Totally fed up

posted
02-Mar-18, 15:06
by SnowDay
Avatar for SnowDay
posted about 6 months ago
Hi everyone,

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!
posted
03-Mar-18, 00:47
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 6 months ago
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.
posted
05-Mar-18, 20:43
edited about 43 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
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!

Tudor
posted
05-Mar-18, 21:55
by Psych1
Avatar for Psych1
posted about 6 months ago
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.
posted
05-Mar-18, 23:18
edited about 2 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 6 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
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!

Tudor


Don't worry, I am never offended by someone taking an opposing view to my own. :-D
posted
06-Mar-18, 00:31
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
Oh good! : D
posted
06-Mar-18, 05:32
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 6 months ago
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.
posted
06-Mar-18, 18:30
edited about 5 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 6 months ago
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.

Quote From pm133:

Providing comments is one thing. Actively editing a poster is not on.


True, I totally agree with you that they should not actively edit a poster, but one should keep in mind that almost every comment by a supervisor will result in changes. Yes, you are the one editing it but it will still be according to your supervisors comment. I doubt that there are many supervisors who let you present something with their name on it that they think of as suboptimal. The same is true for the writing. Read the final paper version and then again the first draft you sent to your supervisors. Unless you are an incredibly gifted writer who naturally has the writing style of the supervisor, those versions will be very different. So did I really write that paper in the end? ;)

Your supervisors will influence your PhD process but that does not necessarily make you a fraud, SnowDay. Don't be too hard on yourself.
posted
06-Mar-18, 20:19
edited about 16 seconds later
by SnowDay
Avatar for SnowDay
posted about 6 months ago
Hi all,

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.
posted
06-Mar-18, 21:34
edited about 9 seconds later
by Rezzerr
Avatar for Rezzerr
posted about 6 months ago
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.
posted
06-Mar-18, 21:40
edited about 19 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 6 months ago
Quote From Dunham:
.

Quote From pm133:

Providing comments is one thing. Actively editing a poster is not on.


True, I totally agree with you that they should not actively edit a poster, but one should keep in mind that almost every comment by a supervisor will result in changes. Yes, you are the one editing it but it will still be according to your supervisors comment. I doubt that there are many supervisors who let you present something with their name on it that they think of as suboptimal. The same is true for the writing. Read the final paper version and then again the first draft you sent to your supervisors. Unless you are an incredibly gifted writer who naturally has the writing style of the supervisor, those versions will be very different. So did I really write that paper in the end? ;)

.


I understand what you are saying but the changes would need to be in my own words and I would need to agree to them as well. I have never blindly accepted my supervisors opinions and in fairness to him he always made "suggestions" and asked what I thought. He never forced anything unless I was absolutely wrong about something. Also, his change requests were in the line of "you need to say something about X" or he would say "you need to tighten up the language in this area here". The words were always mine. Also a piece of work from him would usually be nothing more than a starting point. The finished work would be largely things I had added from that starting idea. As time went by, I stopped asking him to check my ideas and started telling him what I was working on. It made for a great working relationship. So in answer to your point, in my case, I absolutely wrote every single word of everything I published ;-D
posted
06-Mar-18, 22:09
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 months ago
Quote From SnowDay:

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!


Hey SnowDay! Good idea to raise it in the meeting! This actually sounds a bit too extreme - totally rewriting! It seems as though they are treating it as if it is their own work, instead of yours! I wouldn't assume that your writing is bad at all. I'd feel more inclined to assume that your supervisor gets a bit carried away with editing their students' work! If I were you, I'd tell them that you really appreciate the feedback they're giving, but in order so that you can develop your writing skills and improve, please could they limit the main feedback to comments (rather than direct editing) - which you can then read, and apply changes yourself.
posted
07-Mar-18, 00:26
edited about 7 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 6 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Quote From SnowDay:

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!


Hey SnowDay! Good idea to raise it in the meeting! This actually sounds a bit too extreme - totally rewriting! It seems as though they are treating it as if it is their own work, instead of yours! I wouldn't assume that your writing is bad at all. I'd feel more inclined to assume that your supervisor gets a bit carried away with editing their students' work! If I were you, I'd tell them that you really appreciate the feedback they're giving, but in order so that you can develop your writing skills and improve, please could they limit the main feedback to comments (rather than direct editing) - which you can then read, and apply changes yourself.


Is this where I am allowed to say "I told you so"? :-D
On a serious note though, a supervisor physically re-writing anything you have written is a classic sign of control freakery. It is never a good sign. For a PhD student it is an absolute red line because if you allow it to happen once, the supervisor will never stop and it becomes their PhD not yours. That is why I was so strong in my condemnation of it in my earlier post. It is intolerable and must be dealt with ASAP.

Mind you, there are countless supervisors out there actually writing full papers for their students, even where the student is 1st author. I would never feel I had earned my PhD under those circumstances.
posted
07-Mar-18, 09:41
edited about 31 seconds later
Avatar for c_phillips
posted about 6 months ago
Hi,

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
posted
07-Mar-18, 12:01
by faded07
Avatar for faded07
posted about 6 months ago
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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