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{PhD} Who are you in your PhD?

A little existential question for you today:

Who are you in your PhD?

This isn’t a trick question.

I ask, because for many of us, it becomes really easy for us to conflate our whole sense of self with our PhD and our research.

I know I did – when the examiners hacked away at my thesis during my horrible viva, I felt like it was an attack on me.

Things ‘going wrong’ in my PhD meant that things were wrong with me.

If one part of my PhD life ‘failed’ that meant my entire existence and I were failures.

But here’s the big neon-flashing truth:

We’re so much more than our PhD

We had whole, perfectly formed, rich lives and identities before the PhD, and we will continue to grow into and expand far beyond and after the PhD.

So I ask you again, who are you?

(Do like the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, if that helps! Actually, take the afternoon off and (re)watch/(re)read Alice in Wonderland – there’s always something to be gained from getting lost and wandering and nonsense!)

Or perhaps the question should be, who do you want to be?

And that wanting doesn’t have to be rooted only in your “PhD candidate/graduate” status.

I’ll start things off:

Hi, I’m Jamie. I’m a PhD graduate

But I’m also…

  • a former journalist
  • a writer and editor
  • a PhD coach
  • a tarot reader
  • a life coach
  • a daughter
  • a girlfriend
  • that loving friend
  • that moody, aloof friend
  • a public-speaking award-winner
  • a spiritual practitioner (call me witch!)
  • a yoga practitioner
  • a weight-lifter
  • a fun cousin
  • a weird, distant relative
  • a freelancing Zoom producer
  • and on…
  • and on…

Every single one of those ‘identities’ carries its own weird quirks, interesting characteristics, insecurities and anxieties, skills and capacities, fun, worries, likes and dislikes.

But also, each of those parts of me are tangled up in all the other parts, each one enriching and expanding and colouring the others… including the PhD/academic bit of me.

So, see, I was never just an ‘academic’ or just a ‘PhD researcher’.

I was a PhD student who had also had lots of writing experience as a journalist; whose spiritual, witchy side always nudged her to trust her own intuition in her work; who used her yoga practice as valuable reflections on her researcher positionality.

Don’t downplay all the OTHER very excellent parts of you that make you not only the person you are today, but the complex, layered, interesting researcher who will have more to say in your research because of all those parts.

I’m here in your corner, celebrating all those aspects of you that are so much more than ‘just’ an academic.

The Messy PhD Group Coaching Hive I’m hosting in autumn is going to be all about amplifying those parts of you that perhaps academia deems ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’, but which is Goldilocks-just-right for you to do your very best research.

Let me (and a close community of other PhD students) help you do your thing, in your way.

Join the Hive waitlist so you’ll be the very first to hear when applications open.

In the meantime, go do you and shine your you-ness at everyone. Your research will thank you for it.

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