Feeling confused, lost and very inadequate at the start of my PhD - is that normal?

posted
23-Oct-18, 14:14
by mandy_m
Avatar for mandy_m
posted about 1 month ago
Hi everyone.

So I've just started my PhD two weeks ago and I've been feeling very lost and depressed... I was somehow expecting I would arrive to the lab, have a few days of adjustment and reading and I'll be ready to single-handledly do this thing and take full control over my project but, basically, now I have a feeling that I'm still very lost about a lot of things, that most of the suggestions and analyses are being suggested and done/demonstrated by my supervisor or the main postdoc in my lab and that, regarding my project, basically everyone here knows what to, when to do it and how to do it, while I'm threading in the dark and simply doing what other people tell me to do without always fully understanding each step. I've been trying to catch up to their level of knowledge and practical experience both in general and regarding the topic of my project by doing a lot of reading and as much practical work as I can at the moment, but I've been in a process of moving to another country, I haven't had as much free time outside of work as I thought I would and perhaps I just haven't been reading enough, maybe that's the reason why I'm so slow with catching up on all the theory, at least?

In short, I wanted to ask if any of you had a similar experience feeling so lost and inadequate at the start of your PhD and what is the best way of coping with this and of getting better at what I do?

Thank you very much in advance to anyone who answers.
posted
24-Oct-18, 14:59
Avatar for kenziebob
posted about 3 weeks ago
Short answer: YES and I still feel lost and inadequate over a year in. I work in the life sciences and most of my colleagues aren't in 'full control' of their work. My supervisors keep reminding me that a PhD is about giving you the tools to become an independent researcher, not expecting that you ARE an independent researcher two weeks in.

Try to relax a little bit, I sincerely doubt your supervisor expects you to be fully independent yet, and the other students you see around you have had time to get settled in. Talk to your supervisor if you are that worried, talk to other students, and try not to let it get you down too much (hard, I know). It's imposter syndrome, and it's a right b****.
posted
25-Oct-18, 05:54
edited about 2 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 weeks ago
mandy, I am afraid your initial expectations are unrealistic. If you are able to hit the ground running within a week or two then you can't be doing anything worthwhile.
Ypu should expect to take around 6 months to a year to get your feet on solid ground.
It took me 4 months from my start date but I spent my summer holidays reading in advance of starting to that would take me to around 7 or 8 months.
I have never met anyone who has managed it in weeks.

Stop worrying about your colleagues. They SHOULD know much more than you at this stage because they are further along the path than you are.
posted
07-Nov-18, 08:24
edited about 9 seconds later
by mandy_m
Avatar for mandy_m
posted about 2 weeks ago
Thank you both very much, you've definitely made me feel a bit better. And slowly, I am getting in the grip of some things around the lab and about my project, it's very minor and it's still a slow process, but I'm slowly learning to rejoice about any small positive progress that I make.
posted
08-Nov-18, 14:38
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From mandy_m:
Thank you both very much, you've definitely made me feel a bit better. And slowly, I am getting in the grip of some things around the lab and about my project, it's very minor and it's still a slow process, but I'm slowly learning to rejoice about any small positive progress that I make.


Ah yes, taking pleasure in small wins. That takes me back :-D
Those small things should eventually start to grow a wee bit bigger.
Just try and stay in the game.

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