My name is Rachel. I was one of the people who founded FIRST Ladies, an organization that has grown to over 600 people in less than a year. My FTC team has won 23 trophies in the past 2 years, and my FRC team made it to Einstein and won Engineering Inspiration at Championships. I’m part of a team that was invited NASA to test an experiment of our design in zero gravity.
You might look at these accomplishments and think, how can you not feel successful? How do you still not think you’ve made enough of a difference? The answer is simple - we both suffer from imposter syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome (n) ɪ̀mpɒ́stər sɪ́ndròm
definition: a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
Imposter syndrome comes in many forms. Maybe you’re sitting in Calculus class, the day before the AP exam. Your teacher asks if there is anything left to go over, and all of your classmates shake their heads, appearing to be confident that they’ll all get 5s, while you’re unsure of even pulling a 3 because you still can’t remember the difference between integrating square or circular cross sections. Maybe you’re at a robotics competition. You think your robot is pretty cool, but looking around everyone else’s seems better. They all seem to know that they have the best robot there, and they aren’t afraid to confidently tell you how their high score this season was when their partner died in the middle of a match.
A lot of times imposter syndrome stems from intimidation. The key to overcoming it is making sure that you are deceived by the confidence of those around you. A lot of times, everyone else is making it up as they go along - just like you. Those kids in calculus are probably just as lost as you are, they’re just too afraid to be the one to speak up.
Here are some of our suggestions with handling Imposter Syndrome:
- Fake it until you make it. Confidence goes a long way, even if you’re pretending at first. Eventually you pretend enough to realize, “Hey, I actually know what I’m doing!”
- Focus on yourself. Don’t get caught up in how everyone else is doing, just make sure you are doing what you need to do for yourself. If that means staying after class to get help, or watching YouTube videos on something you don’t understand, do that!
- Remember that being wrong is okay. It doesn’t mean you’re completely and utterly hopeless and need to quit RIGHT NOW - not at all. Life is about making mistakes, and one very cliche quote by Thomas Edison is “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Take those 10,000 ways, put them in your engineering notebook, and keep on going.
- Remind yourself that nobody belongs right where you are more than you do.
- Ask for help! Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or teacher if you don’t understand something. Instead of falling behind, get caught up so you aren’t even more confused.
Of course, some days you wake up and think “What on earth did I get myself into?” That’s okay! You’re not alone. FIRST Ladies is a great place to find support and get advice from girls going through the same thing as you. Don’t be afraid to reach out, because chances are there are dozens of people who want to help you or have had the same experiences as you. Imposter syndrome is difficult, but it is easy to overcome when you believe in yourself and have a good support system.
This blog post was written by Erin Mitchell and Rachel Hunter. If you want to write a blog post for FIRST Ladies, sign up on the schedule. Buy a FIRST Ladies shirt before May 28!