Self Confidence and How to Grow It

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When I started my PhD programme, I felt scared and insecure. Not only was I writing an 80,000-word thesis in English, which is my third language, but also I had to grapple with a different education system and standards. My supervisor, bless him, wasn’t especially supportive and for most of my programme I had to get creative to find ways of receiving feedback from other people. He did one good thing for me though. On our first day, he asked me to start writing and turn in my first chapter within three weeks. With hindsight, it was an insane task. I was moving from one accommodation to another, getting my head around the topic of my PhD and, well … writing to my best ability. Three weeks later, I had 10,000 words, which were, in all honesty, rubbish. He gave me some feedback, and off I went to write more. Within a few months, I was attending conferences and giving papers. Two years later, I published that same paper in a prestigious journal in my area of expertise. It just grew from there, along with my confidence. And the key lesson I learnt was that our confidence cannot grow without us actually doing what we need to do.

For me, confidence is not necessarily knowing how to do things, but having the courage to give it a go.

When we do it again and again, our skill evolves and our confidence grows. Personally I haven’t found a way around it. To walk this path, we need to be willing to fall down sometimes, and have the wisdom to get up and get going again.

It’s interesting that when I started writing creatively, I had to go through the same process. I was working with Dr Barbara Turner-Vesselago, my writing mentor, and she was my main source of validation and support. Nothing made me happier in those days than her e-mails with feedback popping into my inbox. Breathless and nervous, I used to drink in her kind words of encouragement. She always found something positive to say, and for a brief moment there was relief: if she says I can write, then surely I can, I used to say to myself, before diving into my next writing submission. As my confidence grew, my dependence on her validation lessened. Does it mean that I consider myself a great writer? No, I simply know that I’ll give whatever I write my best shot. It’ll probably need some editing, tweaking, and possibly re-writing, but that’s OK. It’s the nature of this craft, and the more I do it, the easier and better it gets.

How do you grow your confidence as a writer? Where do you find motivation and inspiration to keep going? Please share with me.

 

34 thoughts on “Self Confidence and How to Grow It

  1. I think having the courage to give it a go is great advice. And the courage to keep going and give it another shot if it doesn’t work the first time. For someone writing in a third language, you do do very well. For someone writing in a first language you do very well. I’m in awe. Congratulations on your courage, perseverance and success!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t know whether I speak for most writers or not but I certainly seem to write about what I should be doing at least before and more often than not, instead of what I should be doing! Unfortunately, I think I’m more one to benefit from the advice of your professor and just get on with it. This can be difficult, as you know, juggling writing with life.
    Your ability to write and tell a story in your third language would be a credit to any native speaker. I really enjoy your work! xx Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Rowena, I appreciate your feedback. Writing can take time and juggling it with life is not always easy. Great that you are writing though, even if it’s instead of what should be done. I think I started writing to make sense of my life. Writing has that capacity, so perhaps every time you write instead of doing something, perhaps it’s just an integral part of the process 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words about my writing 😀 It means a lot.xx

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  3. First of all, I had no idea that English is your 3rd language. You certainly can’t tell from your writings. As for my confidence as a writer, I’m working on it. I love to write and that keeps me writing. The positive feedback that I receive from those who read my poems lets me know that perhaps I might be a good writer. Regardless, I’m naturally motivated to write. It allows me to express my thoughts in a manner that speaking will never be able to. A great post btw. 🙂 I love the points you make about courage. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hmm, thought-provoking post, as usual, Gulara! I think blogging is such a helpful device because it allows you to get feedback and interact with other bloggers. I say that and I have almost abandoned my blog. I guess I have some work to do.
    But I also think that sending stuff, participating in writing competitions, etc. build your confidence as well, even if there is no win. If anything, it gets you practising.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I liked what you said about not necessarily knowing how to do things, but having the courage to jump in.

    I’ve been mentoring a student writing group (ages 10-14), which has been a compelling study in writing confidence. These students are full of ideas and writing ambition and they don’t care if they are “just” kids. They’ve tackled subjects such as love, mental illness, abandonment, war, fractured societies, and friendship. They’ve had incredibly insightful things to say about all of them. They tackle their writing with gusto and, in doing so, they have taught me.

    Thanks for this post. You always give me lots of things to think about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I’m deeply grateful. What a fascinating project! You must have lots of fun with those kids. Kids are great. I’m writing a follow up post for Thursday and was reflecting on how we are wired to go for things. Just watch a baby learning to walk. They’ll keep falling down but there’s no stopping them. I think sometimes we take things for granted and forget that that’s how we learnt in the first place too. And we still have that capacity to learn; it’s just our ability to resist things has grown too. Glad you enjoyed the post. Have a wonderful day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Like everyone else has said, I think that just diving in and doing it is a great confidence builder when it comes to almost anything.

