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Is your supervisor killing your self esteem?

User: Shatha - 31 March 2021 23:38

Before getting into the postgraduate world I was full of confidence, I was always good at what I do/study... I moved to London to do masters and Phd at Imperial College. Unfortunately my supervisor is the WORST he bullies me constantly. Im always trying to be initiative, helpful, but the whole team has a hostile toxic relationship, and it seems that this is common in grad schools. For example I once suggested to publish a poster and he gave me a smirk and said: why? This is one of many awful encounters.

Have any one experienced this type of bullying? How do you gain your self confidence back? How can you continue working in your field while feeling weak and inadequate.. please share your experience with me...

User: AlexMad - 01 April 2021 14:08

My experience with my supervisor was a beautiful one and he has been supportive throughout my PhD journey. However, in the beginning he was negative and just commenting on the weaknesses which made me think I was just a bad student. I thought I would ask him to meet, tell him about how I feel and explain to him that I am an emotional person and it would be helpful that he tells me both the good and the bad about my work. He laughed and told me he will try. After this meeting, he really changed. Every time he commented on my work, he would tell me what was good and direct me to improve what he thought was worth improving. Our relationship has been wonderful ever since.

A friend of mine had a horrible experience with his supervisor (in his words) for two years. I told him about how I solved my problem with my supervisor and he followed the same steps and it worked. Now, although they are not like me and my supervisor, at least his situation has improved a lot.

In many cases, the problem is that we come from different backgrounds and have different experiences in life. Not all people are emotionally intelligent and unless you tell them about how you feel, they won't know. We should always have a dialogue and try to solve it first this way. If it doesn't work, then go to the head of your department or whoever is responsible to request a change of supervisor (which I did not use because my supervisor understood me well when I discussed the issue with him).

I wish you all the best.

User: Shatha - 01 April 2021 23:11

Thanks for sharing I'm happy that things got better at the end. I have been with my supervisor for 8 years on and off because of my depression and the fact that I was being ignored by him over the years, depression got worse, started to have panic attacks which made the whole situation worse.. anyways Im submitting my thesis for the second time as my examiners requested.

My only worry that I will not be able to feel free and like my self again, I am afraid that the damage is too bad to recover from...

Thanks again for sharing <3

User: svenhendrix - 06 April 2021 12:14

Dear Shatha,
my early career in science was terrible. I see some parallels with your story. There is a good chance that your supervisor is a severe narcicist and that he really, really does *not* care about you - but only for himself. From my own experience, I learned, that you will immediately feel better when you leave a toxic environment. Maybe you have a reactive depression because you stayed in a toxic work environment for too long.
You will need quite some time to recover from a toxic work relationship but the good news is: you can. Finding a good counselor may increase your recovery. But the most important advice is: if you are in a toxic work environment, get out of there as soon as possible.
One last thing: be prepared - narcicists will not easily let you go, because your misery pleases their ego. If he suddenly offers you a great job opportunity - do *not* accept it and leave, otherwise you will prolong your misery.
I hope this helps,
Sven Hendrix

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