Imposter Syndrome

Some believers may feel that they aren’t doing enough within the body of Christ (even though they probably already are). These individuals may feel they are somehow less important, impactful, or qualified than they really are based on their own criteria. So yes, much of it is “just in their heads” and not in touch with reality (assuming they are spiritually mature). A feeling of anxiety (assuming our conscience has nothing to be disturbed about) over something is no more a feeling than a tree is a plant. It is good to be humble, but humility doesn’t mean we have to allow a dark cloud of doubt to follow us wherever we go. Yes, we can be happy and content with our progressing skills and abilities. We can also be confident (there is a reasonable confidence all believers are to have that they know they are doing what they should be doing) in our ability to use them. How much more our spiritual gifts! But in that “domain,” the Lord works everything through us to do everything He wishes us to accomplish. All we have to do is participate through faith (which will lead to everything else), and God will do the rest.

Now, it is true that sometimes doubting the work we have chosen to pursue is not a bad thing. For example, someone called to evangelism who tries to take on teaching will (sooner or later) come to realize that it just isn’t something they should be doing (they have come to doubt their plans). And that is when doubt can stem from conviction about what we are attempting to do. That is an example of many possibilities, but the point should be clear.

On the other hand, the above scenario is not what we are referring to here. The people in question are those who know their calling and abilities and use them as the Lord would have them. Just as there will be (good) doubt when we are doing the wrong thing, bad doubt can take hold when the correct path is chosen. Pretty evident since the Devil loves to cast uncertainty on those doing well.

So it is crucial to distinguish between doubt stemming from conviction (from the Lord) and the type sown by the Devil and our flesh. The danger with failing in this latter area is that we can end up neutralized by turning away from the right path and onto one that makes us less effective for Christ. You could think of a set of railroad tracks with Satan just waiting to pull the lever to divert our original course when we get close. This is one of the things he does best because of its terrible results. And this type of attack that he uses played no small role in the devil’s deception of Eve. He is not called the father of lies for nothing.

Genesis 3:1 (NIV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

John 8:44 (NIV)

44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Thankfully, believers have everything they need to expose the lies and doubts (whether they come from the Devil, our flesh, or other people) for what they are.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NKJV)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

There is no need to feel like a “phony” for all those doing what the Lord wants them to do. As Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Obeying Jesus Christ is the real deal! Not only will doubting ourselves, our abilities, competence, importance, and reality not help us move forward, but it may cause us to think there is no point in continuing. Something we must never do is lose heart and give up!

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)

Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Now, this doesn’t mean some things (whatever they may be) won’t take a while to figure out and that there won’t be any learning curves. And much of our learning will inevitably be through trial and error. It can take time for the growing believer to develop that godly confidence where they aren’t constantly too hard on themselves out of fear that they aren’t good enough. True, everyone should strive to give their best without compromise (show no mercy for sin and continue to strive for perfection Matthew 5:48). But as long as we are growing as we should and seeing enough improvement in our lives as evidence of that, it is good and godly to have a sense of satisfaction with how things are going. This should encourage and bring us joy (a fruit of the Spirit not possible without continued spiritual advance). That is not to be confused with someone who falls into complacency over much prosperity and then stumbles because of it! This mistake was the kind David made when he loosened his standards from all the great success he had by committing adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). What we have there is a case of the “prosperity test.”

To steer us back in the general direction, everyone has different spiritual gifts (some more than one). And yes, some will accrue more and greater eternal rewards than others. But none of that has to do with our gifts and abilities. Believers who suffer from imposter syndrome (even if they have done and are doing everything they should be doing) may feel like phonies (next to others they should never be comparing themselves to) when their success never depended on them to begin with! Now, this statement is only partially true because we do have to choose to live our best for the Lord (spiritual growth is never automatic), all of which requires responding to Him from a right disposition of heart. You then have diligent prayer and Bible study as but two more among multiple examples where self-discipline is still required (self-control is also a fruit of the Spirit). But sanctification (as we should already know) is God’s work and something we participate in through faith. So it is God who gets all the glory, a glory that He will not share with anyone else (whether false gods/idols or people). We believers will share in eternity with Christ, but never will we ever take any credit for anything so that we can say, “My hand has done this! By my own might and abilities I have accomplished this!” We know that God is our greatest strength! And suppose we want to experience the most of that power (there are no limits to it). In that case, we can only do so by drawing closer to Christ day by day, moment by moment (James 4:8). What we think of ourselves (and what others think of us) matters little because it is God who works through us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). If we know that our heart is right with Him, then we will be qualified and competent for the job at hand (that is inevitable). Psalm 33:18 says, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.” If we weren’t good enough for it, the Lord would have never led us to it (assuming He has). That right there speaks volumes.

Deuteronomy 8:10-18 (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

And, as a general rule, we should never make it our duty to judge and evaluate ourselves (unless for self-examination to spot any problems we may have that need fixing such as sin or any kind of bad attitude limiting our forward progress). So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:3, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” This too, speaks volumes.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (KJV)

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

As a final word of encouragement, we know that the believer has no limitations to what they can do for the Lord. But God ultimately decides when our “service period” is complete when the time comes for Him to take us home. In the meantime, we will never run out of things to learn and do because there will always be opportunities for growth and production. The length of our ministries run on God’s timetable, who will supply us with all we need to make the most of what He has given us.