Though I picked the name “fervent foodie” for this blog, those of you who’ve stuck with me over the last 7 years of intermittent blogging know that healthy living is a huge part of my life, and is a theme that trickles into the posts on this site. This is one of those posts. [Looking for something to cook? I recommend Potato Pie. Because potatoes are always the answer.]
I am writing to you from my desk on campus. It’s the last month of the first year of my PhD program. I have just four weeks to go. And man. WHAT A YEAR this has been.
As I talk to more and more people who have successfully navigated PhD programs, I’m learning that it’s completely normal to feel like you’re not good enough. And that this feeling won’t go away. EVER. They call it the Imposter Syndrome. We all feel like we’re not smart enough to be here, that we were accepted by mistake, and we’re all worried that eventually everyone else will find out how dumb we actually are. These feelings are not unique to PhD programs, of course. When you surround yourself with exceptional people, the bar is often too high to touch, no matter how much effort you give it.
When I started the PhD program, I knew it would be the hardest thing I’d ever attempted. More challenging than finishing my undergraduate degree in three years or kicking the CPA Exam’s booty. Or studying for the GMAT til midnight each night for months on end. More challenging than working in Big Four Accounting or pursuing my Masters while working full-time. I knew all of this, yet I had no benchmark to prepare myself. I went into this year as I do all of life’s greatest tasks — with my head down and my eyes locked in on success. The problem here is that unlike other obstacles I’d tackled, there is no tangible, well-defined measure of success in a PhD program. And that, my friends, was nearly crippling for me.
How does a goal-seeking perfectionist thrive in that type of environment? I cried more this year than I care to admit. I thought about quitting. Everything. I persistently doubted my abilities. My relationships suffered. My happiness suffered even more. I felt like a failure on all levels–at school, at home. I felt like a failed healthy-living proponent. An imposter from all angles.
A couple of months ago, I was talking with my new friend (AKA my counselor) and she advised me to change my goal from SUCCESS to “good enough.” Good enough? That sounded… obtainable. Doable. And it gave me a small spark of hope that I might actually be able to hang in there a little longer.
The point of this post is twofold: reflection and honesty. Your potato pie is only so big; there’s only so much to go around. And pie is better when it’s shared. This semester will surely end with straight B’s, a non-PR half marathon, and plentiful room for improvement. And that’s good enough for me.