Sian Proctor became the first black woman to fly a spacecraft last year, but despite her success, the astronaut says she has suffered from imposter syndrome “all her life”.
One example of Proctor saying she suffered from this lack of confidence was after she failed to pass NASA’s astronaut selection process in 2009.
Speaking at the Credit Suisse 2022 Asian Investment Conference on Monday, Proctor recalled feeling “devastated” when she received that rejection phone call from NASA.
Proctor says she can hear the “voice of imposter syndrome” inside her watch, you’re not good enough, you should never apply and all this. How will you improve yourself? Because obviously, you’re not as good as you could be. “
Instead of listening to her own doubts, Proctor said she decided to keep the rejection in her head, looking at the positives of going through that selection process: “I’ve come more than a thousand times ahead of me. People in the selection process, I should celebrate, that I’m almost an astronaut, almost an astronaut is worth celebrating.”
She says that recapitulating that experience helped her move forward after that rejection to become a similar astronaut, simulating space missions on Earth. Ultimately, she said, this later led her to actually go into space in September 2021, as part of the SpaceX Inspiration4 missionmade history as the first Black woman to fly a spaceship.
Even so, Proctor admits that imposter syndrome isn’t “something that has to go away.”
Another way she managed to combat those doubts, even while just applying to become a NASA astronaut, was to think about what her father would say to her: “He would say, ‘Why are you? Tell yourself you don’t stand a chance?Let someone else decide if you’re “eligible or not. Take that opportunity, chase it, even if it doesn’t.”
When applying for the SpaceX mission, Proctor suggested that pivoting her approach to highlight her skills as an artist and poet, helped her in the process. Proctor describes this as her “entrepreneurial spirit” in the video app.
Proctor, who has been a professor of geosciences and sustainability at Arizona’s South Mountain Community College for more than 20 years, was one of four civilians on the Inspiration4 mission. The launch made history as the first to be filled with non-professional astronauts.