Addiction is a good syndrome of fear. Addiction as a way of procrastinating, I might add.
Getting addicted to any kind of lifestyle, be it a healthy (like going to the gym obsessively, reading the whole University library, or sewing your way to a whole new wardrobe) or an unhealthy one (like partying too much, eating junk food, or watching too much tv), is actually a way to escape reality. There is this fine line where a hobby becomes an addiction: when you stop doing things for fun and do them out of guilt (because you know you should be doing something else). It’s kind of perverse, in a way, and it spoils everything.
I know what reality I want to escape: the one where I have to finish my dissertation, defend it in front of a jury, get qualified by the national university board and apply for a job at the Sorbonne by spring 2017.
There is something about getting it finally over with that is so frightening and overwhelming it makes it very difficult to focus on the task itself.
After complaining for three years that being a PhD student got me stuck somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, I can’t seem to really want to grow-up and own it. Writing a dissertation (anything, really) means working really really hard without being sure of the outcome. But being afraid of failure is part of being an adult. When I was little, at school, if during a test you gave all the right answers, well, you’d have an A. Now, you don’t always know what the right answers are, mostly because there are none. When you create something, with that comes risk, and that’s perfectly normal to get frightened.
I invite you to make a list of everything you think frightens you in your current project. Everything that might be the reason why you’re not getting any progress.
My list goes like this:
- I am afraid that when I finish it, it won’t be good enough. Perfectionism is a bitch.
- I am afraid that if I finish, and go in front of a jury, and even get out of there with the highest honors, it won’t be real. I wont be fitting in. As if, knowing me, how flawed I am, I couldn’t actually become a Doctor, a peer for my professors and supervisors.
- Does it mean that I’m afraid of failure? Sure, this too. I’m afraid that with this huge thing (the dissertation), people will finally see me for what I am, that is someone that’s not that smart, not that well-read, not that brilliant. And I have to uphold a reputation of someone who has never failed and has been on a winning streak for the past 17 years.
I think every time we are afraid of doing something it is because deep down we think we are not worth it. Admitting it is the first part of getting over it.
I think the next step is to just take a chance, and never do it alone: instead, it is always best to seek the support of others. Your friends, your family, your mentors. No one will think less of you if you admit that you are afraid. No one will turn you down if you seek support.
I’d love you to share your thoughts with me in the comments. Do you feel afraid too? Does it reach such levels that you procrastinate instead of working? Does it make you want to quit?