I feel it (almost) every day. “Imposter Syndrome.”
An imposter, a fraud. Someone who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive.
A syndrome, a group of symptoms that occur together creating some kind of abnormality. Over at the U of Utah Health site, it says, “A disease usually has a defining cause, distinguishing symptoms and treatments. A syndrome, on the other hand, is a group of symptoms that might not always have a definite cause.”
Put together, one feels like a fraud because of some undefined group of symptoms with no definite cause.
The full definition, as noted by Psychology Today, is:
People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.
It looks like me asking such questions:
“What am I doing teaching at a college? I never trained for this! Everyone else on faculty is so much more [academic, interesting, challenging, capable, professional, creative] than I am.”
“What am I doing writing a book about publishing? Everything has already been written. How can I possibly add anything new to the mix? All the other authors [are better writers, have deeper knowledge, have stronger writing voices, can promote their books better, are already on the circuit, are more fun to be around].”
Then basically choose any other task or role, and I’ll find a way to feel like either I shouldn’t try to do it or shouldn’t be there if I am doing it … because, you know, someone else could do it so much better.
I’m not alone. Again according to Psychology Today, 70 percent of adults may experience this at least once in their lifetime. But my imposter syndrome is less about me feeling undeserving of accolades or awards (don’t currently have any to speak of); instead, it’s more about me feeling like I’m merely acting a part and, yes, someone at some point is going to find out I’m not as competent as I pretend to be and they’ll call me out.
Ever feel like that?
I don’t want to feel like an imposter, even as I humbly acknowledge my shortcomings in so many areas. So I’ve learned to ask myself three questions because, as a Christian, I look not just within but outside myself as well, to my heavenly Father, for help in dealing with this negative thinking and self-doubt.
(1) Did God call me to this job or give me this opportunity?
(2) Have I sensed his clear guidance and peace in pursuing it?
(3) Do I continue to sense his presence — whether things are going smoothly or not?
If I can say yes to these questions, then I can look imposter syndrome in the face and calmly explain that I am NOT a fraud. I am not perfect, I’m still learning, I’m still striving to improve, but I’m not going to let imposter syndrome cause me to do less than my best or refuse to take risks or try new opportunities. I won’t let it stifle me or God’s plan for my life.
(Well, at least I’m going to keep trying …)
What’s that verse we all love? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). When Christ is giving me strength to do a task he has clearly called me to, then who am I to feel like I’m just an imposter?
Have you ever been inflicted by imposter syndrome? What has helped you through it? Share in the comments!