With my previous successes, one would think I had overcome my fear of not being “good enough.”- that feeling of being an imposter. I should feel confident in being named the captain of Haub Law’s team in the Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition- right? But it was totally the opposite. That creeping feeling of not being good enough returned. In my early days as captain, I found it daunting to try to take on a leadership position. Questions like, “ Am I really a leader type? What if I made a move that was detrimental to the health of the team?” swarmed into my mind and continued to build. As such, I felt paralyzed in moving forward as a leader. I held conversations with my coach and friends to try to get past this mental block, but I felt restricted by the weight of my own expectations and feelings of self-doubt. That feeling stems from my early law school experience.
Feelings of inadequacy plagued my first semester. It wasn’t until I was approached by a good friend to apply to a moot court competition run by the National Latino/a Law Students Association that I began to break out of my feelings of doubt and enjoy the art of being a part of such a competition. In that competition, I was initially placed on the shadow team. I wasn’t even supposed to compete, just observe from the side. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the shadow team was asked to compete. My teammate and I shuffled through draft briefs, attended weekly practices, and hit the ground running on this competition. Thanks to all our hard work and amazing guidance from our coaches we made it all the way to the Semi-final round.
Since then, I have been a fan of moot court competitions. It’s an experience that allows you to express yourself. For an introvert like myself, public speaking is a crippling fear. I have struggled with this and, through moot, have been able to overcome it with practice. I face my fear each and every time I take command on the podium. I advocate for my client and answer questions with confidence and skill. I took this newfound confidence and competed in the 2022 Derecho Ambiental Científica Moot. This is an international environmental law moot competition held in Peru. This competition required me to advocate in Spanish. Our team did well; out of 131 teams from around the world, we were selected to be the top 16.
Yet despite my achievements, I didn’t feel good enough to be the captain for the Wechsler Frist Amendment Moot Court Competition team. It was only until I met with my teammates that I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. I realized that the experience I had could only prove an asset and that handicapping myself with fear was unnecessary. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.
The problem this year surrounded the right to free speech concerning state entities’ actions against an individual’s speech. The fictional state, in light of the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, passed a law prohibiting an individual from counseling a woman who was further than six-weeks of her pregnancy. Ms. Spencer, a student and member of an advocacy group at a state university, was arrested pursuant to the new law after speaking to a woman who was eight weeks pregnant. The central issues were: (1) whether Spencer engaged in incitement speech and (2) whether the university’s decision to ban the advocacy group from using their school dean’s online bulletin was a permissible form of censorship.
The problem was complex. As a team, we had ongoing conversations about the nature of the issues and helped each other deal with the often confusing elements. One moment in the competition itself where I was struck with imposter syndrome was right before we had to argue in the octo-final round. I felt immense pressure and felt it was impossible for me to go on. I remember asking my teammates if I could sit out of the competition. However, it was through the support of my coach and my team that I was able to focus my energy and step into the round ready to go.
After competing and advancing to octo-finals, I have come to find that imposter syndrome is nothing more than a testament to the high standards we often set for ourselves. Although it’s common to be marred with this feeling, advocates should be able to recognize and identify when these fears are rooted in reality and when they are based on unsubstantiated perceptions. If I could impart any words of wisdom to future captains, I would say to use self-reflection to acknowledge any feelings of imposter syndrome you may have and confront them head-on. Rather than be paralyzed in disadvantaged situations, use the desire to create a strong team and to succeed to push forward. Finally, remember that you can lean on the support of your team to create an environment that best forms a strong competitive unit. After all, a captain is only as strong as their crew.