How do you gain your confidence back?

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello!

I'm currently in my Junior year of college (2nd semester) and I feel like I've lost a lot of confidence that I had prior to this semester. Before this semester, I spent a lot of time studying and doing research and while I still maintain a 4.0 cumulative GPA as a Physics and Math major and am doing decent (but I don't think nearly as well as I used to) research. The major reason why I think my confidence dropped is because of my inability to deal with some snide comments from my professor on when I messed up a couple of times in my research during a semester which was already heavily loaded 5 upper level math and Physics classes and a bad ending to a friendship. Don't get me wrong, my professor spent a lot of time trying to reassure me and helping me get better, but then I also had those comments being flooded at me. I got very insecure and while this semester has been better, it's still not as good I used to be, say, my sophomore year. By good, I meant the motivation, the drive, the positive outlook I had. I've spent the last few months thinking about just those comments and it has made it difficult for me to concentrate in my studies.

Even though my case seems like an eccentric one, it's a big world and I think there must be someone out there who has a similar story to mine. If yes, can you please tell me how you handled the situation and got better?

Thank you
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Klystron
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If you are challenged and occasionally humbled by increasingly advanced courses, you are probably on a strong path to knowledge. Some teachers depending on the subject and knowledge level deliberately invoke an emotional response from students with the aim of helping them learn new concepts and to think in new ways. One effective physics teacher told classes to get angry to purge ingrained ways of thinking in order to accommodate new knowledge. This same teacher helped organize study groups and emphasized cooperative small-team approaches to lab assignments to prepare the class for real work projects.

Several of my work assignments required a high level of confidence in my own abilities coupled with detailed peer reviews while leading teams. When I felt my confidence shaken, I went swimming or hiking. Swimming laps and walking familiar trails frees your mind to mentally review your work, anticipate problems and strengthen potential weaknesses. Self review, perhaps with friendly advisors, prepares you for outside criticism. Maintaining a strong sense of self helps you resist the 'slings and arrows' of working and living with others.

Like all advice, look at this critically. Thanks.
 
  • #3
gleem
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Did you think he was unfair. You research professor is concerned with his research and its efficient completion for I am sure there are deadlines. Remember you can only do so much in a given amount of time without screwing up something. He didn't fire you so I would bet that he is just trying to encourage you to concentrate a bit more on the project. Talk to him if you haven't about how he feels about your work. Maybe you overextended yourself and you pushed the limits or you ability. Five high level physics/math courses can challenge the best of us.
 
  • #4
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You must understand these comments aren't personal. You are going to make mistakes, there's no way around that. If there was no criticism, your improvement will be slowed down.
 
  • #5
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Did you think he was unfair. You research professor is concerned with his research and its efficient completion for I am sure there are deadlines. Remember you can only do so much in a given amount of time without screwing up something. He didn't fire you so I would bet that he is just trying to encourage you to concentrate a bit more on the project. Talk to him if you haven't about how he feels about your work. Maybe you overextended yourself and you pushed the limits or you ability. Five high level physics/math courses can challenge the best of us.
Yeah, I think all of what you said makes sense. He did seem very stressed out last semester. Another problem, I think, is to put all the blame upon myself if a certain project isn't completed or a deadline isn't met even if it was not my project to begin with and I was only supposed to help the graduate student. Maybe because of this attitude, I get treated this way? LOL

I have and everytime he just tells me that I'm doing great, but I also end up hearing passing comments, which can get frustrating.
 
  • #6
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You must understand these comments aren't personal. You are going to make mistakes, there's no way around that. If there was no criticism, your improvement will be slowed down.
That's true, and I welcome criticism about my work. If you were to tell me that I did something wrong or made a mistake and should correct it, that's 100% fine. If during a meeting if someone asked me if I was available to work on a project at a certain time and I say that I'm not available because I have class and I hear someone say, "he has class to go to" as a passing comment before they leave, it tears me apart.
 
