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Let’s be clear here, we are all different and have unique personalities; there is nothing wrong with that! However, confidence is one of those aspects that can be developed, either through experience or through some “adjustments”. In this post I will explain how I managed to become more confident at university.
The reality is that if you are reading this you are like I was, lacking confidence. I know what it means, I have always been very shy and introvert since I was a kid. Funny enough, once I get to know and trust somebody, I talk a lot, and I mean A LOT. It just takes me a lot of time to get going.
If that wasn’t enough, I suffered from a huge inferiority complex and social anxiety. When I was around other students at university, I always had the feeling of being judged and not being at the same level as others.
Inevitably, this led to me isolating from everyone; struggling to make friends at university; being unable to expand my academic network; wandering around the campus alone; and, even worse, questioning my presence there. Basically, I was depressed.
It took me a long time to realise how wrong I was, please do not make my same mistake. I wasted an invaluable amount of university life, and I now wish I could go back. If you want to know more about my story, you can find it here “Starting university at 26 in the UK”.
There are several things that I have done in order to become more confident at university, and I hope these can help you too. I will now go through the 5 key steps of that process.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
As I said at the beginning, we are all different and we have unique characters, what a beautiful thing! Can you imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same?
It is normal to look up to those who seem “better” than us. It is also normal to envy how confident they are around others. Some are born with such confidence, others (like you and me) need to work hard to gain it.
The problem with comparing yourself to others is clear; it doesn’t not make you more confident at all, but instead it creates a bigger inferiority complex! You feel like you are a level below others, that you are not a good fit for the university environment.
There it starts the problem, paranoia, inferiority complex, anxiety and so on. You need to stop doing that like I did, that’s the first key step. You got to learn from others, not copy them, which is completely different as we’ll se later.
Focus on improving yourself everyday rather than trying to act like others. The only question you need to ask yourself is: am I better than yesterday? Try to answer YES everyday, no matter how you justify it.
You learned something new? You are better than the previous day. Met somebody and had a conversation? You know one more person today. Bought some new clothes? You look smart today.
I don’t care what you do, just be a better version of yourself everyday. You got to beat your “old yesterday self”; little by little, step by step. That’s the first thing I did in order to be more confident on a daily basis.
2. Get out of your own way!
Unfortunately it is not enough to stop comparing yourself to others. You got to get out of your own way (I like this sentence a lot). The real problem is in your head, it’s not real.
What do I mean by that? Simple, you need to deal with your inferiority complex. The most difficult thing is to actually realise you have one. That’s at least what happened to me, I was sure other students were better than me.
As an introvert, this is a massive obstacle to overcome. Even a simple conversion becomes a drama. You think about it later, “why didn’t I say this? it would have been better”. Stop doing that, doubting everything you say will not fix a damn thing!
The worst thing you can do is to actually prepare a “speech” or think in your head the exact words you are going to say; trust me you will sound like a fool! (I used to do that)
Be natural! Another mistake I used to make was to get into conversations I wasn’t really interested in. I was doing it just to look “cool”, to try and fit into the environment.
Was that going to make me more confident around the campus? Not at all, you could see a mile away that I was trying to force it. Again, I was making myself a fool!
See all these people around you; students, lectures, academic staff etc; ninety-nine percent of those people will not be part of your life. So why would you care so much about their opinion of you in the first place?
It doesn’t make sense, you don’t need to impress or be liked by anybody.. Do you really think confident people care about what others think about them?
There is something I really need to recommend, it’s the first book I ever read (outside of academic textbooks of course). It made me realise that my head was indeed my biggest enemy.
Everyone around me had nothing to do with my feelings, I was the “sole author” of them! It’s called *unfu*k yourself, and trust me it is worth reading!
As it was my first book ever, I bought the actual physical book (I really liked the cover too). However, if you are not much of a reader you can get the audiobook version for free!
All you need to do is to sign up for a 30-day free trial on *Audible! You can choose one audiobook to listen to for free during the trial; obviously I recommend you choose that book, but it’s up to you; then cancel the subscription before the free trial ends.
I have to be honest, I would actually recommend the audiobook version (I’m a loyal Audible subscriber now and it’s just addictive); I believe these sorts of books are actually more powerful when you listen to them, but it also depends how much of an imaginative reader you are I guess.
Just listen to it, it’s free! Then come back to me and tell me what you think about it. In the image below you can find what other books I’ve read throughout my journey if you are interested.
3. Remember your goal, why are you at university?
When you have to deal with a lack of confidence, inferiority complex, social anxiety etc (I also had insomnia, just saying), it is very easy to lose sight of your real goal. Why are you at university? Never forget that! All the rest doesn’t matter.
I was there because I wanted to leave my job in hospitality, earn a better salary and improve my life. Why are you there? Keep reminding yourself your final goal, whatever it is.
