I'm adding my own rant/ramble about my PhD on the forum - it looks like a fair few other are in similar positions with being completely sick of their PhDs...
I'm almost halfway through my PhD, and I've really hit a complete wall of disinterest and lack of enthusiasm. I know I'm doing well with my PhD, I recently passed a formal meeting with no problems, I was told I have enough material for a thesis now, and I have several published papers, so I'm relatively sure that I could complete it (I'm really not trying to brag here by the way!). However, I have *terrible* impostor syndrome, probably depression and anxiety, and the positives aren't outweighing the negatives. I'm never sure whether the things I do well are because of me, or because of my supervisor, which is terrifying me about the future viva.
My PhD supervisor is good, and we get on very well - really it should be a perfect situation and I should be loving life, but I'm just... not. I'm really not enjoying anything, I feel like a fraud, and honestly the only reason I'm continuing is because I'm so far through.
I was working on a few minor tasks I had to complete today, and my supervisor sent back a draft poster. They had completely changed everything to their own liking, which just made me feel completely stupid and amplified the impostor syndrome. This isn't an uncommon thing - I'm told that my work isn't bad, it's just my supervisor has a preferred way of doing things... It is just increasingly contributing to my negative feelings.
I know I need to bring this up with my supervisor, but because we get on very well and they can't see that I have all these problems, it's just hard. I feel like admitting it is just yet another sign I'm not cut out for this.
I should have been a baker instead!
Why on earth is your supervisor getting so heavily involved in a simple poster design?
Providing comments is one thing. Actively editing a poster is not on.
This is YOUR PhD. No wonder you are feeling a lack of ownership.
You need to talk to your supervisor as soon as possible and tell them you are considering quitting and the exact reason why.
Sorry to hear SnowDay. Imposter syndrome is just horrible. Can you take a little break and do something else that is fun and takes your mind off it all? Maybe even go away for the weekend? I find that things like that help me when I feel I can't take much more.
That must be annoying when your supervisor edits everything directly. My new supervisor did that to something I'd written, but she said feel free to change it back. Does your supervisor say anything like this? And are the changes mostly to do with the style/appearance or are they more substantive?
I find pm133's approach a bit extreme (no offense pm133!). You get on well with your supervisor, so if this is something that is really getting to you, chances are that you can raise it with him and it'll be taken well (although it might feel a little awkward at the time). Another thing you could do (if you would rather not confront it in a really direct way) would be to change some of it back and just say you know, thanks for this, it was really helpful. I've made a few further changes and switched a few bit back as I actually preferred them before, I hope you don't mind. That would gently but clearly suggest please don't do this so much in the future! One of those things would probably sort things out on that front, or at least improve them.
I don't know if this is helpful, but keep your chin up - things'll get better. And you're not imposter! No more than any of the rest of us anyway!
I suppose it depends on what you feel is going on for you to then know how to respond. Whether it is your PhD that is the problem and it is just a normal stage or your anxiety, depression or self-esteem issues that are colouring it?
If you are not enjoying anything - I would seek some professional help.
In a sense, it is a good sign that you wish for more independence from your super. I wouk suggst just putting on with it for a bit longer, and think about the benfits of actually having done the PhD.
As for the impostor syndrome. I cant really say anything informed because I am not an expert. Maybe talk to a uni consellor? But in my experience, I always feel like my achievemnts are partially down to luck. One way or the other however, things seems to be working out for me. I was recently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship. It could have been luck, but these things are usually competitive and it was my third try.
I guess what I am trying to say is: be proud of what you have achieved. If your super is so into your work, it must be because he likes you and what you do. Read around this forum, the norm seems to be that most supers are not like that.
My suggestion is to keep working, and in a few months you will get your certificate and from then on you will be on your own: no more supervision, no more feedback. Total academic independence. I am sure you will come to miss having somebody read your work and give you feedback.
I think people are generally a bit loose with terms like imposter syndrome. First, at least in the natural sciences, most people apply to an advertised position, therefore a lot of PhD students follow to a large extent the objectives of their supervisors and are not doing completely independent research they have been coming up themselves. That's how it is for most students. How you tackle these objectives is normally also discussed with your supervisors, who will rarely allow you to go on with something they are not okay with, so again, influence by the supervisor. You didn't provide a lot of information except for that poster example but I have the feeling you are making a bit the mistake to think that this is unique to your PhD situation. My supervisors will ask me in meetings what I plan to do next and why I think this is the way to go, but of course they comment on my plans afterwards and will make adjustments when they think they are necessary and hereby influence the process.
Thank you so much for all your replies. I feel a bit less alone now just reading them!
Today I got a paper draft back from my supervisor. They had seen a previous version and made some minor comments and changes... Today the whole thing has been re-written. I've asked to meet tomorrow to find out why the changes are suddenly so drastic, and if I can have some general advice to find out where my writing is apparently going so wrong lately. If I can't stop the total re-writes, at least I can find out why the changes are so big and hopefully work on any problems in my own work!
After posting this I actually managed to book a week long holiday away. It's not for a few weeks yet, but I think it's helped having something to look forward to. It's very easy to get caught up in this whole PhD thing and make it the centre of your life and self worth, so hopefully a break will help with the low mood.
Thank you all again for commenting, it's really helped to get some other perspectives.
Have you heard of "The Valley of Shit"? You may be in it a little bit.That's ok! I attached a link describing what is. I think everyone working on their dissertation experiences this. I myself was there and it felt so incredibly lonely. I made the choice to keep going and yesterday I received final approval from committee. My dissertation went through many iterations, and I had to adapt a growth-mindset for myself to help get through. When my committee recommended changes (large and small) I considered how their advice might make my study better. Do not think you have failed when a professor gives you feedback that may change elements of your first drafts. Stand your ground where you must, but allow them to help you make your work clearer to all readers. I sincerely hope you keep going and know that after time (usually much more time than we would like) it does get better.
I suffered from imposter syndrome throughout my entire PhD -it's horrible. I think what helped me is when I realised that everyone has it- people just have different ways of dealing with it. The people who claim to be reading 10 papers a day, go to all the seminars, are always discussing work... a lot of the time these people are even more clueless than we are!
I remember when a guy a few months before me had his VIVA - he was always so cocky, arrogant and a proper 'up his own a**' academic, the kind that uses overly technical words to make himself sound smart - I met him afterwards and he looked completely shell shocked. Examiners had given him a grilling and called him out on a few things and it had really put him in his place. He passed, but I wonder if that made him change his ways...
My supervisor was always harsh on me as well and made me feel like an idiot, he commented on one of my bits of work saying "you do realise you don't work for the daily mirror". It's a struggle. The above point "On a serious note though, a supervisor physically re-writing anything you have written is a classic sign of control freakery." hits the nail on the head. My supervisor used to do this, rewrite stuff and then some of my corrections were to amend some of his wording because they said it was poorly writen!
TL;DR - Everyone is an imposter! :D
I'm sorry to hear you are feeling this way. If it's any conciliation, impostor syndrome doesn't go away even after you get your PhD (sorry!)
I almost gave up when I was in the PhD process - it's very isolating, tedious and, in many ways, sole destroying. The best advice I can give you is to remind yourself of why you set out to do a PhD. Perhaps it's because of your love of your research topic, perhaps it's to get the job you've always wanted, or perhaps it's to prove your capabilities. Whatever it is - hold on to that reason and use it to pull you through.
Getting that final letter saying that you will be awarded your PhD is worth a thousand grey days. I promise. Keep pushing forward and good luck! :)
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