“They are going to find out you tricked them and you aren’t who you say you are.”
As I walked into my home at 9:30 last night, this phrase was playing over and over in my head. It played over and over as I kissed my wife for the first time in 13 hours and as I went in to tell my kids good night. My wife and I sat on the couch and recounted our day; all the while the soundtrack of “you’re a liar and your family suffered because you put in 16 hours today” played in the background of my mind. Every time my wife would speak, I would hear “She hates you and if you keep it up, she’s going to leave you.” It wasn’t an easy night.
Let me flesh out the “16 hour” thing. My day starts at 5:00 AM every day. I go through an hour-long routine and when that ends, I typically go into creative mode or research mode until I leave for the office. I’m working for 16 hours but I’m usually not away for 16 hours a day.
I knew from the moment I heard the first utterance of this accusation what was happening. I knew it was Imposter Syndrome. I knew it was false. I knew I hadn’t lied to anyone about who I was or my abilities. I knew my family wasn’t angry with me for taking longer than usual at the office. They understand the season in life in which we find ourselves isn’t going to last forever and I usually find a way to cheat work to see them throughout the day. If I know my day isn’t going to end until well into the evening, I will usually take the afternoon to spend with them before the evening commitments begin.
Imposter Syndrome is a really odd thing. You can read the Wikipedia page by clicking here but here is the big idea, “Impostor syndrome is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
Imposter syndrome is something internal. No one is calling you a fraud. No one is accusing you of being undeserving of your success. I would argue there is actually a place and a “being” from which Imposter Syndrome comes.
Because of my religious convictions, I believe Imposter Syndrome is spiritual warfare. It is lies straight from the mouth of evil. I know not everyone has a religious affiliation but here is what I am taught about Satan:
- He is the Father of lies.
- His nature is falsehood! He only speaks the truth to deceive. John 8:44
- His chief enemy is truth – he opposes God’s word. Genesis 3:1-5
- He casts doubt on God’s goodness. Genesis 3:1-5
- He distorts and prevents effective Gospel message. Acts 13:8-9
- He avoids inner need by removing external trouble. 1 John 3:12
- He uses the fear of death to hold men in bondage. Hebrews 2:15
- He exploits a lack of understanding. Mt. 13:19
- He suggests ways that don’t involve suffering. Mt. 16:23; Mt. 4:1-11
That is a very extensive list (though not exhaustive) and every part of Imposter Syndrome is covered in the attributes of Satan. Some say Imposter Syndrome is purely internal. I don’t believe that. I think it comes from somewhere. I also believe it can be overcome by leaning on a couple of truths.
The first truth is this: You ARE as good as you think you are. Unless you aren’t. Only real self-awareness can be the litmus test on whether you deserve your success or you actually did fake it. The second truth is humility under God is the great devil resistance (James 4:6–7). When you show humility, you show something counter-intuitive to my whole argument. You show that you DON’T deserve what you have. You show that what you have is a gift and a blessing.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”