Getting discouraged

Feeling discouraged? Me too! The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.  Image from
Feeling discouraged? Me too! And this guy…
The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.
Image from

I’m sure it’s bound to happen to most graduate students during their thesis-writing days. It’s a feeling of deep discouragement. One that gets you to your bones, and makes you feel tired in a way that sleep cannot suppress. 

It’s different than simply feeling out of place.  We’ve talked about the latter phenomenon before;  where everyone doing a graduate degree will at one point wonder when the jig will be up and people will realize that you are utterly unqualified for the position you are in.

I think I felt that right on schedule in my first year of my masters degree, when I was asked to do some statistical work that I had never done before. I expected my supervisor to call me into his office—which, in my daydreams, looked a lot like a reality TV show—and say: Alexandra, you’re cut!

First year nightmare… Getting cut from academia! Image from
First year nightmare…
Getting voted off my research team
Image from










Eventually, that sense of being out of place went away. Two strategies helped immensely:

Finding resource-people. You know those friends who understand everything, and can explain it well? They are my best friends.

Finding allies. These are people who you can vent to, or seek support from. Turns out that knowing we are all in the same sinking boat was comforting.

I’m not saying I don’t feel the stress of Impostor Syndrome anymore. It comes and goes for sure.

What I’m feeling these days is something new and…different.

As I said, it’s a sense of discouragement and general fatigue.  For me, a couple of things are to blame: seeing an endless, growing to-do list; getting stuck interpreting for the Umpteenth time the same data I saw last month; seeing a looming deadline and feeling unsure of how I’ll meet it.

It doesn’t help that it’s February, the endless month. The month that squashes (momentarily) all hope of spring, and change, and joy.

I bet grumpy cat LOVES February Image from
I bet grumpy cat LOVES February
Image from

I’m stuck in a rut, guys, and I’ve been thinking hard about how to get out of it. Here’s what I’ve thought of so far:

Identifying the problem. What exactly is the cause of this discouragement?

Identifying what I can control. What can I do about it? (And what is beyond my reach.)

Being gentle.  So what if it takes a few extra takes to get out of bed and drag myself to my desk? It’s February. It’s normal.

Doing things that feel good! Exercise, hanging out with friends—anything to take the mind off those study blues, even for a second.

To all those of you are feeling discouraged too, Godspeed! We can do this!

Photo by Petr Davis Josek (AP) for the Toronto Star.
If team Canada can score against their nemesis, you can tackle that to-do list.
Photo by Petr Davis Josek (AP) for the Toronto Star.



One thought on “Getting discouraged

  1. Nice post. Research is a roller coaster. I especially agree that if you are not motivated for the time being, you just need to accept that it’s OK. You will more than make up for periods of low productivity when things start rolling and you’re back on your game!


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