**You are not a fake, cheap substitute for greatness. You are not an imposter waiting to be discovered. You are a real, adopted, redeemed and delivered daughter of the one true God.**
I’m (suddenly?) less than a year away from 40 and low and behold, that metabolism thing my mom always talked about, is, in fact, real. And it’s SLOWING DOWN. I realized this the morning our scale hit the magical barrier, the upper limit, the beyond the danger zone into nuclear meltdown rage inducing range. Quite frankly I am not sure how the scale survived because I nearly threw it out the window.
Yet, the scale did survive and a few months back my sweet accountability partner husband and I started trying to watch we put into our bodies to see if we could make that scale repent of its hurtful ways. With a lot of complaining and a few weeks of eating “better,” I began to notice a difference. My pants were fitting better and the scale was ticking down a bit as well. Excited to share my progress, I told my husband about how happy I was, and ended with: “BUT who knows if the scale is right”
It was at this moment that my husband, who often gets ever so slightly annoyed with me and my neurotics, but rarely gets truly mad at me, slams down the spatula he was using to make our 36th egg of the week, and spins around his head around to face me. Firmly, he says, “Stop it. Just. Stop. The minute you gain weight you’re sure the scale is right, but now when it’s down you’re sure it’s wrong? Why are you always so hard on yourself? Why can’t you EVER give yourself credit?”
He was right. If the scale was up, it was because it was only ever going to go up. If the scale was down, it was a fluke and it would be right back up the next day.
I do this CONSTANTLY. Not just about weight. I do this with school. In my first class of seminary, I’ve gotten 100s on everything except one assignment where I got a 99. In EVERY SINGLE CASE I’ve explained it away with some rationale that puts me down: The instructor must have given everyone As. He only gave me an A because I turned it in early. I’m sure now he is just giving me As so that I’ll keep going to school there and giving them tuition money.
I was recently asked to consider a challenging leadership role in a large organization. Instead of thinking, “clearly my work speaks well of my abilities. Clearly they see how I can uniquely add value,” I attributed the offer as one of convenience for them simply for knowing me. Then perhaps it was because someone who happens to be an incredible encourager, inaccurately sang my praises to the right people in leadership.
Occasionally a sweet elderly couple will approach our table at a restaurant, complement our three kids on how well behaved they are and my knee-jerk response is: “sometimes we get lucky!” Um, no, our kids know that not behaving when we are out spells trouble, but it sounds a lot less smug to claim luck was just on our side.
If I do let myself be proud of my accomplishments, it’s ALWAYS accompanied by pointing out some other area of my life that isn’t 110% put together and highly functioning. Yea, I’ve got nearly all my Christmas shopping done, but you should see my house, it’s a disaster. I haven’t done laundry in a week.
I could give you other examples, but I’m not sure how much more of my crazy you need to get the point.
Providentially, I was reading a new book by Tara Beth Leach, “Emboldened” and it hit me: this is NOT JUST ME. What I constantly do to myself in underestimating my accomplishments, questioning my contributions, and downplaying my insights: women do this all the time. It’s called the “Imposter Syndrome.” Several psychologists discovered it in the 1970s and more research has been done since then to understand it (Imes and Clance, 1978.) The Imposter Syndrome is believing that you are a fake or a fraud in an area or areas of your life and you live in fear of being “discovered.”
Tara Beth shares insights from studies that revealed women consistently rate their performances and qualifications significantly lower than male counterparts. Doesn’t matter the field: law, medicine, politics, parenting, friendship. Women don’t want to give themselves credit. And ironically, women often feel like imposters and fakes when they are in positions where they are using their gifts. Tara Beth explains it this way: “although a women has clear ability and giftedness, and although others recognize her giftedness and ability, there is an inability on the part of the woman to internalize that giftedness as genuine. When a woman is called, gifted and recognized as gifted, but is unable to embrace her giftedness, we see the imposter syndrome. It is not whether a woman has a gift but whether she can internalize this as true.” (p37)
I’m not sure if we struggle with this because we are culturally conditioned to feel inferior or if we are just scared and trying to protect ourselves with pre-emptive strikes. Either way, ladies, and men out there too, who fall into this trap: Imposter Syndrome not only breaks my heart because it means that we are downplaying, sidelining, or taking for granted our gifts, but it actually kindof ticks me off.
