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But if you really knew me...

This evening we thought about 'Impostor Syndrome' and the fear of being found out as inadequate or unsuitable...  It seemed to go pretty well and I'm glad I chose to offer it.

I'm not going to blog the whole reflection, but I am going to share parts of it, starting with a quote from another blog (citation provided at the end of it ) which expressed so beautifully much of what I wanted to say...

An extract from a blog post by Valerie Schutlz, an American Roman Catholic writer:

Recently [-] some glowing praise from a fellow parishioner gave me pause. Catching me after Mass and thanking me for a recent faith-based essay, he said, “You know, I think of you as my spiritual director.”

I thanked him, but I went away chastened. These were big words, weighty words. I know they were meant to compliment me, but they actually crushed me by adding heft to my Imposter Syndrome. You know about Imposter Syndrome? It’s when a person of any given profession—writer, professor, preacher, parent—secretly suspects that, in spite of his or her accolades and achievements and high standing and seeming expertise in the field, the jig will be up as soon as someone figures out that he or she is full of it. The emperor has no clothes. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Someone is going to realize that I am no expert, that my credentials mean nothing, that I actually have no idea what I’m doing, and I will have to cop to it. Because in my heart, I know that I really am full of it.

I admit it. I may write well about faith, but I am no good at it. I may sound like I am all about God’s will, but I spend a lot of time ducking it. I would be a wretched spiritual director, because I can’t even direct my own affairs of the Spirit. I don’t pray enough. I don’t volunteer enough. I don’t donate enough. I don’t even write enough. Anyone can tell you that I am a half-assed Catholic. I take it all in, but I don’t give nearly enough back. If I even try to think of myself as worthy of offering spiritual direction, my Imposter Syndrome shouts this fraudulent thought down immediately. I don’t know why anyone ever publishes anything I have to say about heaven and earth.

https://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/confessions-spiritual-imposter Accessed 12/8/17

 

After a bit of exploration, we used two short Bible readings, Jeremiah 1: 4 - 10 and 1 John 4:16b-19 to centre our thoughts in scripture, and I said this:

I could have chosen any number of characters from the Bible who exhibited signs of impostor syndrome, so why did I choose Jeremiah?

Simply because he uses the phrase ‘I am only...’ in his response to God.  And God replies, ‘do not say, “I am only…’”

Perhaps this is part of impostor syndrome, low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority… the belief that ‘I am only…’

‘Do not be afraid,’ says God, ‘I knew you before you were born, was there at the moment of your conception, and have been with you ever since… I don’t make mistakes, I make people, beautiful, wonderful people of inestimable worth, and you are one of them.  And because of that…’

Do not be afraid… but we are afraid.  Afraid that someone will out us for what we really are.  Afraid that our ineptitude will lead to disaster.  Afraid because people, or even God, may no longer like or love us.

The cure for fear, perhaps surprisingly, is not the overcoming of obstacles to confidence, but the security of knowing oneself to be loved… perfect (or complete) love drives out fear.  God loves us with an unending and inextinguishable love.  God loves us so much that, in Jesus, the Christ came to us.  God loves us so much that the Holy Spirit is given us as one who offers comfort in our darkest, lowest moments.

Which of course is fine, but, if you’re anything like me, you will still experience times of fear or anxiety, inadequacy or impostor syndrome – our love is not yet perfected, not yet complete, we are still God’s ‘work in progress’.  Learning to love and value ourselves as God loves us is a life-time’s work.  Knowing that God loves us just as we are, in all our complex, muddled and messy humanity, offers us the safety we need to keep on learning and growing to love God, and to love our neighbour and ourselves as of equal worth.

Hope it helps to normalise any such feelings you may have, and encourage you to be kinder to yourself (and perhaps to others too)

Comments

  • Wish I had heard this reflection in full. It resonates so much with me. But coping with it is hard. I was brought up to self deprecate, not to brag about myself and thus when I a m praised I feel pleased but uneasy. The cliche phrase 'I am not worthy' comes to mind again and again. The praise I like but disbelieve. The self criticism I believe. How to break that pattern?

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