Imposter syndrome + feeling inadequate

29-Oct-18, 03:56
by Jane92
Avatar for Jane92
posted about 2 years ago
Hi all,

I’m looking for some advice and guidance from fellow PhD students in particular. I’m having those all too common feelings of being an imposter and not being good enough.
Do you find that all feedback from supervisors is always negative? The past six months have been heavy on the writing front, a lot of back and forth with supervisors and I’ve not had one positive comment. There have been some quite harsh words come back from some of my supervisors, along with some huffs and puffs and a lot of sighing at meetings, which has left me, in all honestly, very very low.
Whenever I send something to them now I feel physically sick waiting for their response. I am always expecting extremely negative comments - and that is what I always get.
Is this normal? Some friends have suggested they’re just being harsh to push me, and that all students go through this. But I don’t feel that it is a healthy approach. I also don’t know if I’d be able to manage this for another three years. Or the alternative thought is that I’m actually not good enough to do a PhD.
I’m one year into my studies and all I know is that I have A LOT of weakness and I’m really struggling to see what my strengths are.
Any advice or direction would be really helpful.
29-Oct-18, 04:52
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 2 years ago

To be honest, the fact that your supers give you a lot of feedback is great in itself.

You may not be good enough at this point of your academic career. Its difficult to say because you have been vague about the feedback you receive! What kind of stuff do they say about your writing? Is it sloppy? Do you just make wild claims and fail to back them up with evidence? Do you struggle to put together a rarional argument? Are you not quoting the relevant authors?

Anyway, at this point of your career this is just learning to be an academic. It would be much worse if you were sending out your papers to an academic journal and they were rejected. Basically you have nothing to lose by following your supers advice.
29-Oct-18, 10:17
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 years ago
You get feedback! My supervisors regularly give 2 lines of feedback which consists of fixing grammar problems on something I spent weeks working on. I pretty sure they don't read what I send them, except my diagrams (the feedback is always on something linked to a diagram). So

Have you looked at your old work and compared it to your new writing? Do you think it has improved? If you can see a difference it would be great, if not don't be disheartened. Your supervisors are taking the time to critique your work and they may be trying to mold your writing style to something closer to theirs. So it might be an idea to ask for a meeting on your overall writing with the pretext of there is a lot of feedback and taking a broader look might be beneficial. it might be another brutal meeting but it could condense the feedback and possibly get some compliments.

I recommend this to most people when they are feeling low, take a holiday or long weekend. Don do anything related to your PhD and you will come back feeling so much better. The number of PhD students with burnout is unbelievable.
29-Oct-18, 11:51
edited about 22 seconds later
by monkiaa
Avatar for monkiaa
posted about 2 years ago
I am sorry for what you have been through! I was in the exact same situation for two months. I always receive negative feedback and if I do something good and having great, they don't even say a good word, which was obvious that they are toxic supervisor and ended up leaving that the lab, and I think it is a good decision to find another good and supportive supervisor as no one can endure all the time the negativity. Unfortunately, some supervisor lacks the faculty of pedagogy, being harsh can demoralize and demotivate you. Of course, we need a feedback and I can assure that you have many improvements, however, in the other side, you must get some positive words, encouragement to keep your mind and health sane.

I cannot advise you as I am not fully aware how percentage they are really bad, I can be harsh with you with intention to improve you, you must distinguish that whether they are really want to improve from you or they are really toxic people, you have to answer that question as continuing more years means that you need recommendation, references and building your career, do you see that they can support you really even though they are harsh.

Hope you can estimate the matters in more objective way so that you can have a right decision.

Wishing for you the peace of mind and good luck!


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