What do you do when you doubt your work? — R Voice

What do you do when you doubt your work?

Shruti Turner
Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

I'm nearing the end of my PhD, my thesis is currently with my supervisor for her comments and feedback. Rationally, I feel I should be happy, relatively relaxed and excited about what next. However, I feel like I'm full of worry - my PhD isn't what it was meant to be (thanks to COVID-19 induced changes) and it makes me worry about the quality of the work I've done. My supervisor has looked through my chapters before and has been largely happy with the work and she knows my project. I know she would have told me if it wasn't good enough before. Nothing has happened outside my own worries to make me feel this way, I just have that nagging feeling that I could have done better...I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on this!

Do you doubt the quality of your work, at all? What do you do to help you through that?


  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 5

    @Shruti Turner Congratulations on completing thesis writing! A massive and the most difficult task in a PhD journey. Yay! You did it!

    Externally, there seems to be no issues.

    A supportive supervisor who you trust and who will tell you if there is something wanting.

    So, you can be worry-free...however, the nagging feeling...we understand.

    Covid situation....well, that is the case for many. We couldn't all always do what we set out to, because the external situation was out of control.

    Also, could it be that all the pent up stress of all these years and the writing days is flowing out now? If yes, thats ok and you can leave the stress to run its natural course supported by self care/friends/family, perhaps? Now that the thesis is done?

    Oh, btw..."Not enough, can be better" is the resounding feeling in many of us.🙃 PhD thesis, papers, reports...many of us feel it all the time. I think it is a necessary feeling in measured quantities as far as it doesn't freeze us into inaction, or create self-loathing. Because the feeling is and can be used as a force for good.

    I try not to push away the feeling. Instead, I have a chat with it. I ask, what could be better and write it down. These become my next goals/ideas/seeds for projects/motivations to learn and improve.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with thesis defense. 🙂

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 581 admin

    @Shruti Turner first of, huge congratulations are in order! I know that you've been working very long and hard towards completing your thesis and I'm so glad to learn that you've submitted and that you've also received positive feedback from your supervisor. This is all fantastic! 🤩🤗

    That said, I can relate to being someone who doubts the quality of their work. I've been guilty of constantly stressing over whether I've done all I could, and even if I've done all I could, did I really give it my best? I feel like, in addition to external goals, much of this self-doubt comes from the pressure and expectations we put on ourselves. I'll give you a personal example - When I first started working on the CACTUS Mental Health Survey, I was working towards a very hefty goal, and given the potential impact the survey could have, I was convinced that I would fail if I didn't meet that goal. Then, over the course of the project, the goal changed several times for a variety of reasons. In the end, I got close but still didn't meet the target I'd set for myself. I was sad at first because technically "I'd failed" but after taking a closer look, and with a little help from caring colleagues, I changed my mind. Despite me not meeting the goal I'd set out to, the survey was still a success because it captured the thoughts of researchers from across the globe, and this information could be used to help drive positive change. Could the survey have been bigger and better? Absolutely! But that doesn't mean what I'd managed to achieve was in vain. 🙂 (hoping you'll be able to relate to this experience)

    Although I'm still a work in progress when it comes to acknowledging my own efforts, celebrating my successes, and appreciating my own work, I do believe I'm better at it now with a little help. I've been fortunate enough to work with managers and colleagues who constantly remind me that I shouldn't sell myself short. And I'd like to do the same for you today! 😊

    If you have the time, please take a look at this lovely piece by Dr. Sherran Clarence. I have a feeling you'll really like it - What if my thesis is not the most awesome thesis ever written?

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you so much @Raj sundaram and @Andrea Hayward for your supportive and detailed comments! I know rationally you are both absolutely right! I think it must be a mindset thing for sure, I do need to address that (working on it slowly).

    It feels so weird to have so much free time that I think stressing about what could have been is the only thing I can think of doing - I love the idea of having a chat with myself. I have never thought of it like that but I will do from now on!

    I really appreciate your reminders to remind myself not to undersell my own achievements - I definitely need them!

    Also - that article is amazing! I feel like it's something written just for me 😂

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 126 ✭✭✭✭

    Hi @Shruti Turner

    Congratulation on your achievement - finishing your PhD thesis. 🎉You must work so hard on it.

    My experience is quite opposite from yours. I got a negative feedback for my thesis during my writing process. That was so depressive. However, because my data are looked down, I've totally become very positive to my work (data and thesis) since then. At the point of my depression, I looked at my data full of tears. I recalled all of the processes to get them, which were so fun and I did heartfully. I embrace my data and say how proud I am to myself. Then I conclude that if I have given a 100% of me to the process, I believe the data will greatly lead me to the final. 🤓

    Since that moment, I add my love to my work each day. I go forward and ignore the negative feedback. One part of my works has been published in a reputable journal. Another part is under review step in another reputable journal. I call these achievements as the fruit of believing in myself. 👏

    If I may suggest, @Shruti Turner, "recalling the process may lead you to be proud of what you've achieved", which may lead you to leave the nagging feeling you have right now.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    @Yufita Chinta I'm sorry you had difficulties through your writing process. It's great to hear that you have found a way that works for you to feel proud of and happy with your work - I find that's so important, more so than other people's feedback sometimes!

  • Yufita Chinta
    Yufita Chinta Member Posts: 126 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you @Shruti Turner for your warm comment.

    The experience teaches me to be proud of my results, even they are not perfect.

    Excuse me, is my sharing connecting with your problem? I lost myself..... 😓