Is it normal to have days when you think 'PhD...your kidding right? Why on earth would you think that you can do a PhD'? My confidence sometimes takes a real kicking and I think that I'm really not up there. I think it has something to do with always having to question myself, and then when you meet with your supervisor everything is inspected and gone through step-by-step. It then feels like your back to the drawing board and starting again (although I know it will benefit me in the end). Maybe I'm just at that wall and tired.
How do you keep positive? 8-)
I know exactly what you mean. I had an episode over the summer where I went to a conference and one idiot (and I know now that he is an idiot) ripped my work to shreds in a very humiliating way. I came away feeling like nothing I could do would ever be up to standard and in any case, why was I embarking on a career which involved so much bitchiness and self-justification?
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'm over that now and here are some of my little things that helped:
- make a list of all the acheivements you have made since starting the PhD. Include EVERYTHING whether directly thesis-related or not. E.g. giving a conference paper, organizing a seminar, getting an article published, making a great contact with someone in your field, organizing and carrying out fieldwork, writing x number of chapters, learning a new computer program, explaining your research to someone in a really effective way, doing some teaching/demonstrating, organizing a postgrad social, EVERYTHING. It's suprising how much you've acheived.
- speak to people who got their PhD a few years ago - people who have since moved on in their career. Most of them will tell you that they are now a bit embarrassed by their thesis because their ideas have developed, or that they never published anything from it but it never did them any harm, or that they see now that it was a 'training excercise' in how to do research rather than the best thing they will ever write. It's important to get in perspective that the PhD is a step along a road, not something final which has to be 'perfect' and rock the foundations of your discipline
- speak to people who are still undergraduates. Better still, mark their essays - most of them are truly awful! It makes you realise in an instant everything that you have learned and perfected about reading and summarising literature, structuring arguments and using an appropriate writing style to construct a polished and intelligent piece of work. These are all the things you slowly develop while doing a phd but no one ever mentions because they are so hung up on the ideas.
Hope this helps :-)
That is SO normal...I have felt it a lot over the past few years and wondered when someone is going to come and tell me it has all been a joke and I can leave now. But you know what, bit by bit my confidence has increased and I have realised that maybe I do have something to say. You were accepted to do this, so people have faith in you. Conferences can be great, but there will always be some ego maniac with an axe to grind. Try not to let these people get to you, but do take on board any useful things people say and move on with it. PhDs are hard, hard, hard. But you'll get there. btw, thought this was interesting, and familiar to many of my friends at university!
I know exactly how you feel Buzby. In fact I often think that getting over these kind of self-confidence crises is the hardest part of the PhD process. I think its difficult in that you very rarely get hugely positive feedback from supervisors (or maybe this is just me!). Coming from an undergraduate position where I regularly got high marks to a point where firstly, you don't submit completed work enough to get a nice, satisfying grade at the end and secondly, where that work is raked over with a nit comb can be very disheartening. The most encouragment I get from mine is that my ideas have 'improved'...which doesn't say much, really!
I constantly feel imposter syndrome, and like I said in a previous thread, feel like I somehow tricked people into thinking I was good enough for this! I'm starting to realize that I may always feel like this, and as long as you can keep it under control it may even be a positive thing- much better than being arrogant and presuming you know everything, anyway.
You will be fine!! Do your thing and don't compare your progress to others, people peak at different stages in the process. The trouble as well, is there are little opportunities for gratification in terms of visible positive results to motivate, so whereas at undergraduate/masters at least if you are reguarly getting high marks it spurs you on, but with a phd there isn't much in the way of these short term goalposts to spur you on further as the ultimate goal is far off in the distance. So alternatives to keep positive, perhaps publishing and giving papers at conferences could be a way for you to gain postive feedback which will motivate you and give you belief that you are on the right road perhaps? As for your supervisor inspecting everything step by step, god I wish mine would do that!! I would love more of an indepth feedback, as I think it can only lead to improvements in the final draft. So chin up!
I love this thread! I have been away from the bosom of this forum for too long and am now a nervous wreck!
I am in the middle of a massive confidence slump right now. But reading this has reminded me that so much of this darned PhD is overcoming these slumps, being 'strong' enough to recognise these slumps for what they are and then move forward and keep plugging away until, one day, you finish (and are then probably totally lost without it!). I particularly like this advice you were given buzby: (sorry I don't know how to do proper forum quoting yet!!)
'speak to people who got their PhD a few years ago - people who have since moved on in their career. Most of them will tell you that they are now a bit embarrassed by their thesis because their ideas have developed, or that they never published anything from it but it never did them any harm, or that they see now that it was a 'training excercise' in how to do research rather than the best thing they will ever write. It's important to get in perspective that the PhD is a step along a road, not something final which has to be 'perfect' and rock the foundations of your discipline '
I will try and bear this in mind!! I remember my MA was soooo hard and groundbreaking at the time... and now I look at my thesis and essay questions and they seem so easy and silly! to think I may think this of my PhD one day gives me hope and encouragement!!! hehe.
It will be ok... we shall overcome!
This is the story of my PhD! Even when I started my PhD I could never see myself finishing truely, and when doing my PhD I still always think Im going to completely fail my viva assessment. It doesn't enter my head that I might do well, nor does it enter my head that if go to submit some work for publication people might like it. I think I'm just stuck in a wee negative cycle. Nice to know Im not on my own though!
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