It's the first time I am feeling like that...
I feel that I am inadequate for a PhD, that I do not know anything, that my work is rubbish...
If I think logically, I have almost half of my thesis ready and I am working on the other half, but I cannot think logically.... I do not want to work on my thesis, as I believe that whatever I write is not good enough....

I don't know, maybe this is a temporary thing (it probably is)....


Hi Emmaki, I think we all know exactly how you feel!

Can you tell me whether this has been caused by something specific (such as someone making an off hand comment) or something that has been brewing in the background for ages?


Hi Emmaki, I am sorry you are feeling this way but don't worry it will pass by. I don't have anything new to say, the writing up process can be so overwhelming at times as it is not an easy task to put everything in place coherently. I have started writing in bits and pieces but I can already feel how difficult it is to focus and put words together!

We all get glued to the chair during the writing phase which is very tiring in itself. It would be good if you just do some outdoor/physical stuff now and then - just take a walk with some music on or go for a run or do some cooking. I am sure it is a temporary thing and I wish you all the very best for your thesis submission (up)


Quote From pink_numbers:

Hi Emmaki, I think we all know exactly how you feel!

Can you tell me whether this has been caused by something specific (such as someone making an off hand comment) or something that has been brewing in the background for ages?

I don't know why it happened.... Nobody has told me anything.... In fact I feel very lucky for having a very supportive family and friends that (try to) understand what I am doing (and up to a point do understand) and how much I want it...

Well, I just hope it will go away soon, as I don't have the "luxury" of time, because I am also working FT while doing my PhD PT.........


is it possible that it#'s actually the lack of feedback that is making you feel like this? I felt the same just about half way through writing my thesis, because I didn't know if my thesis was good enough or not.... no one can tell you that until you finish writing the whole thing. My superviosr did give me feedback on each chapter as I wrote them, but you think 'ok sup said this chapter is good, but all the other chapters I am yet to write could be AWFUL... then I'll fail my PhD... then I had wasted x years of my life, oh gwad, I'm not good enough to be writing a PhD thesis, etc. etc.'

Also, it's really difficult to feel good about something that is half formed... it's a bit like you are half way through making a sculpture of a person. You've sculptured the best pair of legs, but depending on how you sculpt the upper body and face, it could turn either way - really beautiful or really ugly. you have no idea how it'll end up looking, so how can you feel confident?

I can assure you that once your thesis is written and you get feedback on the whole thing, your feeling of inadequacy will fade away - simply because you HAVE done it!

Have you already published some of your work?


Hey Emmaki! I think we all go through phases of worrying about this. It's difficult with a PhD because it's not like undergrad/masters degrees, where we have exams and hand in work and get grades back, so we knew exactly where we stood. It's a whole different board game, just one huge long piece of work which isn't examined until the end. So I think it's normal to wonder how good your work actually is, and also to have doubts. I was quite confident about my work until quite near the end of my PhD, when the dreaded fear set in. And the writing up period is especially gruelling, because you'll be thinking about handing in and assessment etc. If you've got this far, I'm sure you're doing a good job, but why not speak to your sup just for a bit of reassurance if it would help? Best, KB


Hi Emmaki,

I'm sorry to hear things are not great that end. I think many go through a time during their PhD when they feel that way. That certainly happened to me!

I'm not sure if this helps at all but I felt like that for a few months until the discussions about results, etc with sups came about. I then realised that I really knew the stuff because they'd ask questions that I could easily answer and put points across that I didn't feel I could before, we had some great debates. It was a great moment to be honest, a bit like a light bulb lighting up. So for me it was the realisation that I knew more than I'd thought that helped me to feel more confident about my work but you may need to see what exactly is it that you're worried about? Is it that you don't know the stuff?

I don't think anyone can do a PhD and not know their topic, seriously! Not sure anyone can write dozens of thousands of words on nothing. Maybe it's just a phase, I don't know, but it really sounds you need some reassurance and you could get this through maybe asking your sup to look at what you've written so far like Pink_numbers suggested? Or maybe just knowing that others here feel/felt that way will help you?

If you're struggling working on your thesis I'd probably recommend the tomatoes/pomodoro technique and just tell yourself that you'll do X tomatoes. It really doesn't matter if you only do 2 or 3, any is better than none and a PhD is a process so sometimes we can do 12/13 a day and sometimes none... it happens;-) honestly!

Good luck!


Thank you all for spending your valuable time on reading my post and offering advice!!!
I may sound awful, but I feel good knowing that I am not the one feeling like that....Loneliness is always a bad thing, so having company in these feelings is good!!!! :p:p

I think I should just sit on my chair and get on with it!!!! If I have made it that far, I guess I am (a little bit) good for it.....


Hi Emmaki,
like you said it is a temporary thing. I felt the same a lot of times. Im only in my first year, soon starting the second. I sure people in this forum with more experience have told you the right things. Dont give up!and be positive...nothing is forever, and this feeling you have too.One day will be past. Take care


Hi Emmaki,
I was advised at my transfer a few months back that all PhD students hit a wall at some point in their research experience - I don't know if it feels like a wall or a dirty-great hole in the ground! - but I guess he was saying this is normal, all part of the process & just has to be worked/lived through. Have you got time to stand back for a little while to help you take stock, & allow yourself back to the recognition that you can do this?
Mog :-)


I always get this feeling, especially when I work hard and produce some good quality work. I 've learned to recognise it now and think "good! I am on the right track!". Another sign that work is going really well is when you keep listening the same songs over and over again...


Yes, we all feel like that some of the time (or even most depending how self-critical you're naturally inclined to be). It hits most people around about the middle of the degree when you realise you've been there half the time but not accomplished half of what you need to! Don't worry though, I hear the feeling passes after a decade or so once you've got a faculty position and your own group. :P


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I think I've spent something like 80-85% of my PhD years feeling completely inadequate! So not exactly a happy time for me! Didn't help at all that my sups almost always focused on the negatives which added to my feelings of inadequacy.

Passing my upgrade, during my viva and speaking to a key academic in my field after my viva were the only key occasions where I received very positive feedback on my PhD. Following from positive feedback, I started to believe like my PhD is/was a good piece of work and I should feel proud about it. Probably should have presented my work at conferences to obtain other perspectives and viewpoints.

As others have said, I think it's entirely normal to feel inadequate during a PhD or feeling strong pangs of 'imposter syndrome', ie feeling like you don't belong or someone else could have done a better job.

I think at the end of the day, the PhD is more of a learning experience in order to demonstrate an ability to work as an independent and competent researcher by contributing to knowledge in some unique way.

Just before submission, I created a list of PhD positives to stamp out my negative cognitions of feeling very inadequate. I needed to surround myself in positive thinking, positive feedback and supportive atmosphere to stand a chance of pulling through my viva. Speaking to someone objective and 'cold' from my situation (ie counselling) also helped.

Every PhD and PhD candidate differs, but I think almost everyone feels inadequate at times. Hang in there :)