How to deal with day to day failures during a PhD?

posted
18-Apr-17, 10:41
edited a moment later
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
So, I am a first year PhD student and I am far from perfect or knowing it all. I am just figuring things along the way. Anyway, I am working hard in order to improve and learn things of course. But, sometimes that's not enough right? So I happened to make a slip and apply for a small grant (for attending a conference) without being eligible for it. My supervisor told me today that he felt embarrassed that we applied for it without being eligible. The ineligibility consisted on a detail. Nevertheless I had my doubts when I saw the eligibility criteria but still didn't say anything to my supervisor.

Now, I can try and complain about it and find a million reasons why "it was not my fault" but the truth is I made a mistake. I failed. And I have to admit it and learn from it. So I told my supervisor that he's right and that I only made that mistake because my approach during these 6 months of PhD has been very much reactive rather than initiating things. And that's wrong. I told him that because I was trying not to bother him and please him by mostly saying YES, I forgot what was important - MY STANCE ON THINGS. So I apologized and reassured him that my approach will be much different from now on. He admitted that it was not only my fault but that he being a member of the board granting this grant should have known that I am not eligible and should have told me.

So I guess my question is - have you had these kinds of failures and if yes how do you deal with them? I will admit that it doesn't feel good to know that you've screwed up on your first year of the PhD but on the other hand I feel good knowing that eventhough I feel like shit, I am trying to learn from my mistakes and I know I will work hard on this regard.
posted
18-Apr-17, 14:38
Avatar for muspectrum
posted about 7 months ago
I would say that this is all a part of being a PhD student! Do t worry about it! I messed up a similar proposal where the head of dept was on the panel and as a result my supervisor got a lot of stick. So what did we do, worked on a proposal together the next time around as a learning experience and won the funding!
posted
18-Apr-17, 14:44
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From muspectrum:
I would say that this is all a part of being a PhD student! Do t worry about it! I messed up a similar proposal where the head of dept was on the panel and as a result my supervisor got a lot of stick. So what did we do, worked on a proposal together the next time around as a learning experience and won the funding!


@muspectrum, this makes me feel much better - thank you so much.
posted
18-Apr-17, 16:15
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
I know it's easier said than done but... try to stop caring so much! It is just life! : - )
posted
18-Apr-17, 19:46
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
Ps. Make a point of listing your achievements - no matter how small they may be! And remember that what you currently count as failures are actually learning opportunities, if you'll treat them as such.

Re your supervisor's embarrassment - that's something he'll have to get over!

Keep on smiling : )
posted
19-Apr-17, 09:17
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Ps. Make a point of listing your achievements - no matter how small they may be! And remember that what you currently count as failures are actually learning opportunities, if you'll treat them as such.

Re your supervisor's embarrassment - that's something he'll have to get over!

Keep on smiling : )


@Tudor_Queen, thanks so much for your words. In times like these when you think that you've failed and you're not good enough - it is refreshing and very helpful to read what you wrote. Thanks a lot!
posted
19-Apr-17, 10:48
edited about 8 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From skyisnotthelimit:
So, I am a first year PhD student and I am far from perfect or knowing it all. I am just figuring things along the way. Anyway, I am working hard in order to improve and learn things of course. But, sometimes that's not enough right? So I happened to make a slip and apply for a small grant (for attending a conference) without being eligible for it. My supervisor told me today that he felt embarrassed that we applied for it without being eligible. The ineligibility consisted on a detail. Nevertheless I had my doubts when I saw the eligibility criteria but still didn't say anything to my supervisor.

Now, I can try and complain about it and find a million reasons why "it was not my fault" but the truth is I made a mistake. I failed. And I have to admit it and learn from it. So I told my supervisor that he's right and that I only made that mistake because my approach during these 6 months of PhD has been very much reactive rather than initiating things. And that's wrong. I told him that because I was trying not to bother him and please him by mostly saying YES, I forgot what was important - MY STANCE ON THINGS. So I apologized and reassured him that my approach will be much different from now on. He admitted that it was not only my fault but that he being a member of the board granting this grant should have known that I am not eligible and should have told me.

So I guess my question is - have you had these kinds of failures and if yes how do you deal with them? I will admit that it doesn't feel good to know that you've screwed up on your first year of the PhD but on the other hand I feel good knowing that eventhough I feel like shit, I am trying to learn from my mistakes and I know I will work hard on this regard.


It sounds like both you and your supervisor are taking this way too seriously. It's only a conference. A mistake was made. Get over it. No need for embarassment, lengthy apologies, beating yourselves up or pledges to "do better next time".

If this type of utterly trivial incident affects you this much you risk having serious issues when a genuine problem occurs.
Relax bud. Mistakes happen.
posted
19-Apr-17, 13:50
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From pm133:
It sounds like both you and your supervisor are taking this way too seriously. It's only a conference. A mistake was made. Get over it. No need for embarassment, lengthy apologies, beating yourselves up or pledges to "do better next time".

If this type of utterly trivial incident affects you this much you risk having serious issues when a genuine problem occurs.
Relax bud. Mistakes happen.


@pm133, I am sure you're right but I guess the beginning is the hardest since I still have not figured my way around things and people. But I should definitely learn to take these things easier otherwise I will go nuts by the end of the PhD. You're right. That's why this forum is so helpful.
posted
19-Apr-17, 13:52
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 7 months ago
A rejection is not a failure, but sadly a normal part of academic life. It's something we have to get used to.

