How To Be A More Confident Academic

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What would you do if you weren’t afraid of failure?

In a competitive academic environment your self-confidence can easily be dented by concerns about how you match up to your peers, the value of your research, your ability to perform well in lectures or at conferences, and how you might be viewed by students, colleagues or other experts in your field.  What exactly self-confidence looks and feels like varies between individuals, but what is clear is that limited self-confidence often gets in the way of academics performing to the best of their ability, and can impact on career progression.

Increasing your self-confidence means you will be more willing to risk making mistakes, to ask for help, or to express yourself and less time will be wasted in negative thoughts. Imagine you were more self-confident and weren’t held back by a fear of failure or somehow getting it wrong - think about the difference that could make to your personal and professional life.

So, how do you begin to develop a more confident approach?

  1. Focus on your strengths -  actively think about, and list, what you have already achieved and what your strengths are. What would other people say you are good at? Try to ensure you are defined by your positive abilities rather than focusing on perceived gaps.
  2. Build resilience – whilst it is often easier and more comfortable to stay with the familiar, enhancing your self-confidence often comes from tackling something new and being prepared to take a risk in doing so. Think back to the positive feelings and confidence gained from successfully delivering your first conference paper, or lecture to a group of undergraduates. Next time a new challenge or opportunity comes along instead of avoiding it, consciously take it on.
  3. Manage your mind – it can be easy to get caught up in patterns of pessimistic thoughts that everyday squash your self-confidence, even though in the end these negative things rarely happen. Be aware of this and instead of focusing on what went wrong, consciously focus on maybe three things that did work, and avoid negative thinking by choosing to frame your thoughts in a more positive way.
  4. Other people – be conscious of who amongst your family, friends and peers can enhance your self-confidence. Consider seeking out a mentor or coach with whom you can discuss concerns, challenge fears, and find effective support and advice for taking on new challenges.
  5. Set goals – consider, and commit to paper, specific time bound goals you want to work on to enhance your confidence. Think about where and when you would you like to feel more confident, be clear about what the barriers might be, and set out who and what strategies you will actively employ to help you achieve these goals.

You can start to become a more confident academic by consciously introducing these effective tools, techniques and approaches into your everyday thinking and actions.

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