Have you ever felt like a fake?
It is surprisingly common how many of us find ourselves feeling that we live a false life. We go about our business, do our work, all the while certain that soon, someone will realize that we are not what we appear to be, that we will be revealed as imposters, only pretending to be skilled. It’s difficult for us to accept compliments, sometimes minimizing our very real achievements, because deep down we feel like we are not really as good as others see us.
This feeling is so common that it even has a name: Imposter Syndrome. It may not be as obviously damaging as some other syndromes out there, but it strikes at the heart of who a person is. It creates doubt where there should be certainty and undermines the ability to see things objectively. It is a kind of fear, rooted in the belief that there is no such thing as being “good enough.”
Sadly, many people who live with Imposter Syndrome are never able to reach a place where we can accept ourselves as we are. This peace eludes us. We may never feel we can rest, continually striving to prove to ourselves that we are worthy of positive attention, often well after others have acknowledged our value. Or we may give up entirely, choosing not to use our gifts because we never feel we can be good enough, so why try?
Thankfully, there are ways to combat this damaging self-image. Learning to accept compliments, especially from trustworthy co-workers, friends, and family, with a simple “thank you” instead of putting ourselves down goes a long way toward challenging the negative self-talk that often accompanies Imposter Syndrome. Asking ourselves, “If someone else had done this work, what would I say to them?” is another way to step out of those detrimental patterns and see things more objectively. Pausing to acknowledge our own achievements before the world gets at them can also help strengthen our sense of realistic and positive self-image.
Finally, remembering that our identity doesn’t lie in what we DO is central. In case you haven’t been able tell from reading so far, I am one of those who suffers from Imposter Syndrome. On those days when my negative self is really going at me, telling me that I can never do enough, never be enough, I find I just have to STOP, take a deep breath, and remind myself that WHO I am, not WHAT I do, is the most important part of my identity. I remind myself that I am a beloved child of God and that God (and lots of other people) loves me just as I am, even as they encourage me to the be the best “me” that I can be. I try (and those I love help me) to see myself through their eyes. I CAN’T be an imposter, because there is only ONE me. And there is nothing fake about that.