Morale has been very low for the past month.
At my last supervision meeting, I was asked to go away and read for a month, and write a theory chapter.
Going into the meeting, I'd been hoping for some nice, constructive, helpful feedback, and I'd expected that they would tell me to get on with the next task on the list. It was the first time I'd had any feedback from my new supervision team, and I was keen to hear what they thought.
Being told to read theory is like having to move back to the start in a board game. I went with it, agreed to take it on and after our meeting I went straight to the library to check out a range of Political/IR/Communications/Psychology theories that might be useful. For the first two weeks, I just kept reading and taking notes. Last week, I started to write and that's when it started to get ugly.
I felt like an absolute failure. Why don't I understand theory? How did I manage to get a BA and an MA and never get a grip on theory? I must have screwed up somewhere without realising it. I've been a fraud all this time, obviously. When I sat down to write, the empty Word document with its blinking cursor just amplified all of my fears and self-doubt. A title, a subject heading, a phrase or two--I made dozens of false starts and ended each day with nothing much to show for it. When I would come up with an idea, I would just hear one of my supervisors in my head, criticising it and saying it wouldn't work, it wasn't good enough, I wouldn't pass, etc. They've never said anything like this, of course--it's just my self-doubt.
It's been very dark.
Today, I had a slight breakthrough--I was able to at least decide upon a structure and main premise of the chapter, the skeleton that I needed in order to be happy with my writing. Things are a little bit brighter--bright enough for me to write on the blog, at any rate.
I still worry that I'm not good enough, that my work isn't up to par and that I should have just listened to the people who told me that my dreams were unrealistic.
But...(there's always that hopeful 'but'...) my family & friends support me and think I can do it, even when I'm not so sure. And it's important to recognise that I'm my own worst critic, and thankfully, it's not up to me whether I pass or not--let others decide whether my best is good enough.