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Stacey Goguen

Thanks for picking this up and fleshing it out some more. I completely agree regarding all the stuff you say about mentoring, and which types tend to help or hurt.

One of the most stressful aspects of grad school for me has been the combination of: not succeeding at something (be it a term paper, presentation, publication or just having an argument be persuasive), not having a good sense of the sorts of things I can do to improve, feeling like asking for help risks being pegged as incompetent, and once I figure out something to do different, not knowing whether I have actually improved my argument/paper/CV/etc.

Skipping down to the things you can do to reduce stress, I agree and think those are all really helpful things. I also try to address my stress on multiple levels. There's immediate damage control: what can I do right now, like take a walk, take a break, etc. There is how can I structure my week to reduce stress: don't leave grading until the last minute, allow myself to be off the clock sometimes and hang out with friends, ask for help as soon as I need it, instead of waiting until a deadline is approaching etc. And then there's the deeper bit: what exactly is making me stressed? If getting rejected from a journal makes me incredibly upset and stressed, is there a way to change my relationship/attitude to this activity to make it less likely to trigger stress in the first place?

For me at least, a lot of the unhappiness and stress I have felt in grad. school has stemmed from the fear that my failures are evidence that I do not belong in philosophy, that I will not be successful at in the future, there is no way for me to change this fate, and all of this signals an even greater failure as a person.

So once I was able to start decoupling my failures from those further implications, they suddenly were not as stressful and fear-inducing. (This is an ongoing process I am still working on.)

For instance, let's say I get get rejected from a conference? Okay, maybe it wasn't a good fit, or I didn't communicate my project well in my abstract. I don't take that as a sign that I will never be able to articulate my project well, or that my project is not worthy of being presented.

Granted, that's way easier said than done. And part of the problem of academia I think is that we block people's ability to develop a sense of professional self-worth that would allow them to build up the kind of resilience where they could then just shrug off what failures come their way.

What has helped me develop this sense of self-worth includes:
--having some successes to serve as counter-points to failure
--having a supportive mentor (i.e. someone who is successful in the field who thinks I can be successful in the field, too.)
--knowing that I am not the only one struggling with this (I am more the norm than the exception, so I bet even some successful people have struggled like this)
--believing that the things that make you good at philosophy are skills that can be learned, so failure in the present does not preclude the possibility of success in the future
--having a professional community that doesn't make me feel ashamed when I make mistakes, and treats mistakes as things to be dealt with in order to make your work better--not as things to use to judge your worth as a scholar. (Huge shout out to Boston's WOGAP on this, which changed my professional life in terms of seeing that a friendly, supportive, and respectful environment is not incompatible with doing serious scholarship.)

Pendaran Roberts

Philosophy in particular I think is bad for one's mental health due to the 90-95% journal rejection rates and the even worse job rejection rates. Not all academic fields have to put up with such high rejection rates. Rejection or too much rejection can lead to anxiety and depression for a lot of people. You have to be incredibly confident and thick skinned not to let it get to you.

For those who are struggling with anxiety and/or depression don't forget that there is medication. Modern SSRI's have limited side effects and work well. It doesn't mean you've failed if you need medication. However, it is unfortunate that philosophy would drive anyone to such psychological turmoil.

Stacey Goguen

I came across the link below this morning and while I don't think this is stuff many people don't already know, I really enjoyed the pictured for 13 and 14.



The problem with academe, especially grad programs, is that they represent a culture that has is very good at challenging students to face their areas of ignorance, but not at helping students to develop confidence in their unique knowledge, skills and professional self-esteem.

^^^yes, what Larry said.

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