Up until this past spring I was a Political Science major. One of the first classes I took specific to the major was all about international relations. That class was right up my alley, and I was so beyond excited for it. My career goal was to work in counterterrorism and that had been my goal for so many years. I was ecstatic to get the ball rolling on my future career. I felt really prepared too. I had spent the majority of my high school years fascinated with how government systems function and interact, and how terrorism comes into play and is handled. I had done my baseline research, so I wasn’t completely new to the topic.
The first week of this class I started feeling way out of my league. People were throwing around political terms I had never heard before, and the teacher didn’t feel the need to explain them, so I naturally assumed that I was supposed to know what they meant and that everyone around me did. It became this agonizing cycle of self-doubt and feeling like I was very much in the wrong place. The first quiz rolled around and I found myself drowning in thoughts like, “you don’t know this”, “you don’t know enough”, and “everyone else is way more knowledgeable than you”. I took the quiz, and I remember my face feeling like it was on fire the entire time. I couldn’t think. The only thing that was going through my head was how much quicker people were finishing questions than me, and how they knew all of the answers and I felt like I knew none. I ended up getting an 80% on the quiz, which I know, is a perfectly good score. But, for me, I knew I was capable of so much better. I knew that I was absolutely capable of getting a 100% and that in the end what stopped me from that success was my own self-doubt.
That quiz, even though in the grand scheme of things I did alright, was a major wake up call. I finally realized what was happening to me. I was undergoing all of the psychology terms that I had studied. The first thing happening, was stereotype threat, and the second was imposter syndrome. I was a female in a highly male-dominated class. These were not just regular males though. They were outspoken, politically-versed, future politician males, and I was letting them scare me. That is so outside of my personality and when I realized what was happening I was pretty taken aback. And then, I was absolutely furious with myself. I had let myself be intimidated and pushed into a corner of self-doubt. That had never happened to me before, and I decided right then that it was going to stop immediately. My whole mindset changed after that. When conversations happened in class that I didn’t fully track, I reminded myself that that doesn’t mean I don’t know as much as them, it just means that I don’t know or haven’t heard of that one particular thing. There were probably plenty of things that I could spew out and none of them would have a clue either. I turned inward, focused on myself, and drowned out the loud, opinionated voices of my classmates.
A midterm was coming up, and I had this overwhelming feeling of needing to prove myself. Not necessarily needing to prove myself to others, but to myself. I needed to show myself that I would not be stopped by insecurity, I would conquer it.
I got a 97%. The highest score in the class. And on the final, a 98%. The highest score in the class.
It’s about mindset, and figuring out how to drown out the inner voices that are telling you that you are not good enough, that you aren’t smart enough, and that you can’t do it. You are good enough, you are smart enough, you can do it.