Feel like you’re not ‘good enough’ for your PhD or academia? Imposter syndrome? Flagging academic confidence? I’ve got you some thoughts for you, boo >>>
Academia is a highly-strung competitive shitshow
First, recognise how highly-strung and competitive academia is. It often attracts and comprises brilliant, smart, capable but highly competitive, type A, perfectionist high-achievers. It’s a space where everyone is jostling to be ‘better’, aim higher, do more, be smarter etc.
That’s to say then, that very often, the ‘not good enough’ feelings aren’t truly yours; but a by-product of being in this space. Think of it like: “It’s not you, it’s them” (them being the collective entity of this hyped-up academic community.)
Some context: I’ve coached many PhD candidates who are highly capable and accomplished people. They have literal decades of professional experience in another sector. They’re qualified, intelligent, skilful and have bucketloads of varied, substantial work experience in which they excelled and for which they received plenty of accolades.
But the minute they step foot into their PhD: KABLAM. They start feeling like shitty incapable nothings.
Again: it’s not them. It’s ‘them’ of the hyped-up tpe-A competitive academic circus.
Separate your definition of ‘good enough’ from academia’s
As early on as possible, get super clear on:
a. what you’re bringing to your PhD. This is not a time to be modest. Name your skills, talents, experience, the challenges you’ve overcome, take time to really acknowledge and be flipping proud of them.
b. What YOUR goals are in the PhD. What do you want to get out of doing this PhD? What are YOUR ideals? What does accomplishment+success look like FOR YOU?
THEN, disentangle your goals/skills from all the other noisy bullshit out there about what you ‘should’ be, what the ‘best’ goals ‘should’ be, what ‘should’ be worthy or aspiration in the PhD journey.
Recognise and give yourself permission to rest in what is good enough for you and to tune out everything else.
Let it be okay for you to drop that shit – all the noise about what ‘they’re’ telling you is ‘enough’ because it’s likely not relevant to you, doesn’t serve you, your goals or what you’re trying to accomplish in or with the PhD.
Your goals are your goals and that’s enough. You don’t have to take on anyone else’s goals.
What is ‘good enough’ anyway?
What the actual fuck does it mean to be ‘good enough’ in PhD or academia anyway?
I mean this literally: what does it look like? Is there a checklist or a criteria that everyone should tick off / abide by?
More important, what does it mean for you?
I’ll say it again – get really clear on that definition – what is good enough for you – and take only the steps you need to get closer to it. Drop the rest.
Celebrate all the ‘good enough’ wins!
Regularly make note of and intentionally celebrate your wins. Can’t say this enough. Drop that humility crap. Let yourself feel bloody good about all the big and little things throughout your research career.
?Got accepted on a program
?Wrote your 1st 1000 words
?Met your 1st deadline
?Presented your 1st paper/poster
?Someone complimented your research
?Someone invited you to collaborate on a blog post
?Someone tells you they loved your paper/presentation/that question you asked in class
Something sound too small to celebrate? Celebrate it anyway. IT ALL COUNTS + it ALL ADDS UP.
Keep a literal log of all the good things bcos you’ll quickly forget over the years. Update and look back on this list regularly.
And when I say celebrate, I mean a literal physical celebration. Don’t do that crap of just thinking ‘yay’ for 0.3 seconds and forget all about it. Make it an occasion! Go for a coffee! Open that new bottle of wine! Tell everyone and make them hi-five you! Go dancing!
Comparison is an inaccurate, pointless, shitty thing to do – STOP IT
Drop comparison/any urge to compare like it’s a shit-filled diaper.
You know, we’re not at a catty judgemental beauty pageant here.
In an academic context, comparison mostly means nothing. Everyone’s journey and research is so different that comparing is not “comparing apples and oranges”; it’s comparing apples and smoked herrings.
There’s always going to be someone who looks like they’re doing ‘better’ or ‘worse’. But it’s not an accurate or truthful comparison and you never know what’s actually going on for them – what they’re actually struggling with, what’s lacking or ‘not good enough’ for them.
This isn’t the Olympics. You honestly can’t situate/compare yourself against anyone else.
Also, a reminder that nobody gets from ‘here’ to ‘superstar’ in an instant. Mega cliched but mega true.
Stop comparing your chapter 2 to someone else’s chapter 20 and beating yourself up for not matching up exactly or getting there now.
Again, apples / smoked herrings.
Aim for a series of ‘good enough right now’s
Reframe: good enough is not something far away to be ‘achieved’ once and for all.
Instead, think of good enough as being where you are right now.
The chapter you’re writing now may not be good enough to be published by Routledge this afternoon. But it is definitely more than good enough for the stage you’re at RIGHT NOW.
Next week, you’ll rework it, it’ll be better and it’ll be good enough for that week.
You get to your ultimate ‘good enough’ by a series of consecutive ‘good-enough-right-now’s.
Each ‘good enough’ builds on the one before it until you get where you need to.
Lean towards possibility and potential, not lack
If you still feel you’re not good enough for right now, then work backwards and consider: what one small action can you take right now to move you closer to that good enough.
Lean towards that possibility and take the actionable steps to it
Instead of staying stuck in where you’re not, flailing about in the deficit, inadequacy and lack of ‘not good enoughness’, how can you vision forward to that ‘enoughness’?
What does it look like for you? What tangible thing can you do? What support can you ask for to step closer to it?
That’s it for now, lovelies. I believe you’re more than enough just as you are. In fact, you’re fucking fantastic to be right here right now. Give yourself a little credit ?
(and if you need more convincing, jump on a clarity call with me and we’ll get you pumped and high on all your more-than-enoughness)