Life in academia: why is academic rejection so painful?

What I’ve been dreading since the beginning of this blog happened- a period in which I wouldn’t have enough time to update it. In short, what mostly kept me busy was the  hustle and bustle in academia, created by people whose motto is greatly summarised by the following gif:

Almost 2 weeks ago I read a good piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education on why is academic rejection so painful. Getting into a PhD, doing your research and especially finishing your thesis, finding a job and managing to keep your academic interests in line with your employers’ or with administrative work, not to mention the constant worry about a decent source of income, post-doc hunting, managing (some) personal life etc. etc. are all stressful events (which basically occupy all procrastination-free time of a young adult in academia).

All too often however, these are doubled by the effort of trying to make people from outside academia to understand such needs and worries, which isn’t an easy job at all: either they think you are exaggerating (“how hard can your life be? it isn’t as if you labour in a factory”), or that your experiences aren’t worth attention (“everybody has problems”).

Well, this article pretty much sums it wonderfully why they are wrong: ” those who “yearn to teach, write, and research find this work to be the highest expression of who they are—so rejection is a rejection of who they are, at the deepest, most fundamental level.””


” Rejection, he told me, “means being told that you don’t fit in anywhere.” This is especially painful when considered up against the popular conception of the academy as, in the words of reader “PT,” a “pure” meritocracy “wholly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.” Being rejected by a pure meritocracy simply translates into believing that you truly have no merit whatsoever.”

Of course it is not always a matter of rejection- it might be a pause in inspiration, a temporary loss of the sense of direction and so on, but as Rebecca Schuman suggests, what we do is one of the most “personal” kind of jobs around- and this in turn comes with downsides.

Source: PhD comics

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