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Ever felt like an imposter?

In 1978 Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes conducted a study exploring the idea that high-achieving individuals in the business world considered themselves to be ‘imposters’ in their working lives. Despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary, these employees still secretly believed they weren’t worthy of the posts that they held.

The truth is this mindset isn’t just in the business world, it’s in the church. Many leaders struggle with imposter syndrome. That feeling of not being good enough or experienced enough, not being the ‘right’ age or having the right background… the list we use against ourselves is endless.

We recently conducted a poll via our Instagram account and 96 percent of you said you had experienced that feeling of being an imposter in a role:

Maya Angelou herself once wrote “Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”

Maya Angelou was one of the best writers of the 20th century. People would walk up to her to tell her that Caged Bird changed their life. By her mid-forties, everyone knew she was one of the greats - yet she struggled with imposter syndrome!

What does imposter syndrome feel like?

“Imposter syndrome is a constant feeling that you're going to be found out,” explains Lisa Akesson. She says “Essentially, you feel like a fraud, even if you are actively delivering your best work. So imposter syndrome is often about the mismatch between how we see ourselves, and what we are actually delivering.”

Have you personally ever felt like that? That feeling of not being good enough to have a seat at the decision making table. That sense that you will get “found out” for not having the right skill sets or accumin, despite actually having both! This feeling is often at its highest when we are in new positions or spaces, when we are promoted or asked to speak in unfamiliar places. In our poll 86% of the leaders who took part said they questioned their worth to be in a role either now or in the past!

We must remind ourselves that it is God who opens doors and God who calls and appoints. We must wrestle with what we “believe” and what is true (and these can often be poles apart to those feeling the weight of imposter syndrome).

The first step is identifying that you feel like an “imposter” and then bringing that to God.

Elizabeth Perry writes “We all experience feelings of self-doubt from time to time, whether we're starting a new job, taking a test, or playing a sport. That's perfectly normal. Self-doubt is a lack of confidence regarding yourself and your abilities. It’s a mindset that holds you back from succeeding and believing in yourself. Humility is a healthy character trait to have, but if it's at your own expense, it's no longer beneficial.

William Shakespeare once said, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Basically, that means doubt makes us quit”.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible describes you as God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), it clearly states you are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), you are loved, called, justified and given a clean start. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Yours. Mine. We all have doubts but we also have strengths, gifts, abilities and unique personalities. You are a gift to your church and your community.

Lisa Akesson tackles impostor syndrome a lot, she firmly believes : “you need to label it. We all have self-doubt; it’s an unconscious emotional programming that affects our behaviour and choices. But if these beliefs start to limit you, you can address it by calling out your doubts and reframing them to empower you.”

Once we have identified it you now have to actively tackle it. You have to intentionally learn to focus your mind on what is true and not allow fear and insecurity to shout louder. What good things have you achieved recently? What do you contribute to the team that is unique to you? Think about positive feedback and things in your life you are proud of.

It takes time to replace the negative thoughts but it’s worth the time. Replace the thought, replace the mindset. Romans 12:2 is a brilliant scripture to focus on (see below):

Fight for one another!

Sometimes we can see imposter syndrome in others. In those we lead or those on teams with us. We need to help one another to conquer unhealthy, unhelpful mindsets that will limit instead of release. Let’s be women who spur one another on.

In our church we have a “2 positives” rule, for every negative thing said about yourself you must identify two positives (out loud). This gets you into the habit of noticing how often you ARE negative about yourself or your contribution to the team, AND secondly creates a new habit of choosing to highlight the good about yourself instead. We not only do this in ourselves but when we hear others putting themselves down we call “two positives”!!!

Verbally expressing what’s good about yourself reminds our heart, mind and soul that God doesn’t make any rubbish!!! It takes time to dismantle imposter syndrome but by helping one another, it is possible!

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