Last week I was accepted to present at the OU’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference and this led me to reflect on how much my confidence in presenting my ideas has increased over the last 2 years. Presenting at conferences was part of my development plan in year 1 and was quite apprehensive as I have social anxiety as part of my bipolar disorder.
Some people misunderstand how social anxiety can present and assume that I am a confident speaker because they think I am an extrovert, when I am actually a sociable introvert with hypomania. I don’t like being the focus of attention; during my nursing training I actually failed practical assignments because of anxiety with being watched.
Unusually, the pandemic has played to my advantage here as conferences were moved online. I’ve been teaching in online rooms for almost a decade so this is a comfortable environment for me and the screen interface means I feel less in the spotlight. Consequently, I have presented my research at internal post-graduate research conferences and at the annual AdvanceHE Teaching and Learning Conference in 2021, where I also did a Q and A. So, although I still have anxiety at presenting at the conference, I am now much more confident in my voice when speaking about the subject I am passionate about; supporting students with mental health challenges. I look forward to the conference in December.