How are we all doing?
I’ve been working through my thoughts on confidence this week - hence only 1 email from me this week. And, I’ve a longer blog post on this tackling imposter syndrome again coming.
I wanted to talk about confidence because it has been instrumental in me making a career and life change in my 40s, but also because I am seeing time and again in my coaching work, the damage to confidence that the way higher education institutions are managed and research measured is doing.
Confidence is a tricksy thing; it can be deployed in damaging and meaningless ways. It can refer to external behaviours and how others read you, or it can refer to how you feel about yourself.
I prefer the latter.
I’ve been chatting over in the closed Facebook group for newsletter subscribers this week about how I recognised that my confidence was returning after it had all but disappeared as I burnt out and spent 6 months on sick leave.
The first sign that my confidence - as self belief - was starting to return was that I began to listen to myself again. I began to take seriously my doubts about continuing in my academic career.
I began to turn down the volume on the other voices; the ones that dent your confidence - self-belief - in the first place. The ones that tell you ‘you should be grateful’; ‘you are privileged’; ‘so many people would love to be in your shoes’; ‘all jobs are hard’.
Working in academia is both joyous and arduous. There is of course passion. There is of course luck; ditto hard work. You can know all of this and still want something different. You can still believe in the project of higher education and love research, but want to live and work differently.
It takes confidence - as self-belief - to listen to this. And more still, to make the moves to leave.
It’s not just you
While my take on confidence is more about inner work on restoring our own self-belief and esteem - don’t confuse this for any neoliberal ‘work on the self’ manifesto.
My issue with much of the ‘training’ on offer on confidence building is that is sets us up as somehow ‘deficit’; it encourages us to focus on displaying or performing external behaviours that ‘look’ confident; it encourages us to ignore red flags, alarm bells, or simply allow our own values to take priority.
If this sounds familiar and you feel your confidence - self-belief - is low and this is impacting on your work and life (not able to write; lack of clarity; feeling stuck; lack of motivation), then here are a couple of prompts/exercises to try. The aim of these is to get you thinking about your strengths and value/s and your why. What makes you tick? How do you work from that?
After all, to be in the academy, you are already more than good enough. Same goes for those trying to get in and stay in.
Academia is not a meritocracy. It is not you; so don’t lose yourself.
Prompts to try
List all of the nice things people say about you - why and how are you and your work valued? What are you proud of?
What are your values? What is your why? Are the aligned to your current working environment? What can you compromise on and still feel you are ‘you’ and valued for that? Or, what is a compromise to far?
Visualise it - write up some of the compliments you have received. Stick them - or words that remind you of it - on a post-it note. Look at it. Believe it.
Want to about this more?
As always, you can hit reply to this email to chat about anything in the newsletter - I’m always happy to do this and if I can answer a quick question - then I will. You can also join the closed Facebook group for subscriber and check out the free mini-mindset trainings I’m doing there. Or, have a read of the blog.
If you do want to invest in yourself and gain some clarity in a confidential, non-judgemental space, then you can consider coaching.
I always offer a free - no obligation - taster call before any investment. This is a 20 minute chat (call or Skype) where we establish what your sticking points are and whether I could work with you to get you a plan and mindset change that would get you moving again.
I am offering a limited number of 1 hour sessions over July - please send me an email if you are interested in exploring this more. Again - never any obligation or expectation.