Column Steven: Writing a thesis-stay toxic

What helps you bounce back from a thesis dip?
Foto Guy Ackermans

Grinding and panting to the rhythm of the music. Like giving birth. No, this is not an antenatal workout. This is me writing my thesis. Four of the nine six months have passed.

Following a course is a little like doing a puzzle. The frame has been prepared by the teachers, and you are given new pieces each day in the shape of information about a particular topic or method. A thesis is different and requires you to constantly ask yourself the question of what puzzle you want to solve. Is it a square puzzle or a round one? What result am I trying to achieve, and what pieces does that require? Fun, but not all the time.

I enjoy this thesis process as long as I move forward. Sometimes I take a step back, followed by two steps forward. And I see all types of courses I took during my studies converge. Courses in development economics, statistics and the skills to test a theory. All under the umbrella of my thesis.

But what do you do when the going gets tough? I invented a trick to keep myself going.

In my thesis, I must decide what precisely to include in my model. These past weeks, I felt like I was swimming in chaos, looking for the pieces of the puzzle I must solve. My motivation and concentration match my progress in equal parts and can thus quickly decline. To keep myself going under low-dopamine conditions, I exploit a special toxic relationship with my self-esteem.

When I am demotivated, I ask myself: what kind of person am I? Am I a quitter, or am I a go-getter? Indeed, letting it determine your self-esteem entirely. Great tip! I prefer not to be seen as a good-for-nothing, so I get to work. This strategy, when applied under strict conditions with regard to timing and dosage, works perfectly. A toxic relationship with my self-image. But applied in a controlled manner to keep it from getting out of hand.

Do you sometimes admonish yourself to get to work? And if so, what kind of conversation do you have? Are you kind, or would you prefer to be more forgiving?

Steven doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and enjoys hitting the squash court. He is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.

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