Reflecting on my First Conference Paper

2nd – 8th July 2018

This week was a bit of a hectic one, I’ve had a few family issues to come to terms with.  However, in reflection I’m excited to have presented at WSU’s Postgraduate Conference on Friday (6th July). I was a little anxious about it at first, it’s a bit of a different environment to the History In House (a meeting in which members of the history faculty can present their current research to each other which I presented at in June), and then once everything went a little pear shaped earlier last week I became almost ambivalent about it, given that my mind seemed to be on 100 different things at once. Once I was at the conference though, whilst my nerves kicked in a bit I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought I was going to be.

I have to take a moment to pass on thanks to my dear friend Alix who I work with at uni two days a week usually but who, this week, listened while I talked through the presentation, checked my PowerPoint, and even let me stay with her the night before the presentation to save me the three hour trip I was going to have to make and who came for moral support. I’m not quite sure I would have handled it as well this week if she hadn’t been so lovely to me.

During the presentation itself I still felt a little shaky but I tried to remember the idea that I am the expert on this particular thing in this particular room. I was a little intimidated as well by the people in the room. I highly respect every member of the history faculty but doing it in the In House environment where everyone is presenting and talking about their research feels like a different, safer place in many ways. It feels more collegial than the conference did, though I’m trying to remember to think of myself less as a student under scrutiny. Anyway, having a few academics there who I also very highly respect but don’t often have much to do with felt a little intimidating but as I got going it stopped mattering at all.

I was still a little hyperaware of my voice but I’m trying to work on that. There was another technical glitch with the clip, this time there was no sound whatsoever which threw me but ultimately I just narrated it myself a bit (though I do completely agree with my supervisor Judith, who commented afterward that I perhaps should have just winged it with the clip instead of wasting too much time trying to figure out a solution). I felt like I handled the questions fairly well, some of them genuinely making me think about my project and raising some points that I will have to look into, I think. At the end of it all I still wasn’t feeling super happy but I wasn’t really mad about it.

It did make me think about my own response to feedback and what that means for my own growth. I find myself often responding to any praise with self-deprecation and I don’t think that that is really helping me at all. Slightly tangentially, I recently watched Hannah Gadsby’s incredible comedy special Nanette (which is completely and utterly brilliant and I would recommend it to everybody) and in it she talks about having built her career on self-deprecating humour and how she doesn’t deserve to do that to herself and to anyone that identifies with her. Though I’m not in the same situation as Hannah it got me thinking about – frankly, a whole lot of things, it’s quite honestly changed my life – what I’m actually doing when I respond to things simply with self-deprecation. I don’t intend to start being arrogant, I still believe strongly in humility but when people give me positive feedback, especially about something which I lack confidence in and especially from those whose opinions I trust, and I immediately respond by putting myself and my performance down, I’m not sure how I’m ever going to grow in that. If I keep myself in that place of believing I’m not good at it then I’m never going to develop confidence. Henceforth, I’m going to try to work on taking in what people say about my work whether it be constructive criticism or praise. I need to learn to be kinder to myself. I should write a self-help book.

In other news, I’ve gone through my present bibliography and worked out what it is I think I need to have read for my CoC document, excluding, of course, any new works I find. I’ve got an RAF archive book from the library and my plan for the immediate future is to work through that, and then slightly longer term to start going through my resources and beginning to put together this document.

Overall feeling a lot more on track.

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