Imposter syndrome is a common feeling that many people experience at some point in their lives. It is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and the belief that one’s successes are due to luck or external factors, rather than one’s own abilities and efforts. In this post, I will be talking about my journey with imposter syndrome, how it can hold us back from embracing our calling, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help us overcome it.
Imagine with me: you are offered a job others think you are skilled at, but you feel unqualified and that you need to study more. Or, you are in a managerial position but you believe others deserve it more. You work super hard to make sure your work is 100% perfect. You fear making your voice heard because others may find out that you really don’t know much about the subject.
Welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Club.
My Journey With Imposter Syndrome
I first came across this term after trying to find a name for the feelings of inadequacy and incompetence I was experiencing. This was especially real during the COVID years, when I felt stuck (literally) trying to get teaching done. Reading about other teachers in Singapore going the extra mile to help their students actually caused me to question myself: have I done enough?
Unbeknownst to me, I was stuck in a spiral of imposter syndrome thinking, always second-guessing myself and the value of my work. My confidence plummeted, and so did my mental health. You can read about my burnout story in 2020.
As I slowly recover from my burnout and rebuild my life, I also wonder if others may experience the same struggles. Turns out they do! Imposter syndrome can affect us in many areas of our life – at work, school, relationships, etc. These feelings can be particularly acute for those who are working in new or challenging environments, or who are pursuing goals that are outside of their comfort zone.
Check out this helpful infographic on Imposter Syndrome!
A reader recently reached out to me with an excellent infographic on imposter syndrome. She also gave me permission to share it with you. So here is it:
You may open their webpage for a higher-definition image, and a detailed article on the syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome Quizzes
Curious to find out if you also have imposter syndrome? The website recommends the following quizzes for a start:
- Psycom.net: imposter syndrome quiz.
- Grammarly: What kind of imposter syndrome do you have?
- IDR labs: 3-minute impostor syndrome test.
I did all 3 and here are my results for the first two:
“You have some signs of imposter syndrome”
“Sounds like you might be in a transition or time of personal growth. You have some awareness that you are often less than confident and sometimes fear that you will be “discovered” as someone less than authentic or perhaps with less knowledge and skill than others believe you to have. You have some work to do to try to make your interior feelings more congruent with the abilities you really have. Because let’s face it, you are a rock star! Try to remind yourself that you really do have the knowledge or experience that people believe you to have (just look at all you’ve achieved!) so the worry that you will be found out is actually pretty silly.”– Psycom.net
“Perfectionists are the most common personality type to experience imposter syndrome, and it makes sense—perfectionists set unrealistic expectations for performance, and when those expectations aren’t met, they question their self-worth. As a perfectionist, you likely have trouble recognizing your achievements and feeling proud of yourself since everything could be done better. To beat imposter syndrome, you should focus on learning to celebrate your successes and truly appreciate how much you accomplish. Likewise, when you make a mistake, remember that mistakes are natural. Accepting that your work will never be truly perfect will free you to start your projects and try new things.”– Grammarly
The other imposter types are:
Try the quizzes and see if you are also experiencing some level of imposter syndrome, and what type it may be!
How Imposter Syndrome can cripple our effectiveness
So, you’ve done the quizzes and found out which type of imposter you are (if you are, that is). Now what?
Imposter syndrome can be a self-sabotage tool that cripples our effectiveness. Especially if we want to follow our calling and fulfill God’s purposes in our lives, imposter syndrome can hold us back.
Firstly, our imposter syndrome can hinder us from taking on projects and tasks for God’s glory.
People with imposter feelings may think that failures will expose who we really are. When challenged to do something out of our comfort zones, we tend to avoid taking risks because we don’t want to fail. We have such a low view of ourselves that we hardly believe we can accomplish anything at all.
If there’s anyone in the Bible who struggled with imposter syndrome and self-doubt, it was Moses. When God called him to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt, he had ZERO confidence in himself.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”Exodus 3:11
Like Moses, our imposter syndrome can hold us back from fully embracing our calling and purpose. It can make us feel like we are not qualified or capable of doing the things we were made to do, and can keep us stuck in a cycle of self-doubt and insecurity.
Secondly, perfectionists with imposter syndrome based their self-worth on their performance.
Imposter syndrome can disguise itself as seeking perfection in all areas of our lives. We may strive for the perfect career, the perfect relationship, the perfect body, or the perfect home, all in the hopes of feeling worthy and valuable. The ‘logic’ is that “I am not worthy if my work/relationship/etc. is less than perfect”. As a result, we set over-ambitious and unrealistic goals, and end up frustrating ourselves and others.
What does this look like in our work and calling? Imagine a co-worker who always criticizes his own work, instead of celebrating successes along the way. That really dampens the team morale.
If he is in leadership, he will feel that the work of the team is never good enough.
The French philosopher Voltaire once wrote, “Perfect is the enemy of good”. Sometimes we just have to go with ‘good enough’. When our self-worth is tied up with our performance, we missed the big picture and became ineffective as a result.
Perfect is the enemy of good.Voltaire
Finally, imposter syndrome is a form of pride that betrays a lack of faith in God.
What the person with imposter feelings is really thinking (even if he doesn’t realize it), is that he has made it all about himself.
“I am a fraud”, “I am not good enough”, “Someone will find me out sooner or later”. What’s the common denominator? It’s all about me.
When we think with this mindset, we forgot that we are living in response to God’s call upon our lives.
