Finding a Friend In Failure by Victor Mosconi

Failure: IT’S OVER.

That’s how we often see it.

Failure is so often seen as the end of something. And not the end in a good way, but in a disappointing, tragic way, often ending in anguish, and sometimes with tears. 

“Failure” is a powerful word that creates all sorts of negative thoughts in the mind. Even just seeing the word creates anxiety and stress in some people. And if you experience the imposter phenomenon as I do, then not only do you worry about failing, but you internalize it as well and you see yourself as a failure. The imposter phenomenon, also known as imposter syndrome, is the inability to recognize internalized successes and achievements. It’s the constant fear of being seen a fraud for not being good enough. With my imposter phenomenon mindset, I saw myself as someone who always made mistakes and could never truly succeed. I not only failed in all I did and worked on, but in who I was as a person. The problem we often run into with the word “failure” is that we only look at the end result. And if that end result is not what you or others expected, then it’s deemed a failure. You didn’t achieve your goal, so it is determined to be a poor result, a mistake, and problem, maybe even a tragic end.  With the imposter phenomenon, you also see yourself as having not achieved what others expected, wanted or desired in a you. So, you see yourself as a failure.

In academia, there is often a lot of undefined end goals and you are continually adjusting as you go. Failure can seem like a weekly occurrence. You can be given a particular end goal in your first phase of a project or writing assignment, and once you’ve achieved it, your professor then will tell you how you need to change the focus of your project based on the first phase developments. But you also have to go back and change what was written in the first phase to align better with the new end goal. Being continually informed you have more changes and more alterations to make creates ever-growing thoughts that you’re failing at writing this project. You have the thoughts, if you weren’t failing at each step, you wouldn’t have all these changes. Working on my PhD dissertation has been exactly like this. I completed the first step, was told it was good, but I had to make all the changes. Okay, in my imposter mindset my first thought was, “so then it wasn’t good.” I’d rewrite it, turn it in, and she liked the changes, but, now I need to make these new alterations and drop this one variable, but maybe add this new variable. Each step there’s more changes, the end goal is not in sight. I’m not even sure what the end goal is besides earning my degree. And honestly, after the third rewrite, my imposter thought was “Oh, wow, I’m so bad at this, I’m going to fail out of my PhD.” 

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I Don’t Want to Dance in the Dark: Disclosing Mental Illness and Neurodiversity in the Ableist Academy by Marco Miguel Valero Sanchez

When I saw the call from Voices of Academia on Twitter actively seeking contributors to share their stories on mental health and well-being in academia, I thought: Wouldn’t a blog be a great way to share your own experiences with depression and ADHD in academia? Wouldn’t it also be an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about mental illness and neurodiversity in general? Why shouldn’t you give it a try? As usual, I was very tired that day. I had a sleepless and restless night, an unexpected panic attack in the morning, and a stronger depressive phase overall – perhaps because I already had a few days of holiday. I find such days off always give you the ‘opportunity’ to think intensively and continuously about yourself, your body, and your mind – whether you like it or not.

Perhaps my mental state was also the reason why my initial enthusiasm was immediately overtaken by self-doubt and pessimism, asking myself: Why would anyone care what you, of all people, have to say about the challenges and difficulties of managing mental health and well-being in academia? Who exactly would care about your personal story? And above all: Why would it make any difference and to whom? In fact, I cannot say whether anyone will read my personal story, care about it, or whether it will make any difference at all. But maybe these are the wrong questions and expectations to begin with. What I can say with absolute certainty, however, is that every voice matters with regard to mental health and well-being – in academia and beyond – and that every voice helps to shed light on a still taboo and mostly invisible topic. And in this respect, I am confident that my voice matters as well.

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Living with Anxiety in Academia: The Importance of Acceptance and Support by Carla Aranda

When you feel death getting closer, you inevitably reminisce about your life: your best experiences; your worst moments; the things you said you were going to do but, in the end, didn’t; the things you did not expect to happen, but did. And if you contemplate on these things a bit, you will likely come to the same conclusion I reach: our life is ruled by the values we hold, which help to determine our priorities and the choices we make. For example, going to that concert instead of studying for a math test, attending that family gathering or staying home, and even bigger things like moving abroad alone or staying in your country of origin with your romantic partner. Priorities dictate our experiences, and if you don’t have much time left, you will most likely think of those hours you wasted on allegedly important (but truly irrelevant) matters.

In this blog, I will discuss my experience as an undergraduate student suffering from anxiety and how the current educational system’s flaws affect many students’ mental health and self-worth. Additionally, I will stress the importance and impact of having – and being part of – a supportive, non-stigmatizing environment, as well as share my ongoing recovery journey and what has been helpful during it.

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