DLP7 – Going Under Cover

The Documented Life Project – Journal, February 14th (week 7)
(For more inspiration or more info on this week’s project, visit Art to the 5th)

Art Challenge: Cover Up Good Stuff

Prompt: Going Under Cover

The exercise this week was about covering up the good stuff. They didn’t specify what the “good stuff” was, so I looked at some of the examples they provided. Some artists started their pages and then covered up doodles or layers that they liked with other layers while some did some journaling and then started layering over top of that. I decided my “good stuff” would be my research notes.

When I am writing a paper or something along those lines, I make notes from the research articles that I read. Writing it out in my own words helps it sink in better and I don’t have to worry about plagiarism and what not. Sometimes I draw diagrams to help explain things to other people. I also work with our lab’s data via paper and pen. I guess I am really a visual learner and it works best with pen in hand rather than typing it out.

I grabbed a bunch of my old notes. I tried to get a good variety; words, numbers, diagrams and different colours of pens. I tore them up and glued them into my journal with gel medium. I got the art challenge down but I still had to figure out the prompt. “Going under cover” makes me think of a disguise. Putting that and my research notes together got me thinking about how I feel at work. I feel like a fake and at any minute everyone is going to see through the confident, intelligent show I put on. I am constantly interacting with the experts in my field. I have authored a couple papers. I have even presented at conferences. I just don’t feel like I know enough to be doing all these things.

I found out that this is actually a common feeling among Ph.D. students. That’s what studies say at least. I am skeptical. The other students I work with seem confident, arrogant even. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. I defined it on my page.


Just in case you can’t read the photo, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.

This spread started with my research notes. I glued a few strips of paper from my stash on too. I did a light layer of white gesso over top and a layer of blush pink acrylic paint over that. I was pleased that you could still see the lined paper and my writing through the paint. I used bubblegum pink acrylic to paint some blobs on the page. I used a large stamp with circles on it and pink ink to randomly stamp all over the page. I got stuck for a while at this point.

I decided to draw an eye in the middle of one page. The eye represents my research and my fear of people seeing through my act. The eye was done with watercolour pencil crayons and Neocolour II.


From there wrote the Imposter Syndrome definition in black signo uniball pen. I doodled a DNA strand above that and did some stamping with a butterfly. I have to work on my stamping, it is still coming out blotchy.


I figured I had to do something with those big pink blobs, so I started writing words related to work in them. The blobs that were too small to write in were turned into atoms…Rutherford-Bohr diagrams of Carbon. Why? I don’t know, I don’t really think about that type of science anymore, but that’s just what they made me think of.

It turned out to be a very pink spread. I like pink, so that’s ok.


Self-esteem Challenge: Day 20

This blog challenge was developed by betterthandarkchocolate.tumblr.com. If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 20:
If you finish this challenge and still feel that your confidence is low, would you be willing to do it again? Why or why not?
Has your self esteem improved with doing this challenge? If so, how?

I would be willing to do the challenge again, but not right away. Maybe after a few years. I don’t think I would answer any of the questions differently unless I changed and I need time to make changes.

I don’t know if my self-esteem has improved with doing this challenge. It has forced me to look at myself and my accomplishments in more detail. I’ve had to write about and recognize good things about me and good things that I have done. That’s good and remembering that I have done some things right is good, but this good feeling isn’t a sustainable one. I just said “good” five times, haha. Eventually, this challenge will end and I wont be prompted to think about the good things everyday. I’ll start thinking about the present and what is ahead of me again. This makes me feel anxious and inadequate. It’s always said that you shouldn’t live in the past, but maybe it would be a good idea to remember the good things once and a while. If I did something right once, then I should be able to do it again…right?

zenborders and love

Self-esteem Challenge: Day 5

This blog challenge was developed by betterthandarkchocolate.tumblr.com. If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 5:
Something about the way you think that you like.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?