At the end of the day, university is only a tool to get you to your goal, nothing more. Once you reach it, you are going to need another tool to get to your next goal, think it this way!
Obviously, in some cases university could be again your next tool (e.g. further studies, academic research, teaching assistant); but this is not the point. The keyword here is tool.
You are the one who needs to use the tool, but if you lose focus on your final goal you will end up being the tool! In the next two points we’ll see how to actual make the most out of this tool.
4. Learn from others to be more confident
Remember what I said earlier, you got to learn from others, not to copy them! If you copy how others behave, you will never be confident!
This is a key aspect, it would be dumb to say otherwise. Some students are just naturally ahead of us, exactly how there are others ahead of them too! Do you think they don’t know that?
The real difference between them and you is mentality. When they see someone “better” than them, they think about what they can learn to improve, and they do!
Let me tell you what you (and I used to) do. You stop believing in yourself, become even more introvert and feed your inferiority complex. So I will tell you what to do instead: observe and learn!
However, it is important to choose wisely who you want to “follow”. This is where point 3. above comes handy, you need to find people with your same/similar goals.
Let me give you an example, as I said I started university because I wanted to find a better job and make more money, honest truth. Therefore, I started to follow who had those goals.
They had clear ideas about their future and were ambitious. Most had plans to become important business managers, entrepreneurs, investment bankers etc; exactly what I wanted too (I was studying International Business and Finance).
I have discussed this concept in more detail in another post, find it here if you want to have a read through “How to be successful at university”.
In essence, they were sitting at the front rows during lectures, arriving on time and interacting with lecturers. When there was a business or finance conference, they were there networking.
I won’t lie, it took me a while to fit in, but I started to do similar things. The results? I was able to make friends at university, improved my grades dramatically and became a lot more confident at university overall.
So you think they were the only confident people in my course? Of course not, but they were the ones with my same goals. Sitting at the back of every lectures, there was a group of students who were very confident too.
However, they did not have my same goals; they were chitchatting all the time (quite annoying), did not have any idea for their future careers, they were rarely doing extracurricular activities but were present at any party.
Were they confident? Yes, they knew everybody and had great fun together. Did I need that confidence? No, not at all, as simple as that. Therefore, choose wisely who to learn from and always remind yourself your final goal!
5. First impression is key to become more confident
Another key point here, at least it was for me. You got to work on your first impression, how you present yourself to others and the way they “see” you.
By improving this aspect you will feel more sure of yourself and you will also boost your confidence around other people. Trust me, a good first impression was key for me to get an internship!
I have talked about how I got an internship in a separate post; again, lots of mental barriers although that was mainly due to being a mature student at 26; you can find it here if interested “How I secured an internship”.
Take care of yourself! One thing I noticed when suffering from my inferiority complex and anxiety was the tendency to be shabby. If this is happening to you as well, you got to do something about it!
I don’t know about you, but when I met someone new I always used to worry about my appearance afterwards. The way I was dressed, bad breath, body language; it wasn’t helping at all to become more confident around others!
Few things I started doing to improve my first impression and boost my confidence
- daily (morning) personal grooming;
- dress more smart casual;
- spray some perfume every day; (*Here my favourite for everyday use at university if you want to know)
- better oral hygiene, always carried mints with me!
- healthier diet; (nothing too crazy but simple adjustments)
- exercise; went for a run twice a week;
Trust me, once you get used to these habits, you are going to be so much more confident at university but not only! You will stop worrying about others see you. Why? Because you will become much more sure of yourself.
Remember what I said earlier; you don’t have to be liked or impress anybody! All those things I started doing.. I did for myself! Forget about others, do it for yourself.
How to become more confident
I believe these 5 points not only will boost your confidence at university, but they will also make you more “interesting” to others. At least this happened to me, and I really hope it works for you too!
It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be. All successful people face challenges with themselves, you are not different. It’s all about how you react to what life throws at you.
Just remember, there is nothing wrong with your character. I haven’t changed, I’m still that introvert guy I have always been. The only difference now is that I feel very confident in any situation.
It takes time, it’s a gradual process. I started by reading some books, then everything you have read on this post came as a consequence. I developed this mindset, I built those habits, and I maintain them nowadays.
Do you like the content of this blog? You can find all posts HERE.
Conclusions on how to become more confident at university
I really hope you find this read helpful. I know what it means to have a lack of confidence and an inferiority complex; but if I managed to change all that, you can do it too.
It has been a trial and error process; you can’t imagine how many times I ended up in awkward conversations and said stupid things, but it worked for me.
Always put yourself first. It might sound selfish, but it’s true. If you are not able to respect yourself first, then you will not be able to become more confident.
Let me disclaim the obvious as well. This was my experience and all suggestions are based on that. Please considerate that when you read this post, it might not be the same for you.
Having said so, I really wish you the very best for your university journey! I’m sure you will become more confident soon, thanks for reading!