It’s never about how good we are, or how well we get things done. It’s always about who God is and how He works mightily through us.
How the gospel can help us fight our imposter syndrome
As we have seen, imposter syndrome can plague even the most ‘successful’ and spiritual believers. It can also hold us back from embracing our calling, as we may be too afraid to take on new challenges or opportunities out of fear of failure or being found out as an imposter.
However, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers a powerful solution to our imposter syndrome. In the gospel, we learn that we are not defined by our own abilities or accomplishments, but rather by the grace and love of God. We are not expected to earn or deserve His love, but rather it is freely given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
READ: What is the Gospel?
1. Through the gospel, we can find true identity and worth in Christ.
We are not imposters, but rather we are sons and daughters of the King of Kings, and we are called to live out that identity in all that we do. This frees us from the burden of trying to prove ourselves to others or constantly seeking validation from the world.
In Colossians 3:3, Paul writes, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This verse reminds us that our identity is based on the fact that we are united with Christ and hidden in him. Our worth and value come from the fact that we are made in the image of God and loved by him (Genesis 1:27). We do not need to seek validation from the world.
2. The gospel shifts our focus from self-confidence to GOD-confidence
Self-confidence is often seen as a positive trait, but it can also be a stumbling block if it becomes the foundation for our identity and worth. We may rely on our own abilities, accomplishments, and appearance to feel worthy and valuable, but this is a fragile foundation that can easily be shaken by setbacks and failures.
In contrast, God-confidence is rooted in the truth that we are loved and accepted by God, not because of anything we have done or can do, but because of who we are in Christ. When we understand and believe this, it frees us from the need to rely on our own strength and worth and enables us to trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness.
In the example above, after Moses lamented that he was not good enough to take the job, God answered him, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12)
“I will be with you.”– God (Exodus 3:12)
That’s what God-confidence is all about. It is ultimately not about how good Moses is, how qualified or competent he is for the job, but the fact that God will be with him. Moses is to turn his eyes to God and not to himself.
The gospel shifts our focus to God-confidence by reminding us of our sin and our inability to save ourselves. It shows us that we are in desperate need of a savior and that only Jesus can bring us forgiveness and new life. When we recognize our need for Jesus and repent of our sin, we are reconciled to God and made right with Him through His grace. This should humble us and turn our focus away from ourselves and onto God, who is the source of our salvation and worth.
The gospel also reminds us that God is sovereign and in control of all things. We can trust in His plan and His provisions for our lives, even when things don’t go as we had hoped or expected. This shifts our focus from our own efforts and abilities to God’s faithfulness and power.
3. The gospel teaches us that our worth is not dependent on our own perfection, but rather on the perfection of Christ.
We are all sinners and fall short of God’s standard, but through faith in Jesus, we are made righteous and acceptable in His sight. This means that we can let go of the pressure to be perfect and instead embrace our humanity and the journey of growth and learning.
In Colossians 1:22, Paul writes, “He has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before him holy and blameless and above reproach.” This verse reminds us that our worth and value come from the fact that we are made in the image of God and that Jesus has reconciled us to Him through His death on the cross. Our worth is not based on our own perfection, but rather on the perfection of Christ and the fact that we are made holy and blameless through his sacrifice.
Let the gospel remind you that your value and worth are not dependent on what you do or don’t do, but rather on the fact that you are loved by God and made in his image.
3. The gospel reminds us that our ultimate purpose and significance are not found in our own achievements, but rather in bringing glory to God and serving others.
As believers, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeking our own accomplishments and validation as a measure of our worth and purpose. We may strive for success in our careers, relationships, and personal endeavors, all in the hopes of feeling significant and fulfilling our calling.
But the gospel reminds us that our ultimate purpose and significance are not found in our own achievements, but rather in bringing glory to God and serving others. In Colossians 1:16, Paul writes, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” This verse reminds us that everything we do and everything we are is ultimately for the glory of God and not for our own self-aggrandizement.
So, how do we align our sense of purpose and significance with the gospel? First and foremost, we must remember that our worth and value come from the fact that we are made in the image of God and that He loves us deeply (Genesis 1:27). No matter what we do or don’t do, our worth as a human being is not based on our achievements or successes.
Additionally, we must strive to bring glory to God in all that we do. This means seeking to honor him in our words, actions, and attitudes, and using our talents and abilities for his purposes and not just for personal gain. It also means seeking to serve others and put their needs above our own (Philippians 2:3-4). As we seek to bring glory to God and serve others, we are able to put our own insecurities and self-doubt aside.
In conclusion, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers a powerful and transformative solution to imposter syndrome. Through faith in Jesus, we can find true identity, worth, and purpose, and be freed from the burden of trying to prove ourselves to others.
So the next time you find yourself feeling like an imposter or questioning your purpose and significance, remember that your ultimate worth and purpose are found in Christ! Let the gospel remind you that your calling is not about your own accomplishments, but rather about using your gifts and talents to honor God and serve others.
This article is part of a series of posts about calling and work. Check out the other articles that explore how we can live out our calling in the world of work:
- How to Find Your Calling
- How Job Crafting Transform Your Work into Calling
- Why Do We Work – Job, Career, or Calling?
Here are some helpful reviews and resources:
- ‘Love Your Work’ by Robert Dickie
- ‘Mere Christians’ Podcast by Jordan Raynor
- ‘Master of One’ by Jordan Raynor
- Theology of Work Project
Thoughts or feedback? Feel free to drop in your comment below!