I like that I can see a situation from different angles. It causes some problems like anxiety or too much empathy, but I think it’s a good trait to have. I may not be able to walk in your shoes, but I can listen, understand and empathize more than the average person, I think. It keeps me prepared as well. By thinking about possible outcomes of a situation, I can hope for the best, but also be prepared for the worst. This enables me to react quickly and hopefully turn things around. I think the benefits outweigh the anxiety it causes in this case.

My proudest accomplishment is not what you would expect. Most would assume it would be my M.Sc. or one of my academic scholarships. My M.Sc. was a bad experience (another post, another time) and I’m thankful for my scholarships, but not really proud. The moment I really felt like a rockstar was after giving a one hour lecture at a rehab conference. It was my first talk at a conference and it is still my longest to date. It went really well! I kept my audience’s attention, they laughed at the jokes I threw in here and there and they stood up and clapped at the end. After the talk, a lot of people came to talk to me. They all had good things to say and I think I did well answering their questions. I felt like I knew my stuff and I deserved to be where I was, something I frequently doubt.


Missing: Sense of Accomplishment

I want to be proud of the things I do well. I should be proud of my accomplishments. We all should, big and small. I have this bad habit discounting the positives. I dwell on the negatives and sweep my accomplishments under the rug, like they don’t count. I always regret it later, much later. Like my M.Sc. for instance. I graduated in 2010. My parents had to drag me to my graduation, I didn’t treat myself at all and I refused to let anyone throw me a party. Isn’t part of being happy savouring the good moments and being proud of yourself? Shouldn’t I at least be celebrating the positives as much as I beat myself up over the mistakes? I regret not celebrating my Master’s degree now. Looking back, it was a big mile stone, but at the time, I felt like I didn’t deserve the celebration.

Last week, I found out that I was awarded a research fellowship from the Quebec government. I was thinking I’m going to do better this time. I got an award, I’m going to be proud of myself and celebrate the accomplishment. At first, I felt relieved. Getting this fellowship meant getting a salary. Things have been difficult financially over the last year while I’ve been in school without an income. This fellowship will give us some breathing room. I thought maybe after the financial stress had lifted a bit, I’d feel proud of myself. I’ve been going through the motions, doing the things you are supposed to do when something good happens. I told all the important people in my life instead of waiting for them to drag it out of me. I’ve posted my good news on my blog and on Twitter. I’ve accepted congratulations from many people and flowers from my supervisor. My husband and I got a giant cupcake over the weekend to celebrate. I feel empty though. I’m missing that sense of accomplishment. I don’t understand why. I’m wondering if my sense of accomplishment is being overshadowed by negative emotions….like stress, anger and frustration.

I think an achievement causes me stress because it raises the bar. When expectations become too high, dissatisfaction sets in. There is more room for failure. It’s probably part of my perfectionist attitude too, nothing is ever good enough. Now that I have a fellowship, it is expected that my research will go forward without a hitch, that I will find something of note and obtain my Ph.D. What if that’s not what happens? What if all I do is prove my hypothesis wrong?

Also, I am angry and frustrated at myself for not getting this fellowship sooner. Since I’ve got it now, I know that I’m capable, why didn’t I work harder to get it sooner. I applied in 2012 and 2013 and did not get the award. This year was my last year to be eligible. If I had gotten it sooner, I would have been funded for longer.

So instead of feeling pride, I’m stressed and mad at myself. Does this make any sense? Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I thought for sure by telling people and taking the time to celebrate would make me feel good about it, but….nothing. It’s like I’m waiting for something in order to be happy, seeking approval or something. Reading this over, it’s starting to sound familiar. Isn’t seeking external approval for relief of that empty feeling a characteristic of low self-esteem?  Like self-esteem, I think pride or feeling accomplished has to come from within. Acknowledgment from others can reinforce the emotion, but if that feeling is not created by you in the first place, the acknowledgement seems empty. It’s looking like my low self-esteem is the root of a lot of my mental health problems.

Starting now, I’m going to make working on my self-esteem a priority.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Somber Scribbler on WordPress.com


%d bloggers like this: