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Sian Proctor overcame imposter syndrome after being rejected by NASA

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Sian Proctor in fighter jet training, Montana, August 8, 2021.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

Sian Proctor, a Black woman who piloted a spacecraft for the first time last year was recognized as an astronaut. But despite this achievement, she says that imposter syndrome has plagued her throughout her entire life.

Proctor cited an example when she said that she was plagued by self doubt after failing to pass the NASA astronaut selection process in 2009.

Proctor, who spoke at Monday’s Credit Suisse 2022 Asian Investment Conference, recalled being “devastated” when NASA rejected her request.

Proctor claimed that Proctor could hear her inner imposter syndrome voice saying, “See, I’m not good enough. Which way can you make your life better? You’re clearly not as great as you can be.

Proctor decided not to listen to her self doubts and instead chose to look at the positive sides of the selection process. “I went farther than thousands of other people through the selection process. I should celebrate that. The fact that I almost became an astronaut is worth celebrating.”

Reframing the experience was a key step in her journey to becoming an analog astronaut and simulating missions from space on Earth. This led her, in the end, to go into space as part NASA’s September 2021 mission. SpaceX Inspiration4 missionShe became the first Black woman in space flight.

Proctor acknowledged that the imposter syndrome doesn’t necessarily disappear.  

One way that she was able to get past those doubts, other than applying for a NASA job, was to imagine what her father said to her. “He would ask her: “Why aren’t you talking yourself outof opportunity?” It’s up to someone else to decide whether you are qualified. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Proctor recommended that Proctor pivot her approach so she could highlight her abilities as an artist/poet, in her application for SpaceX. Proctor called this her “entrepreneurial spirit”.

Proctor was one of the four civilians who went to space with Inspiration4. He has been an Arizona South Mountain Community College professor for over 20 years. This launch was historic as it featured a complete crew of astronauts, including nonprofessionals.   

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