, it might get the smaller one.
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