Things are starting to improve: I can feel it. I’ve been feeling more motivated. The professional conference I went to was the sign I need to move forward; however, that was not enough! This is something that has been confusing/baffling to me in the month after I came home from the conference. I thought I would immediately dive into my work with high energy and ethusiasm…but that’s not the case. Instead, I would open the Word document that contained my drafts, proceed to start at it, and then refocusing on other activities and tasks not related to the dissertation. This sounds like a classic case of avoidence, but the question is why?? I’ve been inspried and made a conscious decision to follow through with my academic efforts, so why weren’t my thoughts translating into action??
Today, while actually working on some chapter revisions, it suddenly dawned on me why it has been so difficult for me to get going on my dissertation despite the solidfying of my intentions — I have a lot of guilt and shame associated with working on my dissertation. I feel embarrassed and guilty that I’ve not made too much progress since last summer. I feel awful that I had squandered away this past year — a tuition break that I was supposed to use to finish writing my dissertation. Whenever I tried to work on my dissertation in the last month, these thoughts would circle me:
Should have written more…Should have been more rigorous in my methodology…should have been more confident in my abilities…shouldn’t have mentally “checked out” when things got tough…shouldn’t have allowed my problem to keep going for so long…regretful that it will take me probably an additional 6-9 months to finish…regretful that it will cost me more finacially to finish…
Yeah, that’s a lot of should haves and shouldn’t haves. It’s small wonder that I wanted to avoid working on my dissertatiion…it triggers such terrible feelings of guilt and shame (aka I’m a terrible student/academic!!). However, I now know what is holding me back, so I can attempt to fix it. One of the reasons why I was able to see/feel small progress in my work in the recent is because I’ve slowly learned to control and push aside these awful thoughts that I’ve been associating with my dissertation.
Looking through The Woman’s Book of Confidence by Sue Patton Thoele, I was able to find these wonderful excerpts about letting go of guilt and shame and how to do it:
The person we most often stain with feelings of shame and guilt is ourself, and much of our guilt and shame comes from believing we have failed in some way or other.
Make a list of your seeming failures — the “shoulds” you think you think you need to feel shameful and guilty about. Ask yourself if you did the best you knew how at the time; if so, think of a symbolic way to release those feelings.
Yesterday is irretrievable and tomorrow is unknown. We have done the best we could, and now it’s time for us to forgive ourselves for our seeming failures, congratulate ourselves for getting up after falling down, and then leave remorse behind us.
I wrote down my feelings as a way of acknowledging them. And now I’ve recognized that this is the way I feel, I can start to work on releasing those feelings and disassociating the guilt I feel with the tasks I have to accomplish.
I know I’m already getting better and getting stronger.