October integration

photo of the back of a girl sitting looking at a bridge in a forest landscape

The last several weeks have been exceptionally intense and I found myself teetering on the edge, close to burning out.

Fortuitously, I realised we're in October and what better time to reflect, rekindle and take stock of my headspace than during Mental Health Awareness month. If you need some inspiration to get started on your own self check-in, head over here to get access to resources, register for on-campus events, and find out how to connect. 

As an HDR student, one of the biggest hurdles I need to get over is perfectionism. Have you heard of the phrase, ‘get out of your own way’? Well, that’s basically what I am hoping to achieve this month. Lately, I’ve been so fixated on aiming for ‘perfection’ that it's left me stuck and prone to procrastinating. I’ve relentlessly worked harder and harder, thinking that the harder I work, the closer to ‘perfect’ my work will get - not stopping at all, not having a break. Instead of working effectively and working purposefully, I’ve kept myself stuck in the middle, burning the candle at both ends. Not good - and not in line with what I value in life.

This entire month, in the spirit of mental health awareness, I am going to integrate the guideposts from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which should help me re-orient back to wholehearted living. The first stop of course was the Wholehearted Inventory, which made it clear that I needed to cultivate more rest and play in my life. The second most critical thing I needed to strengthen was self-compassion. Over the next few weeks, I’ll integrate the 10 guideposts from the book into my HDR student life and use them also to reflect on my research. 

Like any researcher, Brene asks herself before she starts writing, ‘Why is this book [thesis] worth writing? What’s the contribution that I’m hoping to make?. I recall that this was the  essential question that was posed to us Ph.D. students in our first year. Sometimes, and quite understandably so, we get tunnel vision looking at the details of our research that we forget to look at the bigger picture and how our piece of knowledge fits in and makes a contribution to community. This is what matters to me.  

My thesis does not have to have all the answers. I am but one piece, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. It’s part of learning. It’s okay to be imperfect. This allows space for others to make a contribution too. I’m looking forward to finding out about the other gifts imperfection has to offer. 

Paradoxes: hard and good.Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart


Tagged in What messes with your head, mental health, phd, self-care