How I Got Through Four Years of my Ph.D. Program
I made it! I just completed FOUR years of my Ph.D. program... I just have one year of internship in Colorado before I'm Dr. Aerial, Clinical Psychologist. Looking back on the last few years, filled with the cliche sweat and tears, I can't believe I made it. I've lost count of the number of breakdowns I've had through this process, but every single one was so worth fighting through.
One of the biggest questions I've received through comments, DM's and emails is the following:
"How do you balance school with social media and everything/everyone else in your life?"
GREAT question. By no means was I perfectly balanced the last four years, however, looking back I do have a bit of insight of how I was able to get through all of it in one piece. And trust me, it was tough.
Here are a couple of things that I had to do to get through grad school:
- Knowing my limits and boundaries. Growing up, "assertiveness" was not a strength of mine. Standing up for myself, saying no to things I didn't want to do and asking for what I needed did not come easy for me. Throughout the last few years, I was forced to learn these skills as I was challenged in many areas, both personally and professionally. I learned that the only way to get what I want and need is to simply be confident enough to stand up for it. I wouldn't say I've fully mastered these skills, but I've learned about the importance of them and I continue to apply them to my life daily. It's about balancing pros and cons and not feeling guilty for needing more or less of something.
- Staying motivated. I think a difficult quality for any student is motivation. The way I stayed motivated developed from my passion of loving what I do. Being able to sit with others and give them even a small inch of hope is worth it to me. I've never second-guessed what I want for my career as a psychologist and I knew that each struggle was really an opportunity for me to learn and grow. Anytime I felt like I started losing any type of motivation, I reminded myself of what I was most grateful for in my life and how proud my child and teenage self would be of who I am today.
- Accepting a different path. This was easily one of the most challenging things for me to do the past few years. There were so many times that I wanted something so badly and I put forward my best self only to be rejected in some way. It hurt like hell each time and I would go down this path of negative thinking, wondering if I simply wasn't good enough for the things I wanted. However, every single thing that came after each rejection was a blessing in disguise. I became grateful for the rejections as they were both humbling and surprisingly wonderful. I healed fast with rejections because I knew that situations are what you make of it and if you go into them with a positive mind, chances are the experience will be lovely.
- Being aware of when I was my own worst critic. Okay, I know that we are ALL our own worst critics, but this is one that is especially hard for students. There were many times that I submitted an assignment, did a presentation or provided my work to people and immediately criticized myself for how I did it before receiving feedback. I think it was my way of protecting myself and expecting that I did poorly if someone were to tell me that I, in fact, did do poorly. After a while I had to pause and look at the evidence. Evidence has shown that most of the time people think that I do what I do well. It's hard to believe this in the moment, but knowing that even if mistakes were made, they can serve as a learning opportunity and they don't have to be labeled as a "failure." I also had to let go of the idea of perfectionism and knowing that doing and being my best was good enough.
- Knowing my value. This really helped with knowing my limits and boundaries, but knowing my value was huge for me in the social media marketing world. While only having one day off per week and weekends available, creating content for brands filled up a lot of what I considered my "free time." With the loads of debt one takes up for going to grad school and the very little amount of money you make during it in the mental health field, this was my way of feeling more comfortable financially. There were many times when a brand would ask me for my rates and then say "you are charging too much for your following and in comparison to what others with your following are charging." I respond with the following: "I don't base my value off of my numbers or how others value themselves. I base my value off of the quality of the content I make and most importantly the use of my very limited time that is available to me." Usually I don't hear back from brands after that and it isn't a loss for me because I only want to work with brands who agree that we should value ourselves and our work.
- Prioritizing relationships. With the limited time that I did have, I couldn't possibly spend time with all of the friends that typically messaged me with "let's get together soon." As much as I would agree, I reserved my free time for the relationships that I valued the most. This doesn't mean I didn't value my other relationships that I may have lost touch with in the last few years, but just that it was important for me to prioritize. I had to hope that those I didn't make enough time to see, understood, and if they didn't understand, it's not really a loss for me. I realized who "my type" of people were and stuck around them. I'm happy to say that I'm proud of the people in my life that I call my "best friends."
That's all I have for now. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any other questions related to this topic and I will do my best to respond. Happy studies for you students out there! xo