Perfectly imperfect

Life is seldom perfect…this is something that I have come to realise, often the hard way. You seem I am somewhat of a perfectionist — don’t get me wrong, this has its benefits but perfectionism (albeit in my eyes- so this could be horribly different to that of someone else who may scoff at my work) and productivity are bitter rivals. They rage against one another. This can be a problem. But I recently read the words below and it got me thinking…On a side note anyone interested in biology should read The signature of all things, by Gilbert—yes she is the very same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love; which no, I have not read but if this book is anything to go by I am sure it must somewhat live up to the hype.

In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, ” You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass . It starts by forgetting about perfect . We don’t have time for perfect. In any event , perfection is unachievable.It’s a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death.”

….I am in a critical stage of my PhD at the moment, the time during which my research proposal is scrutinised by supervisors and thesis committee alike—i.e., a fairly stressful time. I must also now mention that family issues have not made matters any easier but such is life and I am dealing with things as best I can. My way of dealing with things involves a whole lot of thinking, more thinking and thinking about thinking. Over the last few months I identified my problem as being one of agonising over the content of my work, so much so that I end up sabotaging myself because I continuously put myself in a situation where I procrastinate. Procrastination leads to time loss and then I am left with so much to do in a relatively short amount of time— that I inevitably fall short of what I set out to achieve anyways! Frustrating? YES!! Especially because I know what my problem is but I have not yet figured out how to solve it…..As is my MO, I went to trusty google to find a solution, or at the very least a starting point. My first port of call was the wonderfully written blog of Dr Inger Mewburn, who has, for the last 5 years, written a blog called “The Thesis Whisperer”. Seriously, any graduate student should have a squiz through here! There is bound to be something that catches your eye.  The first thing that caught my eye was her post on the “Top 5 PhD emotions”  and her 2nd point (quoted below) made me stop, YES, yes that is how I feel, “I’m not crazy?”. I often feel overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy,  convincing myself that I do not know enough to be successful in my chosen field (this can have its advantages IF you then read more of the literature), that I am out of my depth and that how can I possibly expect to do this PhD justice….apparently I am not alone. Which is a comfort! Thanks to this blog and to google I now know that I suffer from what is called, “Imposter Syndrome”. Not a real syndrome in the strict definition of the word, rather just a set of “symptoms”  describe a large subset of the graduate and academic student body.

2) Fear of being ‘found out’ as fraud, not really knowing enough/being smart enough to be Phd student (@orientalhotel)

Otherwise known as ‘the imposter syndrome’ (thanks @boredpostdoc) this is apparently common in PhD students. As well as possibly being related to self esteem and perfectionism, this emotion could be the by product of the nature of PhD study itself. As the old cliche goes: “The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know”.

The question now is on how to overcome this feeling, I found the following article really helpful (I am still attempting to put all of these tips into practice!); 21 ways to overcome Imposter syndrome.

So the moral of the story?…well at least the one that I have come to—stop trying to be perfect, or to do things “perfectly”. It does not exist and in most cases you simply end up wasting your time and often not writing that piece of work you wanted anyways (humph!). Perfection does not exist kids!, yip you read that right; some people may appear to be gods among mere mortals but even they are not perfect and do not produce perfect work. The important thing is to simply try your best, and yes, your best may not always be THE best, but as long as you work hard at you that is all you can expect. From now on I am going to do my best NOT to fall into the grips of that evil entity, procrastination because I feel inadequate. Also, I will do my best to just do me 🙂 Surely that must count for something, right?

Remember:

Imperfect, is sometimes perfectly perfect the way it is.