    I was raised with the mantra “If you can read your can cook,” and I’ve adopted that idea for most areas of my life. This would hardly seem revolutionary to me, but my husband was raised without similar encouragement and he is not confident enough to try anything new (for the most part).

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  7. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to give feedback. I think your post touched on several things that are really important that a lot of people don’t seem to realize or care about. “As my confidence grew, my dependence on her validation lessened.” – that sentence speaks volumes to me because validation is one of my big insecurities.

    I think you did a great job explaining succinctly how important feedback *and* validation is – not to mention how much time it *doesn’t* take and the dominoe effect it tends to have. I hope you get positive results from this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meghan, thank you so much for reading and your kind comment. As I said in my post, the dependence on validation may come at any time in our lives when we start something new. So, we may have been writing for many years, but then we start a new project and of course, our desire to get feedback that affirms that we are on the right track may get stronger for a while, but if we keep working on that project, our confidence have a chance to grow. It’s not like once we are confident, we stay that way. But having gained confidence once may be a helpful reminder that we can do the same again in a different area. Thank you very much for stopping by. It’s lovely to connect with you here.

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  8. I actually found this post to be inspirational in a non-writing way. I will be starting my graduate program here in August and I’ve been kind of freaking out. While I have a Bachelor’s Degree I feel I know nothing. I’m afraid I won’t have the answers to my professors’ questions and that I’ll have no idea how to do anything, but like you said: you gain confidence from doing things. And while it may take me longer to pick up the information that other students already know, I can’t let that discourage me. I have to throw myself into my projects, my research, my studies because that’s the only way I’ll learn and only way I’ll finish. One can’t sit on the sidelines and expect to win the game. So, thank you for this, Gulara! I needed this right about now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Melanie!
      Your comment above made to give you a reply.
      I am glad you are student and are exploring things. I should say you are right in your path and have that thirst to know things; this is half done your way ahead.
      Please read my comment here below which may help you or add something to your endeavors.
      I shall visit your blog soon. You are welcome to my Blog and feel the warmth.
      Fond Regards,
      Shiva
      🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Melanie, I’m so glad the post resonated and was timely for you. First of all, congratulations on the start of your graduate programme! How exciting. 🙂 I appreciate it may feel daunting, but your confidence will grow in no time. After all, if you knew all the answers why would you undertake the course, right? I teach law at university, and I often focus on ‘how’ to learn rather than ‘what’ to learn. Because information changes, but our passion for learning and ability to process and apply that information is what counts in the end. Good luck with your programme. I’m thrilled for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dr. Gulara!
    I was rather happy just crossing by your Blog.
    English is a third language to me too, but I think I am doing fairly well.
    I have started writing very lately, I am myself surprised to know about this feat.
    Yes! Your Question about the Confidence, Motivation and Inspiration, I feel it comes from various sides or to say directions; all three are independent and so also dependent on each other. The foremost thing is the basic knowledge of what one wants to write which builds confidence. Motivation comes from outside by deriving the facts in the world. Inspiration comes from inside as well as from outside. Since you are a writer with a doctorate I need not elaborate things.
    The aftermath, is most important to support the three; appreciation and encouragement from readers, that shall make one full circle to complete.
    I have been getting this from the Blog World which I am indebted to. I find wonderful people all over but more so here.
    I invite You to my Blog and receive my warm hospitality.
    I shall come again to read your other posts. Would you reciprocate? I would appreciate it.
    Fond Regards,
    Shiva

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Shiva, thank you for stopping by and your insightful comment. I think I just started unravelling the cycle in my post and you took it to its completion. Thank you for contributing. I loved visiting your blog today.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for telling so of the completion, it shows your broad heart to accept and appreciate.
    Dr. Gulara!
    Your visit to my blog has enhanced my zeal.
    All the appreciations and likes are boosting to my writing ability.
    I shall come again.
    Shiva
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “For me, confidence is not necessarily knowing how to do things, but having the courage to give it a go.”

    This is a great definition of confidence. It’s about taking a step forward, no matter how successful the end result is.

    Tam

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Struggling with priorities these days, you confirmed with this post my thought that I should go back to combining my experiences and writing.Without you even knowing it 🙂
    I read this phrase ““It’s unbelievable how you can affect someone else so deeply and never know”, by Susane Colasanti.
    For me all the motiviation I need, to do and just give it a go 😉
    Thanks again for a splendid post with beautiful lessons within. XxX

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great when that synchronicity happens. Nothing makes me happier than when people say you gave the answer without me asking. It means I’m on the right path and it makes me happy to write something which is timely and resonates with readers. Thank you for your feedback, Patty, I’m deeply grateful.xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Mind The Confidence Gap | Dr Gulara Vincent

  14. I find confidence from my online support network and my in-person writing group (when I take the time to show up). I find confidence when I publish content to my blog and get responses. I find confidence by having other writers acknowledge that I am a member of their tribe.

    Liked by 1 person

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