I think I first heard the term “imposter syndrome” a couple of years ago. It was an “aha!” moment when I was able to put a word to a feeling – and know that I wasn’t alone.
Imposter syndrome is the feeling, all evidence to the contrary, that success is due to luck, that accolades and praise are misplaced, and that you are unworthy of the good things that come your way. It’s typically discussed in the context of career development, but I tend to experience it even more in my personal life.
When developing any type of new relationship – be it with a new friend, colleague, mentor, mentee, or (as I discovered last year) boyfriend – I’m always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. “Surely,” I think, “they’ll realize soon that I’m not who I seem, and then they won’t want to have this relationship with me anymore.”
I experienced imposter syndrome in the extreme in the early days (months, really) of my relationship with my boyfriend. Partly because he was my first boyfriend, partly because of my social anxiety and partly because this is just something I struggle with, I constantly felt sure he’d realize his mistake and dump me immediately.
One day, he said something that’s stuck with me: “You’re worth it. Not because I think you are, but just because you’re a child of God.”
My worth isn’t dependent on my own self-concept (thank goodness), or on what my boyfriend or my friends or my coworkers think of me. It’s intrinsic. It’s inherent in being human. The second God created me, I had value.
To God, there’s no such thing as an imposter.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God,” wrote St. Paul, “and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). How can a temple of God be an imposter? How can anything the Spirit of God dwells in be a fraud? It can’t.
My imposter syndrome isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s probably something I’ll wrestle with my whole life. But at least I have this reminder to pull me back when I start to go down the “I’m not worthy road” – that I am worthy, and that my worth isn’t tied to any of the exterior metrics I give it – my appearance, my work, my social status – but rather to a single intrinsic measure: my existence as a child of God.