Gather 'round, children. We need to have a conversation about confidence in graduate school.

I've been a graduate student basically forever, and younger PhD/MA/MS students often ask me how I am so "confident". I always give my honest, unfiltered response:

?????? (1/x)
Let me be perfectly clear: I have crippling generalized anxiety. I have been in therapy for almost a decade. I am on medication because I have frequent panic attacks. I can't sleep past 6 AM. It's a common refrain, but what you see online is "only half the story". (2/x)
This is my perspective. Almost inevitably, your confidence will take a hit in grad school. You have little control over your outcomes - your success is contingent upon the luck of the draw: the reviewers you get, the professors you have, the interviews you are offered. (3/x)
The neoliberal academy is designed to make us feel that we are (& will always be) inadequate. This is particularly true for grad students & ECRs. In a system that is designed to get the most possible labour out of us for the least possible reward, there is no "good enough". (4/x)
For 4-10 years (or longer), our value as a student/potential professor is determined by our CVs, which always feel too short/superficial. We see our classmates - particularly those who are White, male, able-bodied, etc. - soaring higher than we could ever imagine ourselves. (5/x)
We are told that the academic job market is abysmal, and that we must work ourselves into the ground if we want to have a chance at a tenure-track job. We are also told that "self-care is important!!!" - but realistically only if it doesn't impede your ability to publish. (6/x)
There are ways to feel less horrible about yourself in grad school, such as finding a good supervisor, therapy/medication, figuring out what you're good at and sticking with it, collaborating with senior folks, & working hard. But there is no guarantee of success/happiness. (7/x)
All you can do is try your best, find people who support you as a person inside and outside of the academy, and seek opportunities for laughter and happiness. It is important to remember that academia is a weird microcosm of the world. You are not *just* an academic. (8/8)
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