Feeling Like a Phony
Have you ever attended a professional conference populated by other writers and speakers and felt like the biggest fake in the room? Even though you’re surrounded by encouraging faculty members and other newbie conferees, maybe you’ve even felt that way at Speak Up.
In the workplace, when you’re introduced by your business title and asked to address a conference, you smile and pretend you’re confident. The truth is something else; you feel like you’re faking it. It must have been luck and good timing that landed you that position in the first place.
If you’ve ever felt like an impostor, believing your achievements are based on factors that have nothing to do with your competence, you’re not alone. Highly successful women like Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, admit they’ve struggled with this too.
“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself,” she writes in Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead . “Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself – or even excelled – I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”
I’ve always loved learning and worked hard for top marks in college and grad school, but I never ever felt as smart as the rest of my classmates. Still don’t.
My parents loved and affirmed me. No one was to blame for my spectacularly low self-esteem. I’ve been happily married for over 40 years, but I still wince to recall how I broke off my dating relationship with my now- husband not once but twice because I didn’t think I deserved him. (If he was as great as I thought he was, couldn’t he do better than someone like me? Something must be wrong with him.)
No, something was wrong with me. The Impostor Syndrome.
This phenomenon was identified early in my working career, but I didn’t become aware of it until recently. It doesn’t mean those who struggle with it are actual fakes or frauds. Instead, we believe our success is a mistake or maybe the result of some “undeserved good fortune.”
Sandberg says these feelings are symptomatic of a bigger problem. “We consistently underestimate ourselves. Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is.”
So how do we push back against impostor syndrome? Is it time for some kind of Christian feminine manifesto boldly declaring to the world that we’re smart, deserving, and capable of greater things than we can imagine?
We already have it.
Scripture repeatedly affirms our worth and value in God’s eyes. We are his beloved daughters. We are completely accepted and fully whole. We’re not enslaved to insecurity but confident bearers of God’s own image. We are his masterpiece, a real piece of work in the most glorious sense.
The key to living authentically is not finding creative ways to boost our self-confidence. Those “I’m worth it” ads are eye-rollers for me. My friends will tell you I have no more self-confidence than I did when I was a middle schooler.
What has literally changed my life is God-confidence. My lifelong insecurity could have crippled me, and sometimes I still walk with an emotional limp. But I can testify to the power of a loving Creator who empowers all of us to do the work he’s prepared in advance for us to do.
I have a sign (with thirty-four-point font) posted over my desk that’s my warrior cry: “The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24. Emphasis mine.)
We’re Designer Originals, friends – each messy, insecure, beautifully imperfect one of us. Not an impostor in the bunch.
Adapted from This Life We Share by Maggie Wallem Rowe. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Maggie Wallem Rowe, M.A.B.S., is a national speaker, dramatist, and writer. Maggie’s first book, This Life We Share, was traditionally published when she was 67 and was a 2021 finalist for the ECPA Christian Book Award in the New Author category. Maggie was also a TEDx presenter in 2021. Her second book, Life is Sweet, Y’all, releases from Tyndale in 2022. Visit her website: https://www.maggierowe.com.