No, ticks me off isn’t strong enough. It pisses me off.
Here’s why: when we shortchange ourselves, when we dismiss our gifts, we aren’t just being modest. When we excuse away our skills we aren’t just staying humble and grounded. It’s not just about us and our feelings. It’s much much bigger. When we refuse to acknowledge what we bring to the table we are communicating something about the God that created us. We are telling Him, and the world, that protecting ourselves by diminishing our contributions, or hanging on to our own negative perceptions of ourselves is more important to us than being who THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE made us to be.
We are saying that we’d rather:
- hang on to negative self-talk than live out God’s plan for our lives.
- undersell our abilities, discount our contributions, and second guess our skills than step out there and claim the gift with our name written on it.
- keep telling ourselves that we are failing, falling apart or losing it than explore growing a faith that is deep enough to handle taking risks and maybe being scared, but maybe getting something spectacularly right.
We are created in God’s image: male and female. Each time God created something He said it was “good.” After ALL that God created, it was only after creating man and woman that God said it was “very good.” We ARE very good and we are created for very good things.
In fact, as women we are so good that we were God’s solution to the world’s first problem.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
In the original Hebrew, the word helper is “ezer” (ay-zer). This word is used 21 times in the Old Testament. Twice in the context of the first woman. Three times of people helping in life threatening situations. And 16 times it is used to refer to God as a helper to his people. Ezer describes aspects of God’s character: our strength, our rescuer, our protector and our help.* Woman, a help-mate, ezer, was God’s solution to Adam being alone. We were created as the perfect complement, the perfect counterpart, the unique advantage, the yin to Adam’s yang. Adam wasn’t physically alone in the garden. God was there. He was surrounded by animals, and life nourishing vegetation of every kind, but without woman, he was alone. Incomplete.\
We are made to thrive. Yet when we make excuses and sell ourselves short we cut off the blood supply and stunt growth.
I know that I’m not alone in this Imposter syndrome struggle. I know at least one of you out there has felt like you’ve been given opportunities, with your kids, with your husband, with your neighbors, in your work or in the line at the grocery store, that you limped your way through, or feel as though you spectacularly bombed. But what if you didn’t? What if, someone needs to slam the spatula down and tell you to stop being so hard on yourself? What if, instead, what you did was just exactly what was needed? What if you really were good enough? What if, most of the time, God is smiling and PROUD of you? Of the YOU he delighted in making?
I think that if we pray, if we spend time with God and in his word, if we listen to the Holy Spirit and let God’s grace and truth permeate our lives, that whatever we do, big and small, each and every day, might just be what God had in mind when he created Eve.
So here’s the challenge: let go of the Imposter Syndrome and embrace your calling as daughters of God, created in his magnificent image.
Embrace the fact that, warts and all, YOU are the EXACT parent your kids need. Your parenting might look different than mine. That difference doesn’t mean that one of us is a fraud, it just means that we are being the parent God knew our kids needed to thrive.
Embrace the fact that while there is nothing new under the sun, there is no one else exactly like YOU on the planet. That YOU bring unique perspective, voices and light to whatever it is that you do.
Embrace the emotions, the insights, the intelligence, the strengths that are a part of the role that God gave us when he created Eve, as ezer to Adam.
You are not a fake, cheap substitute for greatness.
You are not an imposter waiting to be discovered.
You are the real deal.
The real, adopted, redeemed and delivered daughter of the one true God.
And that’s a “very good” thing.
For more reading:
Imposter syndrome: http://paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html
Tara Beth Leach “Emboldened”