Create Your Own Confidence

I’m amazing.

When I was growing up, I heard my mum repeat these words hundreds of times. When I left for university last autumn, I noticed that I’d started saying it myself.

Now, I should probably explain. I don’t go around telling everybody I meet that I’m amazing, and nor does my mum. It would be weird if we did, and would almost certainly come across as big-headed. I do sometimes say it when people ask me how I’ve managed to achieve something, or how I’m coping with six successive deadline weeks because they didn’t think they could if they were in my position. I might say it in jest, I might say it seriously, but I always say it with a grin.

And I’d like to just talk about the power of something as simple as two words like these. It’s hardly news that we live in a world where too many of us lack self-confidence. I’m quite conscious of the fact that throughout my childhood and adolescence, my mum made a deliberate effort where I was concerned to ensure that I wouldn’t fall into that trap. And the best way she could do that was by showing me how to build confidence of my own.

So, over the years, she’d let me in on certain “secrets”. I say “secrets” in quotation marks because these things shouldn’t be secret and aren’t really secret, but they are often hidden. She told me that as a young adult, she was tired of feeling like she knew nothing, so she decided to ask the questions on her mind – no matter how stupid, because usually, somebody else was wondering it too. She encouraged me to ask questions as well.

When I was anxious about presentations, she’d tell me confidence wasn’t necessarily about straight up being confident, but acting like you are. If you act confident, people will see you as confident, and in turn, that will make you confident. It made sense to me. My mum had always appeared confident to me, and people reacted to her as such, because even if she had no clue what she was doing, she would improvise and pretend like she did. (I will make a note: this is not the same as being cocky.)

I like to refer to this particular skill as the ‘art of bullshitting’. I’ve used it many times myself. As a leading prefect, a peer mentor, and a project leader in school. As a group chair at university. Even in every day situations. I truly believe that it is an art form, and a skill.

But you have to build a foundation of self-confidence, and instil in yourself the belief that you can do what you either want, need, or have to do. Hence the phrase at the top of this post: “I’m amazing.” I think this is harder for women than men, and please excuse some generalisation here, but on the whole I’ve found it to be true. Men get into the top jobs because when somebody asks them what they’re good at, they will reel off a list of accomplishments and skills. Women have this idea that we need to be modest and humble, and so we bow our heads and neglect to mention all the things we can do.

One thing you can do to change this habit of shying away is to slowly train yourself to acknowledge when you have achieved something, and to state out loud that it is a positive thing. Just finished your fifth essay in five weeks? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.” Going through a hard time but still functioning as a human? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.” Managed to get a really stiff-lidded jar open? Say it out loud and say it with a smile, “I’m amazing.”

It’s the small habits, like acknowledging your accomplishments (of any size), that make the difference. And in the spirit of this, here are a couple of TED Talks I found to the same sort of tune:

If you’ve got any tips for confidence, please feel free to comment down below!

Katy x

How I Revise: University Edition

It’s exam season! This is now my sixth official exam season of my life, from GCSEs upwards, so over the years I’ve had plenty of experience with revising. That dreaded word.

University exams are, or at least they have been in my experience, very different to GCSE and A Level exams. For one, they make way more sense (I can only speak for English and History exams here as that’s the course I study), but there’s a stark difference in that you tend to only revise for a couple of weeks rather than a good couple of months.

This can make university exams better and worse. A lot of people I know get really stressed out by the short revision period compared to what they’re used to, but personally I like to treat it the same as old Key Assessments back in the day. Essentially, that’s what they are – a test at the end of a module to see what you’ve learned. I make this distinction because that’s very far removed from GCSE and A Level exams, which for all intents and purposes these days are designed to align with government statistics and desires.

Personally, when I was at school, our teachers used to turn to us and inform us that we’d be having a test in four days’ time, or maybe in one week’s time. So alongside all the regular work for other subjects, we’d have to revise whatever module this test was on. And this was a regular occurrence for me, so to be at university with up to three weeks to revise properly for exams is actually fairly reasonable. You have no lectures, and you can devote as much time to revision as you like.

Plus, there’s the added bonus that, boring as revision may be, it’s a brief stint – you can go back to doing interesting things in a relatively short amount of time. That’s actually something I love about it.

