1.2 years into my PhD nothing was working for me while many students around me had already made publications, attended courses, seminars and presentations in the field. The official academic rule in Finland is that students are enrolled in as a PhD-candidate but need to seek for competitive grant/funding opportunities from various external sources including university positions - to financially support the studies - which may take several months to years (depending on the effort level and luck). My PhD was frozen by the responsibilities of a full-time odd-job and the feelings of toxic narratives in my mind saying that I am less talented and failure compared to others. Looking at the progress of other PhD students in my home-country (i.e. Pakistan), on Facebook and in my current-network (in Finland) has made me feel unlucky in my PhD journey. Sleeplessness, Depression, no proper eating and over-thinking were developed during this long period. I thought about quitting my PhD many times but It is something my passion and what I like to continue in the future. This is what had brought me so far from my home land, leaving my loved ones behind.
After 1.2 years, I told myself “Hang on! To compare yourself with other PhD students at the expense of your mental and emotional health… is this what you need to stop?” Every PhD is unique, every PhD-student is going through its own struggles and I have my own journey. My journey is different in many ways such as, being a foreigner with no references/network in Finland, no language-skills in a strange land, cultural-differences in many aspects of everyday life, lack of social-networks, lack of information, new to system, lack of experience, loneliness, homesickness etc. There is no way to compare my path with others. No one has stepped into my shoes. It's only me who understands my pains, struggles and efforts. As a result, I started to realize the importance of what I have done in my PhD journey till now and started noticing my little progresses which I was ignoring before (the counseling with supervisors helped me greatly).I learnt how to rejoice, ate well, worked out, praising myself for what I have achieved overall in my life till now. The more scientific challenges you master during your PhD, the better scientist you will be in the long-run.
My advise to other PhD students is "Do not make yourself stressful when you have little progress in your journey or you are stuck in your PhD journey at any point. PhD is not whole life, instead just one CHAPTER of a life BOOK. I am sure you must be progressing excellently in other chapters of your life book such as, family life, maintaining relationships, having/growing kids, learning new skills, cooking, maintaining health, making new hobbies, business, so on. Just be content in what you have and carry on with positivity! Focus on yourself entirely rather comparing with other friends and colleagues in your social network.
Be Happy, Be content and Be Productive!