How to Push Past Limiting Beliefs in a Male-Dominated Field
This is a guest blog by Stephanie Davis.
I had known since I was little that I would be going to college to get a degree, although the degree of choice changed a little over the years, from marine biology to architecture to engineering. I was fortunate to have parents that told me I could be and do anything that I wanted, and supportive mentors and teachers throughout high school.
When I got to college, things changed a little. I transferred to a small school my sophomore year and started an Aeronautical Engineering program. There were only a handful of women in the program and my classes were small. I was working two jobs to pay for my car, books and other expenses and I wasn't spending as much time studying as I needed to.
The turning point
A couple of weeks into my Aircraft Structures class we had our first test, and I didn't do very well. While I expected that my professor would have something to say about my low grade, I was shocked when he came up to me and said "You should think about dropping this class." There were plenty of other guys in the class and it was a hard subject. I doubt I was the only one that didn't ace our first exam. Why was he saying this to me?
It didn't stop there. In another class I had a male peer stand up and yell at me in the middle of a lecture, slamming a big text book down on the table in front of me. For what? Apparently I was talking too loudly behind him. The professor's response? "Maybe you shouldn't talk in class."
It wasn't a great environment, but I pushed through and graduated on time. I asked a girl in the grade above me to tutor me in Aircraft Structures and ended up not only passing the class, but getting a 90% on the final exam. I still remember how satisfied I felt when the professor, looking surprised, read the test grade to me from his grade book.
Impacts on our self-esteem
The hardest part of this college experience was the lasting effect it had on my self-esteem. I still carry with me the belief that I am not as "mechanically inclined" or technically minded as my male counterparts, and I work hard every day to reverse these ideas.
I believe that as more women enter the tech sector and make a name for themselves, newer generations of men will not have the idea that women aren't made for engineering or science. But we can't wait for that shift to happen to start believing in ourselves. We wait until we graduate or get a job to start feeling confident in our abilities and then find out that a piece of paper doesn't cover up deep-rooted insecurity.
How to reframe your thoughts
I graduated from that school and found systems engineering, a discipline I am passionate about. I got a job quickly after graduation and now run an entire department of engineers and technicians. Every day I tell myself that I am smart and capable and every day I believe it a little more. I’ve had the courage to seek new opportunities, ask for what I want in my career, and pursue health coaching in my free time.
Depending on how deeply rooted your negative self-esteem is, it may take more than positive thoughts and affirmations to reverse your views, and you will eventually find the technique that works best for you to do that. If you need a jump start, I'm going to share the process I go through to kick limiting thoughts to the curb:
1. First, identify areas in which you lack confidence. As you go about your days, take note of situations that you feel insecure or inadequate in. Are you triggered by certain relationships, scenarios at work, or tasks?
2. Once you have identified a triggering scenario, ask yourself what the belief that you have about yourself is. Did an assignment at work make you feel like you are disorganized, emotional or incapable? You may come up with a statement that sounds like "I am not good at public speaking," or "I am bad at math."
3. Explore where this belief came from. When did you first start feeling this way? Did something happen at that time, or did someone say something to you that you internalized this way?
4. Process the belief with techniques like EFT/Tapping, journaling, visualization or therapy. When you shed light on the belief, especially while talking or writing about it, you can distance yourself from the idea and start to choose different ways of thinking in the future.
Stephanie Davis is the definition of multi-faceted and loves all things that meld logic and intuition. She grew up alternating between dance recitals and math team meets, and never felt like she was really good at one thing in particular. She graduated 3rd in her class in high school, and went on through college to earn a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering. A few months into her first engineering job after graduating, she had a health scare and multiple surgeries that would forever send her life in a new direction.
With a newfound reverence for health and wellbeing, Stephanie started researching all things health, nutrition and personal development. She started her blog in 2012, wanting to share all of the new things she was learning. In 2017 she graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition has a Health Coach and founded Embracing the Mess Health & Wellness. She is also a certified reiki practitioner and angel card reader, and has multiple certifications in Information Technology. She’s here to teach women to embrace themselves and their intuition, so they can create the wellness and life that is perfect for them in this imperfect, messy world that we live in.
Stephanie now lives in the Marshall Islands with her husband and loves traveling, cooking, engineering, coaching, and blogging. She brings a special synergy of practicality and instinct to every project and client.