Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Doctorate demons

It's no big secret that I suffer - quite badly at times - from lack of self-confidence. Although it's something I've experienced for the majority of my life I wouldn't ever really say I've 'battled' with it, in fact right from the beginning I've just sort of, well, dealt with it. It doesn't really bother me. It would be nice if it would sod off and blight someone else for a while so I can know what it feels like to be rid of it, but for the most part it doesn't actually hinder me at all.

Despite it causing infuriating levels of self-doubt which manifest themselves in some peculiar forms I can by-and-large ignore it. Now that's not to say I've 'cured' myself and it doesn't affect my thoughts anymore, it's just that I've found a way of getting round it.

You see, the problem I face is that I constantly feel like an imbecile. Whenever I speak to someone about my studies or what I'm aiming for I somehow feel they're going to haul me up as a faker, a bluffer, someone who has managed to blag their way this far thanks to a reasonable grasp of English and not much else. I accept that some people may think that's a ludicrous thing for me to think but the fact remains that I think it.

Take this PhD application for instance. I would absolutely love to study for a PhD and in my own little head I think I'm quite capable of doing it and succeeding, but I have this nagging little demon telling me that everyone is probably snickering at my clueless audacity. "What on earth makes her think she's capable of something like THAT??" they're saying under their breath. It's horrible, having people fictitiously calling you names behind your back. It unnerves me and often makes me want to hide away and not face the possibility of failure in the first place, but that would be stupid so I shrug it off as best I can, make apologies for my own petulance and just carry on. To quote Susan Jeffers, I feel the fear and do it anyway.

It works, for the most part. I suspect that had I not felt the fear but done it anyway I might not have taken up mountain biking - which led me to meet Gordon. I might not have got a place on a Masters programme at a top 3 university - which I still think was a fluke since I didn't technically meet the entry criteria. And I probably wouldn't have signed up to numerous things throughout the past few years which made me feel nervous - conferences, OUSA, Platform, Great North Run to name a few.

So I ultimately might be making a fool of myself even thinking about applying for a PhD. I might not be actually capable, intelligent or academic enough to do one, but I won't ever know that for sure unless I apply. There are myriad quotes I could cite to substantiate this theory: "shy bairns get nowt" (my mother), "if you never try you'll never know" (unknown but it's common as muck!), and my personal favourite "of course you can't become, if you only say what you would've done" (Len 'Steal my Sunshine' - one hit wonder).

I'm feeling the fear (for 'fear' read 'self-doubt'), but sod it, I'm just gonna do it anyway. I've not got much to lose when all is considered so I might as well. You never know, I might have just what it takes to do a PhD and I just don't know it yet. I might be a born learner. I'm very much doubting it but then stranger things have happened.


  1. Oh, your feelings about doing a PhD and whether you can do it plague all of us who entered the programme and did even during the programme. The point is that many people who are in gradschool don't admit to having feelings of self-doubt. Why? It's often seen in academia as a sign of guilt. If you want to apply, apply since often even finishing it really relies on your own personal drive and will power to complete.

  2. What a long, challenging academic experience you had. Even if you have doubts on entering the program, you can still succeed in your dreams through perseverance. Just take into consideration the mere fact that a lot of PhD students enrolled their respective program with fear at first, but they are facing the challenges.

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