The voice doesn’t discriminate—it whispers during times of success and times of failure. It has no respect for degrees, accomplishments or words of encouragement. It meticulously catalogues all the negative words ever uttered about you (both real and imagined). The voice knows just when to tear at your confidence.
Imposter Syndrome – It is a burden
Many people struggle with the imposter syndrome. It really is because we don’t believe that we deserve to be where we are. It’s the idea that someone like you, someone like me shouldn’t be where they are in life. This can in your career, relationships, education……It is a way of consistently believing we arrived at our state of achievement by mistake. The thing that is most difficult about struggling with the imposter syndrome is the belief that any achievement is by luck or undeserved good fortune and that at any minute it will disappear and expose us were a fake all along.
For me, this resulted in me dismissing any successes I had as I thought that I merely tricked others but I could never trick myself. I thought even if I did make it, I didn’t deserve it. Imposter syndrome is weird because here you have God himself telling you how special and talented you are and you are just like “whatever, you’re only saying that to spare my feelings”
Imposter syndrome is the reason we quit early, before we have the chance to disappoint. Imposter syndrome is the reason we never step fully into our call, because we feel like a fraud. It keeps us from being vulnerable to others, because we’re too afraid of being found out.
It’s a very powerful lie.
Imposter syndrome is not based on truth, it is not based on the truth of who God says you are. There is a portion of scripture that shows why we should not believe the lie. Let’s start with the portion of scripture most of us are familiar with, Jeremiah 1:5, which says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
I think it’s important for us to learn from Jeremiah’s call: God began by telling Jeremiah that he was formed by God, known by God, set apart by God, and appointed to serve God. When Jeremiah protests that he isn’t adequate, the LORD says, “I am making you adequate. I’m equipping you with all that you need to follow me in faith and proclaim my message.”
Another scripture that shows a key point is in Luke 5. In Luke 5, Jesus reveals his identity to Peter by filling his nets with fish. Peter had toiled all night long with nothing to show for it, until suddenly his nets were bursting.
When Peter witnessed this miracle, his eyes were opened. He fell on his knees and plead, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” (v. 8). In that moment, Peter felt exposed, ashamed and unworthy. He knew the many, many ways he fell short, and his response was to hide. But here’s what’s interesting. Jesus doesn’t respond with encouragement. There’s no, “Oh honey, you are perfect just the way you are!” or “You don’t have to feel ashamed around me! I’m Jesus!”
No, Jesus doesn’t coddle Peter. In fact, he hardly acknowledges Peter’s fears at all before shifting the focus entirely. Instead Jesus replies, “’Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’ And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” (v. 10-11). These words cut to the heart of imposter syndrome. The core problem isn’t that you feel bad about yourself. The core problem is this: Imposter syndrome is a distraction from action.
I imagine that a form of imposter syndrome is also common in the church, self-doubt about whether we’re really worthy enough to do anything for God. “I’m really not spiritual enough, I’m good enough or holy enough. I really don’t know the Bible enough to teach Sunday school, to lead a Bible study. I’m not pure enough or qualified enough to do x, y, or z in the church. I don’t pray enough. I don’t volunteer enough. I don’t donate enough. I don’t even write enough.”
Imposter syndrome does this by keeping your eyes fixed on your inadequacy and as long as you’re preoccupied with your inability, rather than God’s ability, you will live a life of fearful restraint. Basically imposter syndrome stands between you and following God’s call. It convinces you that you’re not good enough, or able enough, to which Luke 5 reminds us, “It was never about you in the first place.”
We must confront the Imposter Syndrome at its core, we all have a purpose God intentionally designed for us to live out: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”
The lies against our true identity easily take root because we are not perfect. We are our own worst critic. Even when we aren’t overly critical, but just objectively so, we will always find shortcomings. How insidious that our flesh and the enemy work together to turn those behavioural shortcomings into false identity statements!
How, then, do we disarm the power of Imposter Syndrome? I think 2 Corinthians 10:5 has one answer: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Normally, we think of strongholds as behaviours, but this would suggest that strongholds are false beliefs – thoughts that are contrary to the knowledge of God. Someone might know “God loves me” but act in a way that says “I’m unlovable”.
When imposter syndrome takes hold of you, you take hold of it. Make it obedient to Christ, who died on the cross to justify your belonging. By the blood of Christ, you belong—you belong in the church, you belong in your calling, and you belong anywhere else on this planet that God wants you to be. So don’t look at the people around you, don’t look at your shortcomings, and don’t even look at yourself. Just look at Jesus, and move.
Discovering the truth about who we are will only get us so far. For many of us, the lies we have heard have been silencing the truth for a long time. It will take some healthy reminders―and time―to be able to readily call out a lie and, ultimately, believe what is true.
A few things you can practically do: Invite others to help you change the narrative you believe about yourself. Place written reminders in places you can see them often. Take time to journal some true thoughts at the end of the day. Write out what lies you are tempted to believe―then cross them out and write down what is true. Here are a few examples:
1. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13. It’s about God’s abilities, not yours or mine.
2. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. – 1 Corinthians 12:6-7
3. God has already uniquely created, called, and equipped you and me. He has prepared good works (for example, a particular coaching relationship) for us to walk in.
4. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others.
The point is I could continue to make it all about me, my insecurities, my lack, my anxiety about not measuring-up. Or I could believe God’s truth. It doesn’t matter whether I “feel” it to be true or not. It is true. So I choose to lean into it, trust it, and act on it.