Philippa’s blog – 8 October 2013

On Self-Belief

Now self-doubt is my well-rehearsed default position. When I got an email saying I’d won a writing prize in 2012, I was pleased for a few minutes, but then started worrying that I wasn’t eligible to enter in the first place and my prize would somehow be unceremoniously removed.


Whenever I apply for a prize like this, or a job, or a bursary, I usually have a ‘fail’ moment at about 90% of my way through the application. In this moment (actually that’s a lie: its usually more like half an hour), I wonder why I ever started doing this application in the first place because my offering is never going to ‘win’ anyway etc. I usually feel really tempted to give up. When I was applying for a bursary earlier this year I asked my old MSc supervisor for a reference. She asked me to forward my application form and CV so she’d know “what I’ve done at Manchester”. My immediate thought was “But I haven’t done ANYTHING at Manchester”.

Unfortunately, this sort of panicking/self-sabotage doesn’t get you very far and for anybody to get through 2.5 years of a PhD without doing anything at all would be pretty impressive. Repeatedly riding this sort of mental roller-coaster is clearly exhausting and probably counter-productive (see, for example: The Mindset of a Champion).Furthermore, writing down these select examples down makes me wonder how I ever get anything done….

If I started applying for Professor jobs tomorrow I most certainly wouldn’t be successful and I’d be wasting my time even filling in the application form. But I’m coming to suspect that having a try at things that aren’t in the realm of the completely unrealistic is probably worthwhile. I think we’ve established that I love the worst case-scenario. And in terms of probability, in most application processes I’m unlikely to succeed.

But the odds are even poorer if I don’t have a go.


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