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Written by Didi Bedou

The unpleasant and strong emotion caused by awareness or simply anticipation of pain, harm or even danger, follows you constantly through your journey to becoming a Ph.D.

The above statement is indeed controversial, therefore let me guide you through my thoughts to explain the full meaning behind the statement.

When you completed your masters degree and competed for a doctoral researcher position on a research team you probably faced these emotional questions, asking yourself: Is my presentation good enough to be part of this team? Did I perform well in the interview? Hopefully, I can understand and answer all the questions raised by the hiring professor correctly?

Then, eventually, you earned your ticket to join the team. Although, you are super happy and glad that you made it, soon enough you probably caught again this emotion of pain and doubt. For instance, a part of your project is not working as planned. Now you are fearing, will my peers understand my struggles and help me? How can I possibly explain these struggles to get the support I need to keep going?

This is followed by the burden of being ranked upon the success of your work. Despite your full commitment to your thesis, you may not be able to bring your project to the finish line as first planned. You may even need to switch the project’s direction because the initial direction turned out to be a dead end.

You start doubting yourself, your capabilities and competences. The fear becomes so strong that it is shifting your mind-set, paralysing you.

Here is the way out: Don't let fear take control of you! The aforementioned is easier said than done. However, there is a solution and I would like to share it with you.

If your working environment is not a place where you can allow your vulnerability to show then do not! That is unfortunate, considering that we spend more time at work with colleagues than we wish to spend with friends and family. Nevertheless, it can be bypassed.

How? Lean on your family and friends and open up with them. They are more than capable to help and to understand, sometimes you may be surprised! Also, give yourself breaks to take some distance from all of it and work on your feelings and emotional wellbeing. This work, you can choose to do it with family and friends who know you better or seek professional help. There is no shame in seeking help or advocating for your best interest. If you do not do it yourself, nobody will do it for you!

Once you are back to your work environment, watch out for yourself and notice when and how to keep yourself going and also when and how to stop. You have to seek out this balance for yourself and I can assure you that this is not going to affect your productivity negatively. Since I am mentioning the term productivity, let me briefly define it here: personal productivity is measuring the rate of output per unit of time. The quality and the quantity of your output are depending on your physical and mental state and wellbeing.

Finally, do not lose your perspective for your first passion. If you are on this Ph.D. journey, it is probably because you like the research in the first place and you have a hunger to learn and to discover. Do not let fear kill your flame. Look for your balance, fight for it, cherish it and you are more likely to again enjoy what you are doing.


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