Funny story… the first time I went to the grocery store after Jeff and I got married, I bought the wrong everything— instant decaf coffee, powdered creamer instead of half-n-half— you name it, I messed it up. And then I served canned green beans with our dinner every night for three weeks. THREE WEEKS!
I was trying my best to be the “perfect” wife, but I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like a total imposter. I cried every time we disagreed because I was afraid Jeff would decide he’d made a mistake and would not want to be married to me anymore! Thankfully, he has a great sense of humor and happened to like green beans. (Because, THREE WEEKS, y’all! EVERY NIGHT!)
I first heard the term “Imposter Syndrome” when I began learning more about being a writer. It is exactly what it sounds like~ when you do what you’re called to do, but you feel like a fraud because you don’t feel qualified to be whatever it is.
Apparently, many writers wrestle with this. But what is it that actually makes someone qualified to be a writer? Writing a book? Getting paid to write? Or is it enough to simply write words that encourage and inspire other people? What actually makes someone a writer? And who has the right to tell them they’re not?
We were discussing this topic recently in one of my writing groups, and someone mentioned that it is not limited to the writing world; that it is possible, in fact, to feel like a fraud in any given area of one’s life.
When I heard that, something clicked for me, and I realized I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome for most of my life.
~I grew up playing soccer (often on boys teams) but never felt like I was as good as my teammates. It was not something I wanted people to know, though, so I pushed myself to work harder and play better. To everyone else, I earned my spots on those teams. But inside, I felt like an imposter.
~After college, I found myself suddenly called to full-time Youth ministry. I was very young, only 20 years old (too young to even drive the church van! But whatever), and I only knew a handful of women in positions like mine. Though I was trained by the best, I myself had not been to seminary. I had a degree in Psychology and a few years of volunteer experience, but overall, I was pretty clueless.
To say I felt like an imposter is an understatement!
[SIDE NOTE: Unlike so many stories you hear these days, the godly men surrounding me were incredibly supportive. They mentored me, encouraged me, promoted me, and welcomed me into their circles. They saw me as fully capable, even though I completely doubted myself. I’m still grateful for them, all these years later!]
Reading back through some old prayer journals, I noticed I was often asking God if He made a mistake putting me in those positions. “Shouldn’t a wiser one have my place, Lord, someone who knows what they’re doing? Someone who is a better example for the students to follow?” I definitely felt unworthy of that role.
~As I already mentioned, I even felt it as a new bride. What in the world did I know about being married? If my superb grocery shopping skills were any indication, Jeff got quite a bit more (or less?) than he bargained for in a wife!
~However, if I’m honest, I’m not sure anything makes me feel more like an imposter than being a mom.
Y’all… I began babysitting as soon as I hit double-digits, and I was a nanny for two precious boys when I was in college. I worked full-time as a Youth and Children’s Minister and volunteered in the nursery at our local YMCA. If anyone knew how to take care of children, it was me!
But when Jeff and I brought Sarah home from the hospital that first night, I felt like a total fraud.
All that experience went out the window, and I was simply a girl holding a baby, wondering what in the world we were supposed to do now. Those nurses who sent her home with us were somehow expecting us to keep this tiny creature alive, and the burden of that responsibility was heavier than anything I’d ever carried in my life!
We managed to survive that first night, but it turned out that was only the beginning. Three more babies followed; and I was supposed to know how to sleep train and potty train, how to disciple and discipline, how to braid hair and build Star Wars things with legos…
These days I am supposed to know how to navigate phones and social media and friend drama and hormones. I have pretended my way through all sorts of adolescent crises, depending 100% on the Holy Spirit, and feeling like a charlatan 99% of the time.
Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, y’all.
But here’s the deal— just because I didn’t feel qualified to do any of those things didn’t mean I wasn’t.
- In reality, I wasn’t the best player on all my soccer teams, but I held my own and my teammates counted on me.
- I may not have been the most experienced youth minister, but I truly loved Jesus and I loved those teens. God, in His mercy, turned that love into seeds of faith, and those seeds have grown to bear fruit in the lives of many of those students over the years. He used my availability more than my ability; but combined with His faithfulness, that was enough!
- Jeff and I laugh about those early days of our marriage and parenting, treasuring the imperfections of those new beginnings and how they drew our hearts to God. And while we still feel like we are figuring things out as we go with our teenagers, our relationships are the real deal.
Not knowing what to do doesn’t make you a fraud; it simply means you’re learning. After all, “doing the thing” means you are someone who actually does the thing! You’re living real life, not faking it.
You are the opposite of an imposter!
Not doing anything and pretending you did— now, that’s an imposter.
I am preaching this message to myself as I journey forward as a writer. It is scary and overwhelming, and most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing. But I do it anyway! And that doesn’t mean I’m a phony; it actually means I’m a writer.
Because I’m writing.
I’m “doing the thing,” even when I don’t always know exactly what I’m doing. As Jillian Michaels said, “It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”
Where in your life do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome?
Do you feel like your faking it in your marriage or your parenting or your job? Sometimes we check out when things get hard… but resist that temptation! Press in!
As long as you’re doing the work, you’re not an imposter; you might not be perfect, but you’re not an imposter.
Do you need to give yourself grace and embrace your role? Or do you need to quit pretending you’re “doing the thing” and actually do it? Friend, failure is only certain if you’re not trying.
Let me encourage you today—Let go of your insecurities. Quit comparing yourself to people around you. Respond in obedience wherever you feel the Lord leading you, and trust the results to Him. You have everything you need to be a great parent, spouse, friend, employer, (fill in the blank).
After all, you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He prepared in advance for you to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Remember that, friend. Live in that truth!