Not comparing yourself to others

A sure-fire way to plummet to levels of self-loathing as a graduate student is compare yourself to others, whether they be other graduate students or faculty. Inevitably, there will be people who have won more grants and published more papers, or finished their doctorate in less time. So I try not to become less productive by comparing myself to others; nonetheless, I fall prey to it occasionally.

There are many academics in my family. While this means they might understand my plight, there is also pressure on me to measure up to pretty high standards. For example, the last person in the family who got a PhD, also at University of Toronto, got a Governor General’s Award for his thesis. Then, there are the relatives who are directors of their programs Oxford. Some days, I don’t feel capable of finishing a dissertation, let alone winning an award for one. Other days, I wonder what kind of university or college I’ll end up working at, and while I aspire to be a professor at an institution that supports research, I don’t necessarily think I’d get a job at one of the top research universities in the world.

So, I just try to focus on my own work, one that makes me happy, one day at a time.


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