Based on your previous thread, you worry far too much about your supervisor's feelings towards you. It sounds as though you're either developing a crush or you're pushing yourself too hard for perfection. This is your project, not his, take some control and stop caring what he thinks. It is your project and he is just the mentor.
posted
19-Apr-17, 14:03
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From butterfly20:
A rejection is not a failure, but sadly a normal part of academic life. It's something we have to get used to.

Based on your previous thread, you worry far too much about your supervisor's feelings towards you. It sounds as though you're either developing a crush or you're pushing yourself too hard for perfection. This is your project, not his, take some control and stop caring what he thinks. It is your project and he is just the mentor.

@butterfly20, Haha a crush. I wish that was the case but no. I think it's just a character flaw that I developed during life that enables me to function properly only when valued by others. which is wrong I know, and I am working on it. But the first step to address the issue is by acknowledging it first right? And discussing experiences here, and reading your comments as well as reading about other similar experiences on different threads - is proving to be quite helpful actually. :)
posted
19-Apr-17, 18:54
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From skyisnotthelimit:
Quote From pm133:
It sounds like both you and your supervisor are taking this way too seriously. It's only a conference. A mistake was made. Get over it. No need for embarassment, lengthy apologies, beating yourselves up or pledges to "do better next time".

If this type of utterly trivial incident affects you this much you risk having serious issues when a genuine problem occurs.
Relax bud. Mistakes happen.


@pm133, I am sure you're right but I guess the beginning is the hardest since I still have not figured my way around things and people. But I should definitely learn to take these things easier otherwise I will go nuts by the end of the PhD. You're right. That's why this forum is so helpful.


It's more serious than simply going nuts.
If you are getting yourself into this state over completely trivial things like this in only your first year and don't immediately do something about it then the PhD will break you.
You need to learn really quickly how to develop some resilience because it reads to me that under the slightest pressure you are caving emotionally.
Good luck.
posted
19-Apr-17, 21:04
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
In my humble view it may not be so serious! Many of us have things that really upset us when actually they are trivial. And we just have to get over them and become more resilient. It doesn't mean we are going to have a breakdown or similar.

Some people are naturally more resilient and so don't necessary experience these issues anyway. It sounds like skyisnotthelimit is at the start of the process of hardening up a bit, which has got to be a good thing.

For those who are less resilient naturally, I think academia is not only a place where there are lots of rejections (e.g., papers, grants, conferences etc) can compound feelings of insecurity, but also there is this academic hierarchy students in which students can be treated as though they are worthless... (depending on who they work with). Both these things surely feed into the negative feelings / overthinking / depression that normal humans can be prone to.

All the best skyisnotthelimit!
posted
20-Apr-17, 07:55
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
It's more serious than simply going nuts.
If you are getting yourself into this state over completely trivial things like this in only your first year and don't immediately do something about it then the PhD will break you.
You need to learn really quickly how to develop some resilience because it reads to me that under the slightest pressure you are caving emotionally.
Good luck.[/quote]

You might be right but the thing is everyone deals with these things differently. I have had lots of pressure in other aspects of my private life (including finances and long distance marriage) that have added to my feelings of insecurity and overthinking. But precisely because I know that if these small details affect me so much - I will lose it for the bigger ones, I am trying to start early and try to find a way to deal with them better. So yes, I am trying and I am sure I will manage to find a way to develop some resilience. Thanks for your honesty though. It always helps!
posted
20-Apr-17, 07:56
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for skyisnotthelimit
posted about 7 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
In my humble view it may not be so serious! Many of us have things that really upset us when actually they are trivial. And we just have to get over them and become more resilient. It doesn't mean we are going to have a breakdown or similar.

Some people are naturally more resilient and so don't necessary experience these issues anyway. It sounds like skyisnotthelimit is at the start of the process of hardening up a bit, which has got to be a good thing.

For those who are less resilient naturally, I think academia is not only a place where there are lots of rejections (e.g., papers, grants, conferences etc) can compound feelings of insecurity, but also there is this academic hierarchy students in which students can be treated as though they are worthless... (depending on who they work with). Both these things surely feed into the negative feelings / overthinking / depression that normal humans can be prone to.

All the best skyisnotthelimit!


Couldn't agree more. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful message. It helps big time to hear that it's okay to feel this way and know that I can get through and over it. And I will. Thanks :)
posted
22-Apr-17, 11:29
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 7 months ago
You might be right but the thing is everyone deals with these things differently. I have had lots of pressure in other aspects of my private life (including finances and long distance marriage) that have added to my feelings of insecurity and overthinking. But precisely because I know that if these small details affect me so much - I will lose it for the bigger ones, I am trying to start early and try to find a way to deal with them better. So yes, I am trying and I am sure I will manage to find a way to develop some resilience. Thanks for your honesty though. It always helps![/quote]

In my personal experience, losing it over trivial things is a sign of underlying stress. Humans can only carry so much of this. The things which tip you over the edge may be a symptom of those other stresses. You mention a couple of these things in your response above. I dont know if you can find ways to alleviate some of the bigger stresses but if you can, you might find yourself a lot calmer over your PhD issues. This might work better for you.
Good luck.

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