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How a 3-star general overcame self-doubt

3-star general

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How a 3-star general overcame self-doubt

Army Surgeon General Nadja West is a model of confidence with her combat boots, impeccable military posture and three stars adorning her uniform.

Yet walking through the Pentagon courtyard, I had to pick my jaw up from the ground when she revealed that confidence was one of the main issues she struggled with as she rose through the Army ranks.
The first female African-American three-star general in US Army history, the highest-ranking woman ever to graduate from West Point, a wife and mother of two — West’s accolades add up to a badass woman by anyone’s standard. Yet, like so many of us, she has struggled to believe in herself. Her story shows that even the toughest and most powerful women in Washington have overcome not just external barriers but internal ones.
“My parents always said of course you can do anything you want, but I never did,” West told me candidly. “I would always have confidence issues: ‘I don’t think I can do that.'”
In our hourlong conversation, West, 56, was honest about how she was riddled with self-doubt as she began her career — especially in her decision to pursue medical school. She says it was a random elevator encounter with a West Point alumnus that pushed her to get over her fears.
“He asked me about what I was interested (in), and I said, ‘Well, I was interested in going to medical school, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get in.’ And he’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you? You know, why do you think that?'”

‘A chance at life’

West’s willingness speak honestly about her insecurities shows she has finally gained that elusive confidence — a journey that began with a supportive adoptive family.
“I went from an orphan with an uncertain future to be able to be leading an incredible organization of men and women in Army medicine. It’s very humbling,” she said.
West was adopted at age 2 by a military family in the Washington, DC, area with 11 other adopted children. She frames the difficult circumstances of her early childhood with gratitude.
“My mom decided that she couldn’t take care of me or didn’t want to take care of me,” West said. “I’m just very thankful that she decided to give me a chance at life because you could have had other options.”
West’s adoptive mother was from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and was the granddaughter…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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