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Trevor Hedberg

I'm not quite sure how I would define "philosophical confidence," but when it comes to cultivating confidence in one's philosophical abilities, one helpful habit is to start CV building early in your graduate career. Once you have a CV that you're maintaining, every line you add represents a little bit of progress, and over time you can watch it grow from a modest page or so into a document littered with presentations, awards, and so on. This not only gives you some insight into your rate of progress but also gradually instills confidence as you get a sense of what you've done. It's also not as difficult as you might think to get items on the CV. Even as a fledgling graduate student, there are a LOT of philosophy conferences that you can submit to and a lot of awards you can apply for (some of which are probably within your own university or department). If you have initiative and are willing to ask about such opportunities, you won't have trouble finding them. While it's definitely true that you'll come up short in a lot of your CV building efforts, no one cares how many "misses" you have -- how many rejected papers, unsuccessful fellowship applications, etc. So as long as you're getting an occasional hit, this represents genuine professional progress and should serve as a boon to your confidence.

I'll also second Marcus's suggestion #4 above. Your goals and sense of progress have to be self-referenced. There's always someone who's "better" than you in some dimension; dwelling on that fact isn't productive or helpful. The better strategy is to set your own standards for improvement and take those goals seriously.

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