  • #7
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That's true, and I welcome criticism about my work. If you were to tell me that I did something wrong or made a mistake and should correct it, that's 100% fine. If during a meeting if someone asked me if I was available to work on a project at a certain time and I say that I'm not available because I have class and I hear someone say, "he has class to go to" as a passing comment before they leave, it tears me apart.
Or something like, when showing someone else the lab, "how long have you been working here? 2.5 years?" Me: "no, 1.5", the person: "really? It feels like 2.5 years! I'm kidding." If you have a problem with me, why not just directly tell me what I'm doing wrong?
 
  • #8
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Mhh, I understood by your first post this was about comments about you from your instructor. I can't be 100% sure if the other examples are that of contempt. For instance, we (coursemates) like to throw zingers at each other all the time - it's all good fun.

You should also think about it like this: the person hardly knows you, how or why would anything they say be personal? Perhaps, someone has a twisted sense of humour, (someone like yours truly :DD ).

Also, you don't have to explain yourself. If you say you aren't available, that's sufficient. If they ask why, you can say something stupid like "I'm running a dog painting service". In other words: that's none of your business.
 
  • #9
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Don't get me wrong, my professor spent a lot of time trying to reassure me and helping me get better, but then I also had those comments being flooded at me.
There are two chances why he did this to you:
1. He was himself under pressure, and he vented his wrath upon you, as said in post #3.
2. Making such comments is his characteristic trait that you didn't discover before (many people have this trait).

What I would suggest is, if you face the comments too often, then you directly ask him (but politely) why he is making such comments. Clearly but politely explain to him that you are a student who has studies to cater to in addition to the research. It is quite possible that he doesn't understand your situation, because he himself doesn't have semester exams coming up. So, speak to him regarding this. Don't be inconfident or afraid. You have a right to discuss with him why he is doing this.

Also tell him that you are eager to learn, and also appreciate his guidance when you make mistakes or you are stuck, but his comments are something that you don't expect. Tell him that he is lowering your morale. You are a student (actually, all of us are), and why can't you make mistakes? Also, it is not wrong to cater to your semester studies, isn't it? If you know that you are not doing anything wrong, then why be afraid and not speak to him regarding this?

If, however, you find that #2 of what I said above is true, then you have no option but to ignore his comments. Stand your ground under all circumstances. Give your best. Try to take in his good qualities. And when you finish this project and you decide to do another research, choose a different person.

Believe me, there are research guides worse than yours. One of my relatives couldn't do her PhD (in zoology) because her guide took away all the money grant that was given to her by the university. Another person I know faced a different situation: whatever topic he choose for his PhD, his guide assigned it to a different student and asked him to find another. I am not in contact with him anymore, but when he told me this, it had been going on for almost 11 months.

Anyways, what I stress upon is that you should have a word with your guide. It might be that what you were thinking was wrong. Until and unless you have a proper discussion, you won't be able to reach the truth. Let us know what he told you.
 
  • #10
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because her guide took away all the money grant that was given to her by the university.
WHAT?! How? Is this an instance of not standing one's ground or how does that work? Do you know, roughly, when this happened? If the guide tried to pull that here, wouldn't have taken long for them to say good bye to their job.
 
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  • #11
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WHAT?! How? Is this an instance of not standing one's ground or how does that work? Do you know, roughly, when this happened? If the guide tried to pull that here, wouldn't have taken long for them to say good bye to their job.
The university said that they had sent the money to her guide. The guide said that he never received the money. I was quite young then, but I know that no case was filed with the police (for whatever reason). She was doing her work in microbiology and all the specimens were destroyed. Finally she had to ditch her PhD once and for all.

I mentioned this to let the OP know that there are research guides worse than his.
 
  • #12
ZapperZ
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@Wrichik Basu and @nuuskur : This thread is about the OP, not about some other situation. Do not derail the discussion.

@Phys12 : Can you cite specific instances where you think your supervisor made these "snide" comments?

