Aiming at NO Academic Guilt

Academic guilt is something that haunts many in academia. Academic guilt makes it difficult to be off work, as there is a fear that you might miss things. One such fear is sometimes called FOMO syndrome: the fear of missing out things when others have a great time.

My guess is that it is stronger in young academics and in PhD students. There are hilarious PhD comic strips about this found at for example http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive_print.php?comicid=732

For me academic guilt is connected to this feeling:

  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • ….

Academia is a tough place in a number of different aspects. It is a kind of competition with other people related to number of publications, H-index or receiving grants. There is always someone who will be more successful than I am. Someone who has read more, knows more and overall have a better career.

Academia is also a place where lots of people suffer from stress symtoms, and more serious conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders. I have decided to take up the fight against Academic guilt, and this summer I chose to be more off work than any previous year.

Of course this has its down sides – such as the fact that I did not give feedback on a few papers, I did not prepare blog posts for the fall and I did not finish one of the ten papers I should be writing. Instead I took long walks every day, sometimes went jogging, read around 10 non work books, spent a lot of time with my family and also met one of my childhood friends a couple of times (this hasn’t happened in ages).

After a few weeks of being really off I felt very related, had energy to cope with conflicts with my kids and overall it is a very satisfying feeling. I strongly recommend fighting academic guilt and to be off work sometimes!