Hey everyone! I'm so thankful to have found this site today. I really need some advice, and I don't have anyone to talk to about this who will understand what I'm feeling. I started my PhD seven months ago, and I've hit a very low point. The way I would describe it is that it's like I'm having a major confidence crisis. Even though I love the work, I don't know if I'm up to the challenges of academic life. I'm so scared at the thought of having to present at conferences, or publishing. My question is: Did any of you ever reach a time when you felt terrified and unsure as to whether the PhD was right for you? I've started to have doubts about whether I could do this, but then I keep telling myself that it's just a phase, and that one day I will feel more confident. I could really do with hearing from those of you who have experienced this before, because I've been thinking of dropping out. I just need to hear that this is something that is common amongst PhD students. Thanks everyone!
I've been feeling like this for a month or so. From what I understand, alot of academics suffer from low confidence, but I think they're better at hiding it! I've read in several of the books on doing PhDs that 'feeling like a fraud' is quite common when doing a PhD, but I just have this dreadful feeling that I'll get three years in and then decide that I don't want to carry on anymore! I know there's really no point in thinking that far ahead, but this happened to a friend of mine last year, and he's still getting over it (dropping off his PhD). I don't want to sound negative. I just need to get some feedback about these feelings I'm having, because I reckon I couldn't be the first PhD student to feel this way!
You are not alone! Not in the slightest. I really struggled with the feeling that everyone around me were clearly very happy with their PhDs, not struggling at all, and, above all else, incredibly intelligent. Whereas I was the opposite of these things. It was mostly an illusion, fed by my lack of confidence.
I am still terrified about it. Venting on here is probably a good thing for you to do, I stuck my head in the sand and ignored things for 2 years and it didn't help me.
So, yes, confidence fluctuates, I question if this is right for me, and I think about running off to join the circus quite often.
If you can, try to identify what it is that's damaging your confidence and any problems you have, then you can look at solutions. Is there anyone in your department or a friend who you can talk to about all this? Recently, after a few vodkas, I revealed to a colleague how low I was feeling. It's good to talk... (Cheesy but often true.)
Stick in there, especially since you say you love the work, that's what counts.
Keep us up to date
Hi spacey. It sounds like you're experiencing one of those classic phases of doubt that plague all of us at some point (or several points!) in the PhD.I've had similar crises too. I guess the problem is that when you're going through something like this, you can't see beyond it and realise that it's going to pass. I would imagine that even seasoned academic go through this, though they wouldn't necessarily admit it. Just know that this is part of it. It's a huge venture we've undertaken, and it's not surprising that we're going to hit periods of panic!
I (very briefly) entertained thoughts of dropping out. I hit a crisis moment and was terrified that I wouldn't be up to task. I had images of getting so far into the PhD, and then realising that it wasn't what I wanted. Then I realised that maybe I was trying to talk myself out of the challenge, and became determined that I wouldn't back down. I tried to think of how I would feel if I wasn't doing the PhD, and then realised that I would feel depressed and disappointed that I didn't fight it out. I do respect people who decide that it's not for them, but for myself, I think I would feel great regret.
This discussion is exactly how I've been feeling for the last couple months. I finally did snap out of it, and I agree with Xeno. I realized yesterday that I was talking myself out of the challenge, "just being too tired to keep going". My parents & friends actually helped me realize that I would feel even more depressed and disappointed at how far I have come, and how much I wanted to be here in the first place. I would feel great regret if I didn't keep going too.
I really love what I do, and found that again. So, here I am, Saturday morning, back at the work that I put off for weeks ;)
spacey, I've had these feelings too, and can completely understand where you're coming from. I tend to sway back and forth, between feeling proud of how far I've come (to actually just be doing a PhD) and feeling terrified ("Can I really do this?!"). I think we're going to inevitably swing between good days and bad days. What I would suggest regarding your doubts about whether or not you're actually up to it, is to just go with it for now and see what happens. If you do reach a point where you really can't go on any more, you can deal with it then.
Spacey, I feel like this all the time (I'm just over a year in). I'm constantly afraid of being 'caught out' even though I've given a couple of conference papers and gone through assessments with no criticism at all. Still feel like I'm faking it... I gather it's normal, and it's also a big relief for me to find this forum! I think the hardest thing about a PhD (and what makes me wish often I had a 'real' job, even a 9-5) is that there are no rules. We have to make up the rules as we go along (especially in humanities 'disciplines') and determine ourselves if we are reaching the standard. I guess it's the same for seasoned
as you can see you're not alone. I am very glad for your post because I've been feeling similarly every now and then. I have doubts, sometimes feel like a fraud but then I remember how much I love what I'm doing and I remember that if I weren't worth it, they wouldn't have admitted me into the program. So don't worry if you feel a bit down. Just remember why you're doing the PhD in the first place and that you love it, and that would be the best boost you could give yourself :)
Hey, also, I've dropped out of college before (undergrad) and always since I've wished I had been able to think it through, work it through, instead of wasting time having to start all over. It's easier to regret things you don't go through with than things you do. :D
I think that the majority of people doing a PhD have crisis of low confidence and reach a point where they do not want to continue anymore. I am a master student and two months before christmas and after I was absolutely sure that I shouldn't pursue a Ph.D....and I also was suffering from this kind of burn-out/lab depression but I decided to concentrate more on everyday things about this occupation that give me pleasure, such as to enjoy when I see a well-run gel etc. Enjoying small everyday successes can give you enough confidence and strength to continue. After all I think PhD is a major challenge that can only make more capable to deal with complicated situations in life. Don't let them drive you crazy!!You should continue and drive THEM crazy! Watch "Fight club" and just keep walking!
Wow, thank you all for being so supportive! I met with a friend (another PhD student) on Friday, and I felt really comforted by our chat, also by what you all have said to me. He told me to just take it day by day, and not try to think too far ahead. We can never know how we're going to feel about something, say, a year from now, and I'm starting to realise that it's best to just go with it and take it as it comes. The PhD is making me question myself so much! I think I need to have a more philosophical approach to it, rather than trying to predict the future so much as I have been doing. Thanks again!!!
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