Here’s a few ways I revise for university exams:

1: Rewatch lectures.

Obviously this only works for lectures that have been recorded in the first place, but when it is an option, it’s so beneficial. I like to put them on and fill in the original notes I took with the detail I missed the first time around. It both refreshes your memory and allows you to finetune your work.

2: Create index cards.

This goes for all exams, really – you just can’t go wrong with index/flash cards. I try to squash them down to what’s definitely important to know, so it’s not like writing out the entire course notes again. That would just be a bit pointless.

3: Annotate. Annotate. Annotate.

I study English Literature modules, so there’s usually a lot of material to know inside out. Right now I’m revising for a Shakespeare exam, and annotating the collection is one of the best things alongside rereading the plays. I like to use little coloured post-it stickers to mark important sections, quotes, and whatever else. Injecting a little colour into anything brightens the day!

4: Find that friend who you can work with.

Revising with friends can be risky or rewarding. You can either end up distracting each other completely, have one person be a constant distraction, or work well together. By exam time you should be aware of who you work best around, so set up camp somewhere with them and get going on revision. I like being around people I know I can work with, because being completely isolated when revising is thoroughly demoralising, while being around people who don’t take the work as seriously as you do is stressful.

5: When in doubt, give a lecturer a shout.

Most of the time, lecturers are readily available, whether by email or by office hours. With some of my exams, we can have fairly free license on what we revise – for one of my English exams, we can essentially choose whichever English texts we like, whether on the module or not, so it’s always a good call to just check in and see if something’s alright.

6: Look at any exam resources you’ve been given.

The final week of each semester’s teaching for me has been where the lecturers and tutors provide exam advice. Even if they don’t tell you particularly what will be in the exam, I’ve been so happy to find that they’re genuinely not trying to catch you out. A lot of what will be on the exam paper will have been in past exams for that module, and they’ll be readily available for your perusal.

If there’s anything to be taken away from my experience of university exams so far, it’s this: the university staff actually care about the education of their students, and most of the time they really hope the students can bring something new or interesting to the table. It’s much more about the material, and not at all about however many students are “allowed” an A* by the government this year. So don’t stress too much.

Katy x

5 Simple Activities to De-Stress

Hello again! Today I want to talk about five simple things I do that I find really calming, often therapeutic, and which just generally help me de-stress. I have done all of these in recent weeks!

1) Play catch

Find a friend, find a ball (tennis, stress, rugby or other), and a place outside. The rules are simple: talk about whatever you like, while throwing the ball between you. I specify talking because it’s one of those strange situations where you’re not entirely concentrating on the conversation, because you’ve got to keep watch for the ball, and this tends to make it great for venting.

2) Have a picnic

I think this is another great one – I actually had a really impromptu picnic with a friend recently in the evening. We walked out of the library at 6pm and the square outside was so sunny, now that the days are significantly longer, so instead of heading home we bought a load of food from Tesco and stayed there until we got too cold as the sun went down. Again, just about taking time out, and particularly time away from screens – my lifestyle means I spend an enormous amount of time stuck inside working on computers.

The site of many picnics & spots of relaxation

3) Do a face mask

Again, something I did recently for the first time in MONTHS. I honestly haven’t done a face mask the entire time I’ve been at uni, which is awful of me, but I decided it was finally time. It’s just nice to take care of your face, especially if you wear makeup a lot. Plus they always look a bit ridiculous, and who doesn’t need a laugh?

4) Cook something healthy

Putting effort into your food can easily be something we neglect to do, so occasionally it’s really nice to just take your time, start from scratch and make something nutritious. You can’t beat a good homemade meal, and the process can be really calming.

5) Take one thing you’ve been putting off because it’s not a top priority, and do it.

From painting your nails to mowing the lawn (not that I actually have any grass to mow, but you get me), the background jobs and treats can be just as important as the big things, and getting them done is a huge stress reliever.

Let me know if you do any of these, or if you’ve got any other things you do to help de-stress! Another thing I would say, if you’re a student, is to take advantage of anything your school/uni/institution runs! Liv Uni just had Wellbeing Week, and I went to the falconry display they had on Tuesday. They even had a puppy room on Monday. Best uni ever.

Katy x