Not long after I began my PhD I saw a piece of advice that read ‘be cautious of letting your PhD become the sole thing by which you measure your self worth’. Sounds reasonable, I thought. Only recently, however, have I come to realise its true value.
It can be difficult to sustain the ardour that many begin their project with, particularly when the strive for completion is in earnest. The setbacks that once were brushed off now hit as hard dejection. The breakthroughs that once were celebrated are now welcomed with relief. Vigour makes way for trudge, despair emerges. Duty and commitment appear where there once was fervour and eagerness. Deriving satisfaction from the PhD can seem a thing of the past, and it’s all too easy for high self-esteem to follow suit.
Successes (or even just enjoyment) in other pursuits go a long way to promoting one’s sense of self worth in times where the PhD won’t. The caveats I’ve found are that it must be something you truly care about, and it helps to be entirely independent of the PhD. For me that thing is hitting a ball with a stick on the weekends (hockey). Diversifying interests is something I’ve tried to remain conscious of, with positive results (palliative or otherwise), but with it comes a predictable side effect – the worry that I’m not caring enough about the PhD. And so the cycle continues…