I'm asking because things can be taken a number of different ways. What you consider to be "snide comments" that appear to bother you may have been misinterpreted. I can say a number of things in this forum, and different people will see them in many different ways, and it has happened very frequently. So this is not unheard of.

And unfortunately, we have only your side of the story in this situation.

Zz.
 
  • #13
gleem
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That's true, and I welcome criticism about my work. If you were to tell me that I did something wrong or made a mistake and should correct it, that's 100% fine. If during a meeting if someone asked me if I was available to work on a project at a certain time and I say that I'm not available because I have class and I hear someone say, "he has class to go to" as a passing comment before they leave, it tears me apart.
You cannot be at the beck and call of your research group whenever they feel they need your help. Your course work is your first responsibility. Give your professor a reasonable schedule of when you can be available for research activities and honor that schedule.
 
  • #14
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Even though my case seems like an eccentric one
Well, not really like that: (for me) it feels more like a greenhouse flower getting wind and rain outside for the first time.

Usually people gets used to (and/or starts to use) such kind of suspected or real basic 'violence' or 'aggression' during childhood so later on most people can snap out of the consequences and apply countermeasures for this kind of common abuse by themselves.
Although this is common it is not actually a fault if somebody can't adapt or can't adapt fast enough. To make it less straining there are plenty of manuals of applied psychology available for handling aggression: it is a popular topic (actually, both side reads these happily, sometimes equally claiming to be on the short end of the stick... funny or sad: please spare me from commenting that o_O). Maybe you should dig into this topic in your free time?

Ps.: for you it does not really matters if this kind of aggression is suspected or real, you have to learn a way to handle this anyway. But maybe you should try to get the opinion of a third party first (not us: somebody who is familiar with all the people involved) so you can have a reference.

Ps2.: humanity worked hard for centuries to create an 'easy' environment just to notice that when it is finally easy we still can have it pretty hard...
 
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  • #15
Vanadium 50
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You've spent dozens of messages here complaining about how you were too good for UTA. Is it possible your problem was over-confidence?
 
  • #16
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Is it possible your problem was over-confidence?
I'm starting to think that too! Last semester was definitely a humbling experience. :D It may also be because of Generalized Anxiety Disorder that I worry too much about my future and stuff.

I think my next step is to go ahead and google how to be confident but not over confident and work my way from there.
 
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  • #17
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@Wrichik Basu and @nuuskur : This thread is about the OP, not about some other situation. Do not derail the discussion.

@Phys12 : Can you cite specific instances where you think your supervisor made these "snide" comments?

I'm asking because things can be taken a number of different ways. What you consider to be "snide comments" that appear to bother you may have been misinterpreted. I can say a number of things in this forum, and different people will see them in many different ways, and it has happened very frequently. So this is not unheard of.

And unfortunately, we have only your side of the story in this situation.

Zz.
Yeah, that is true. There have been times when I've talked to my colleagues about how the professor seemed angry, but none of them thought that way, it was just me.
 
  • #18
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Well, not really like that: (for me) it feels more like a greenhouse flower getting wind and rain outside for the first time.
That actually sounds more accurate than anything else. I was earlier talking to someone about how they might get yelled at by their boss because of some mess up they make and that just sounded super horrible to me, while personal experience tells me that's a very common occurrence.

To make it less straining there are plenty of manuals of applied psychology available for handling aggression: it is a popular topic
Can you please point me to some of these sources? Also, does these kinds of perceived aggression stem from my inability to handle my own aggression?
 
  • #19
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PI's can also be a pain in the ass, and only the weakest pick on their researchers; don't sweat it Phys12.
 
  • #20
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Can you please point me to some of these sources?
Well, sorry: I'm afraid I can't. I have no idea what is available for you (what I have actual knowledge about is not in English).

If you feel so that this matter is really pressing then you can try to ask around in your home country - but actually what I would recommend first would be that you try to socialize, in different situations. Maybe you could pick a side job, the type when you have to deal with people? I can't feel that kind of hopelessness on you what would require books or professional care or anything like that.
 

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