She’s A Fraud!

**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.

 

 

 

 

*http://margmowczko.com/a-suitable-helper/

 

For more reading:

Imposter syndrome:  http://paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/woman-helper-suitable.html

http://drwalterbramson.com/what-is-an-azer/

Tara Beth Leach “Emboldened”

Leaping to your goal- simple tips to take you past the obstacles.

Last week our five year old, Avery, fell into Stow Lake at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  I was blessed enough to not have personally witnessed his fall.  Instead, I heard his cry from across the lake, down a hill and echoing off the walls of the women’s restroom.  Two years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about hearing him cry from a football field away, but we’re maturing as a family and so at present, his loud cry was out of the ordinary.  I knew right away that it was an upset and embarrassed cry but not an “I’m hurt” cry. Which reminds me of when I had our first kid and read that book (the baby whisperer??) and I distinctly remember thinking that the woman who said you could tell the difference between each of the unique cries of babies had literally written that book only to illustrate what a terrible mom I was and always would be because there was no way on earth that I would ever be able to tell the difference. . .  yet look at me now, almost 12 yrs later, able to tell the difference from a distance that would impress superman . . .

 

But I’m getting off track.  Back to Avery’s unanticipated swim in the lake.

 

The kids and my husband Marty were checking out the boats at the dock when Avery decided to jump from the wooden walkway across to the sidewalk on land.  He missed.  Missed the edge and fell into what can only be described as water that no living thing was supposed to ever enter: a disgusting, green, murky, bird feces and fish spit filled pond.  Marty heard the splash and turned around to see one kiddo missing.  I can only imagine how his heart must have stopped in that moment.  Shortly after Avery popped back up from the green sludge and Marty drug him out.  By the time I made it up the hill he was already being stripped of his gross clothes and shoes.  I could only laugh but the look on Marty’s face stopped me, for at least a few minutes.  After a few more tears, lots of laughing and a trip to target we were good as new.  Plus, we had a new favorite memory for our vacation.

 

How many kids have tried and successfully jumped that corner? Probably too many to count.  But Avery jumped too soon. The gap was too far.  It was obvious to even his eight-year-old brother that he wouldn’t make it, but he jumped because the thought of missing the other side never occurred to him.

 

Of course, as his mom, I don’t want to see him fall into another lake, but I admire that childish spirit of optimism and I hope he’ll hang on to some of it.  Of seeing only where you want to go and not all the obstacles in between you and your goal.  Because sometimes it IS just enough to get you there.

 

Have you ever noticed how as adults we don’t talk about goals anymore? We still have them, right? Why is it so rare that we ask or voice them anymore? Are we supposed to stop feeling the desire to accomplish something after we graduate from college and get a job?  Or after we get married and have kids? As if whatever we accomplished by our mid 20s or 30s is all there ever was to achieve and now it’s just time to start living for the goals your children can achieve. Or is it that the desire is still there, but we simply stop sharing our goals or asking others about theirs because it feels too intimate, too vulnerable- because we are afraid of whispering out loud something that won’t come true?  Afraid of judgement? Afraid of failing? Afraid of actually having to do something?

 

I think those desires are still there.  It’s there for me, perhaps even louder and bigger and scarier than it’s ever been.  I want to write. Not just once every few weeks, but every day. And this is big: I want to write words that are read.  Not words just written and stored on my computer for me to look back at. Words that are strung together into an entire book.  Words that reach people.  Words that encourage. Words that point people toward god and Jesus.  Words that make people FEEL something and want to do something with those feelings.

 

So there, I went first.   Now it’s your turn. What’s your goal? What’s your dream?

 

Speak it out loud, even if it’s just for you.

 

 

I’ll wait.

 

 

Good.

 

 

Now what?

 

It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a dream.  So let’s get down to brass tacks.  You’ve breathed your goal out loud, now breathe some life into it.

 

Obstacles are what we see when we take the focus off of our goals – Henry Ford.  A plan is a way to focus on your goal.   I am so often focused on the obstacles in front of me that I lose sight of the goal:

  • My kids and my husband need me to be a present presence.
  • My followers/reach/subscribers are in the single digits.
  • I don’t have an agent.  I don’t know how to write a book proposal.  I’ve never written more than a few pages at a time, how will I write an entire book?
  • I’ve got graduate school to juggle now too.
  • I should spend more time on that project I’m working on for our church.
  • I have a hard time disappointing people who ask me for help, whether it’s teaching, leading something or helping out somewhere.
  • Eating is crucial for life. So is sleep. Taking showers are important if I want people to talk to me.

 

You get it.  You’ve got your own list of obstacles. Some of these things aren’t important or real but some truly are. And if I don’t address them, then the gap between my goal and me will be something I can’t just close my eyes and jump across.  I’ll end up just like Avery, covered in green, smelly water and crying my “embarrassed” cry.

 

So this is where I’m starting and I’m sharing it with you so that we can do it together.  These principles worked for me whether I was in corporate world, children’s or women’s ministry or I was just trying to manage our household, our kids and our finances together with my husband :

  1. BE INTENTIONAL. Right now, I’ve got more disposable time on my hands than I’ve had in years, but if I don’t plan my days and my weeks it just slips through my fingers.  Gobbled up by things that take my time but leave me no closer to my goal.  Planning means looking ahead, saying no to things that don’t fit, being clear on where you need to work and focus.  This is the principle I struggle with the most.  In Luke 14, Jesus talked of the cost of following him in terms that anyone who wants to accomplish anything would understand: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
  2. BREAK IT DOWN.  Break it down into smaller pieces.  Then celebrate the little wins.  I’m sure my husband would prefer that I didn’t announce with big fanfare each and every single time I turn in a grad school  assignment or every time I sit down and write a paragraph, but he bears with me as my little cheering squad and knows that it’s just my need to celebrate the small steps.  Maybe your small steps are getting up to exercise twice a week or choosing at least one clean meal a day. Whatever they are, figure it out and celebrate them progress.
  3. SEEK KNOWLEDGE.  Be open to changing course.  Learning is good. Knowledge is even better.  Be a life-long learner who applies what they’re discovering to achieve those dreams and goals in a better way.  Read.  Listen to podcasts.  Talk with wise friends. Pray.  Listen for God’s voice:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.

Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16: 1-3

4. BE VULNERABLE.  Share your goal.  You’ve already said it out loud to yourself.  That’s the scariest part.  Tell someone else you trust. Let them in on your plan.  Give that someone permission to hold you accountable.

Let’s dream big dreams.  And make big plans. And work together to close the gap between where we stand on the dock and the land.  And let’s be brave enough to take the final leap when the time comes, with the thought of missing never occurring, because we’ve made sure it won’t.