We all have moments of self-doubt, it’s only natural. For many this happens during a PhD with looming deadlines, presentations and The Boss looking on. But sometimes this self-doubt grows into more than just a little nagging feeling and becomes more prominent in the mind, leading to feelings of anxiety which sometimes even get in the way of getting important things done. Procrastination then becomes an escape from doing what makes us anxious, as a way of avoiding those negative feelings which get us down and make us feel uncomfortable.
Since starting my PhD I have been experiencing A LOT of this! We all have our different reasons behind these feelings but for me personally this stems from not wanting to appear stupid in front of my supervisor and other higher ranking scientists in my field, who might ‘find me out’ and not being clever enough and kick me off my course. This leads to me getting very nervous about having meetings and asking for help, not the most helpful attitude for completing a PhD, but I just can’t help the spiral of negative feelings around tasks that I don’t want to do!
The thing is, I’m not a shy person and I certainly don’t worry myself about what people think of me in everyday situations! In fact, in certain situations I am the exact opposite of the anxious person I become in the lab; I love to dance salsa, I have done for about 9 years. When I hit the dancefloor I undergo a further personality change, I become over-confident and to be honest a bit cocky! Ok, a lot cocky…There isn’t a person in the world who can tell me that I can’t dance and when I’m on the dancefloor I act as if I am the best, regardless whether this is anywhere near the truth or not! I have total faith in my own ability and nothing makes me as excited as dancing as perfect as I possibly can! Whilst this isn’t always the best attitude to have in life, as it would be exhausting to be so super-competitive in everything that I do, I think it would do me good to have salsa Sophie come into the lab and start doing some science!
I have found so far that the best way to deal with anxiety is to focus on the positive aspects of what I have achieved so far, such as being on my PhD course in the first place and the fact that actually I haven’t done anything to prove that I am as stupid as I think I am. It also helps to simply imagine what life would be like if I didn’t worry so much; you can’t simply forget about your deepest fears I appreciate that, but by imagining how relieved and confident I could feel if the worry didn’t exist, makes me question why I’m not that confident all the time, much like myself on the dancefloor! Why not try it?
Feel free to share any tips you have for keeping the worry demons at bay!