“If I can do it you can do it too”

“I went through such a tough time during my PhD… if I can do it you can do it too!”

I’ve heard statements like this countless times. As well-intentioned as the sentiment might be, it isn’t always helpful.

No matter how tough the situation, somebody, somewhere, probably has it worse. To say, “if I can do it you can do it too” ignores that possibility that some people find themselves in harder circumstances.

I don’t think I’m the least capable person ever to get a PhD, nor do I think my circumstances were the hardest. I don’t know exactly what you’re going through and I don’t know if you can do it too. This realization is key to really understanding other people’s situations and finding ways to help.

See also:
How to support someone doing a PhD
Advice is a form of nostalgia

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1 thought on ““If I can do it you can do it too”

  1. Hello, James.

    Thank you for your post! In my cohort last night, we were just talking about what it means to ‘understand perspectives’. One of the insights was to acknowledge the fact that there are various perspectives, which it is not possible to generalize at all.

    Especially, when we are exposed to others’ hardships, it is easy to say, “we all have been there, so you can make it, too!” However, who is to say that one’s hardship is really fathomable? Like you have mentioned here in this post, I am more inclined to be ‘present’ with the person’s hardship while resisting a rather superficial comfort.

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