what if I'm doing just fine?


Now, there's a scary thought.

What if I'm actually on track with my PhD? What if my supervisors think I'm reasonably competent? What if the other students aren't miles ahead of me? What if my finances are actually pretty well under control and I have everything I need?

WHAT IF EVERYTHING MIGHT TURN OUT OKAY!? What would I do all day?? I might actually do work instead of sitting and worrying! What would that be like -- to not feel so stressed? What if I actually achieved something I was proud of instead of thinking everything was on the edge of a disaster? What would happen if I felt secure in my PhD -- would things automatically go wrong in some kind of karmic backlash? Does anyone have any advice??

I'm not completely joking, by the way...


Great post Cornflower.

It's very true that the thought of being on track is a little unsettling as the normal mode is to assume it is not.  I think we should all take solace in the fact that we all arrived at this academic level by a certain level of ability, determination and aptitude. I try to look back and remind myself that in the past things have generally worked out with studying and the assumed pending disaster often turned out to be a minor setback and in reality nothing really happened. The world kept turning after all.

Stress and anxiety are real barriers, but they are created by the mind.  Thus, if the mind creates stress and anxiety surely it can also de-construct them. Personally I find mediation a great way to rest the mind the and give it a little break.  I aim to meditate 30 minutes evening and morning-at first it was hard, but now it is easier and I actually look forward to it.

I try to constantly remind myself that the study is not my entire life (Although it often feels like it). Even if it all goes wrong and I don't get the special little letters in front of my name,I will still have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in my area, most of which has been built up by things not working. This cannot be taken away from me and the award of a PhD seems a little subjective. 

I think that assume all is well and keep on going, at some point you'll find out either way, but the stress barriers are creations of our own mind.

Now I just need to take my own advice more....less worry, more work and more enjoyment.  We did ,after all, chose this path ourselves.



I'm not sure if it's because read (and internalised) so many PhD advice books before I started, but this is generally how I have been feeling! I really do think it is a mental struggle as much as an academic one, and if you can keep positive the process can be made much easier.

I have *believed* the positive feedback from my supervisor, while knowing that difficulties and more critical (constructive) feedback is to come and won't be an indication that I am unqualified - purely there to help me improve. I used to quite a negative person and have been amazed at the things I have achieved since adopting a different philosophy to life. It sounds very cliched, but when you visualise yourself achieving something enough you can gradually will it into happening.

I think part of the problem is that PhD candidates are generally very critical people, who can't help but apply the same modes of research questioning to themselves.

I'm sure you ARE doing fine, Cornflower! Keep up the positive thinking. 8-)(up)


I don't think you have anything to worry about! Quite the opposite, celebrate it!

Nothing wrong with your situation, it's great that things are going well and that you're enjoying your phd without stress.

The only advice I can think of is: enjoy it and enjoy life;-)


Sounds like you should just keep on working! I think that I need a certain amount of stress to do work. If I am just cruising along then thats when I tend to get off track. Then I create deadlines to put a bit of pressure on myself. Dont get me wrong, too much stress is terrible, but just a little bit keeps me working.

If you are in the lucky position of not needing stress and not having any stress, then go for it. Just do what you are doing!(up)


I'm quite happy with this attitude change right now -- I spent the whole of my first year in a needless panic when I would have got more out of my research (and other researchers) if I'd just chilled out. I think my fear is that if I feel secure now it will be worse in the future if / when I go wrong. Like I'm not allowed to let my guard down.

But I really think that's a load of BS -- of course there will be tough patches in the future but actually, stressing about them doesn't guard against them in the slightest. It's really hard for me to take a positive view of my work because, like others have said, I'm a critical person by nature and that's a good quality for a PhD.

I'm slowly starting to see that cautious optimism doesn't actually make me a bad researcher.... and that enjoying my work and not panicking about it is going to get me a lot further.


Interesting post Cornflower! I regularly get very positive feedback from my supervisors, who seem to think that I'm well on track, making good progress and doing good work. What do I do with this feedback? I walk away and think to myself "Yeah right, they're just saying that for the sake of being nice and keeping my mood up." Something in me simply won't let me believe that they may in fact be telling the truth. I suspect it's the day-to-day trials and tribulations that I experience with my work that make me think that clearly they're talking a load of rubbish, because shouldn't someone who's on track and doing well NOT be having all these daily setbacks and frustrations? Shouldn't I just be cruising along, starting each day with a smile, and finishing it having all my boxes ticked? Your post makes me want to sit down and have another think about this now - what if, despite all the daily frustrations and challenges I am, overall, actually in a perfectly good place? Food for thought... thanks Cornflower! Maybe I can start back in the new year with a more positive outlook on my work. Now that would be nice.