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Maintaining self-worth when grapping with tough problems

  1. Oct 16, 2009 #1
    I don't know about the rest of you, but I grapple with self-worth when I am confronted with a roadblock in solving problems. It's that little voice that says: "it's no one's fault but your own"... and I kinda get down.

    Do any of you suffer from that, and how do you deal with it? Melancholy kills productivity ya know...
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2009 #2


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    Happens to me all the time. Usually when I get to that stage I put the problem down and do something else (usually relaxing) for a while. Then inevitably my mind wanders back to the problem some time later, but usually with a somewhat fresher outlook on it. Leads to many a gratifying revelation in bed at 3am!
  4. Oct 16, 2009 #3
    How could it be your fault? You are doing what you can, sitting there trying to study it. If it was an exam and you hadn't broken through the problem before, then it is your fault getting into that mess.

    What if you can't solve the problem without help? Then there is nothing you can do but just that: Ask for help.
  5. Oct 16, 2009 #4
    Sometimes, when its a really really hard problem, and you're really stuck, and you're getting really down, you don't have a choice.

    You've got to go have a good cry.

    Oh yeah. That's right. Get right up from the table (ignore your study partners at this point), go over to the corner (if they're not all taken by other stumped physics students), and just start crying. Get it all out. It's ok to moan while you sob, if it helps. We've all been there. People will understand.

    Haha, just kidding of course. Seriously, just skip it and come back to it! It takes work to learn, you just gotta keep working at it. A physics problem doesn't tell you who you are. You do that.
  6. Oct 17, 2009 #5
    it's especially worse when you know that others have solved it before
  7. Oct 17, 2009 #6


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    I'm pretty sure this is the case for any problem any student would be working on...
  8. Oct 18, 2009 #7
    I think that it is more about this.
  9. Oct 18, 2009 #8


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    I might just flip this question around. Consider that in studying physics or math or engineering at the university level you are learning things at a level that vast majority of people will never have a chance to learn. Does it somehow make you better than them that you have that opportunity?

    You may become more valuable from an industrial or academic point of view because you will have developed some special skills. But this shouldn't be tied to your intrinsic self-worth.

    While wrestling with tough problems, it's wise to keep in mind that you're a student. You don't have to be perfect at the first try with everything.

    As dotmain said:
  10. Oct 18, 2009 #9
    View the roadblock as a positive obstacle. You know once you bust your *** and get past this roadblock, you will be considerably better at solving physics problems. I think in order to reach the level you want to be at, you have to struggle.
  11. Oct 18, 2009 #10
    I just remember the quote from Kennedy that says "we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
  12. Oct 18, 2009 #11
    The last sentence here is undeniably true. I learn more working on a single difficult problem (working/thinking about on and off) for hours without solving it than I do solving many much easier problems in the same time.
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