“We have to push ourselves beyond what we think we’re capable of.”
“I have three ‘bosses’ who all expect 100% from me, but I can’t physically give 300%. I feel like I can’t accomplish enough. It’s never enough.”
“I’m scared out of my wits. I live in panic mode all of the time. I just want more stability.”
“I’m just waiting for someone to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“I spend so much time working, and thinking about working, that I have no time for enjoyment.”
These statements were not made by clients. They were not spoken in a counseling session, or at a support group. These are statements made by doctoral students during group supervision, after being prompted to speak about their successes of the semester. These statements certainly don’t highlight successes. Rather, they speak to feelings of stress, anxiety, hopelessness, imposter syndrome, and fear. These statements speak to mental health concerns.
Students within a graduate program will share research interests, goals, and dreams. By nature, graduate students share the qualities of motivation, diligence, persistence, and focus. We share accomplishments as well as setbacks. We also share supervisors, textbooks, friends, and Netflix accounts. Yet, despite these commonalities, graduate students within one program can be vastly different.
Remember The Breakfast Club? The Brain, the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Princess, and the Criminal had nothing in common other than the fact that they were in detention. Yet by the end of the movie they learned to connect with one another and bonded despite their differences. Graduate school is a lot like The Breakfast Club; it is full of unique personalities that come together for survival, but often results in strong personal and professional relationships that last a lifetime.
Conflict is common when a group of individuals is working toward a shared goal while simultaneously trying to meet their own needs. Needless to say, graduate school is full of conflict. It’s an environment where you willingly compete with those you are closest to, allow yourself to be vulnerable with those who evaluate you, all while trying to develop and maintain your identity as a professional.
Although conflict is often viewed negatively, it is not always a bad thing. When managed appropriately, conflict helps us to achieve our goals, express our opinions, learn new ideas and points of view, and strengthen our relationships. Essentially, conflict can help us to grow both personally and professionally.
Although conflict can often be beneficial, many people remain uncomfortable with the mere idea of it. Due to the inevitable conflict of graduate school and the common discomfort surrounding it, students are often left wondering, “How do I best navigate this diplomatic environment, achieve personal and professional goals, all while building and maintaining professional and personal relationships?”