The Imposter Syndrome

The Imposter Syndrome

And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . .” Exodus 7:1

The term Imposter Syndrome, while not a formal mental health diagnosis, describes those who doubt their own ability and feel unworthy of their success or achievements. Despite evidence of their competence, they believe themselves to be incompetent and worry that everyone else will soon see them as incompetent as well.

I’ve been there. In medical school, at first, I felt like I didn’t belong. It seemed as if everyone else knew far more than me and that I was there by mistake. I pressed on though and ended up doing pretty well. Later in life however, in my drug use, I felt appropriately fraudulent. I was living a secret life, pretending that everything was fine while my addiction spiraled out of control. My duplicity was eventually discovered, as my fraudulence was exposed. In recovery now, I still have my moments when I feel like an imposter. As I’m learning and doing new things at work, I sometimes think, There’s got to be someone better suited for this. Then, I look around and there’s no one. It’s my job and, just like in medical school, I must press on. So, in my life, I’ve inappropriately felt like an imposter, but I’ve also been the imposter. How do I know the difference?

Today’s passage provides some simple guidance. In it, God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh, demanding the release of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. Moses feared Pharaoh and didn’t want to go. I’m nobody. Pharaoh won’t listen. Send someone else. God had chosen Moses though and, in today’s passage, God revealed to Moses that Pharaoh was actually afraid of him. I have made you like God to Pharaoh. This revelation appears to have emboldened Moses as he overcame his fear and set out to do God’s will.

That is the obvious difference for me between inappropriately feeling like the imposter and recognizing when I actually am an imposter. Am I doing God’s will? Am I doing what’s right? If I’m simply going my own way, following a self-destructive path, then I shouldn’t feel confident. If, however, I’m doing what I know to be right, then I must press on, doing my best, even if I feel I’m inadequate for the task. It’s a simple question which I must daily ask myself. Am I doing right, following God’s will? Or am I following my own will? When I recognize I’m following myself, then I must do what it takes to turn around. If however, I believe I’m following God’s will, then I can boldly press on, knowing that I’m doing what’s right – even if I feel inadequate.

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