Impostor Syndrome

At my first writers’ conference I wondered if people could tell I was a fake. I aspired to be an author and worked to reach that goal. But I struggled with the title “author” since I had nothing published. After publishing a couple devotions in a national magazine, I knew things would be different. I was wrong. As I considered my goal of writing books and met other writers who had already accomplished that, I again felt like an impostor.

“What do you do?” It’s a simple question with the ability to inspire doubt in those who write. The answer is simple. “I am a writer.” With my first novel being published soon, I now say boldly that I am a writer. Not really. Usually I say, “I’m a receptionist.” It’s true, but that’s my day job. My heart’s job is being a writer. Why is it incredibly difficult to acknowledge this publicly?

I’m not alone. Others in my Christian writers’ group have expressed the same struggle with impostor syndrome. And it doesn’t end there. I’ve read many blog posts and articles written by authors in all stages of writing that share the same basic struggle. “Am I good enough?”  “Do I really have what it takes to be a writer?” “What if that was the only story I had to tell?” They may dress it up a little differently depending on their level of expertise, but it means the same thing. Each of us is trying to determine if the moniker of “author” fits.

Impostor syndrome rears its ugly head in countless areas of life. Even our faith is not immune to its symptoms. How many times have we failed and had to wrestle with nagging doubts telling us maybe we don’t really believe as much as we think we do? If we were real Christians, we wouldn’t struggle so much with doing the right things and saying no to sin. How can we teach on Sunday when Monday through Saturday is a struggle to do right that we lose as much as we win? How can we call ourselves Christians when we feel we are cheap imitations of followers of Christ?

The problem is someone is always further down the road. As writers someone has more published books, higher sales, or can write full-time and still manage to pay the bills. As Christians, we look to the one who prays for hours daily and never neglects their Bible study, the one who doesn’t struggle with the sins we fail at avoiding, and the one who exhibits all the fruits of the Spirit in equal abundance while our own spiritual fruit salad is limited to a couple apple slices and maybe a grape. We see their shining examples and wonder what we’re doing wrong.

We need to stop looking at everyone else. We aren’t in competition with other believers. Scripture doesn’t say, “have the mind of the lady across the aisle”. It says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). It doesn’t say to live the way your deacon lives. Scripture says we are to walk “even as he (Jesus) walked” (1 John 2:6). When we start looking to Jesus as our example, we realize we fall woefully short, and everyone else does to. It’s not an excuse to stay where we are. Scripture tells us repeatedly to keep becoming more Christ-like. We all have a ways to go, and I’m not less of a Christian because my struggles are different than your struggles. No longer are we impostor Christians. Instead, we are works in progress, and God “who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

By the Book: Spend time finding out who God says you are. Start with 1 Corinthians 12:27, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 1:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Romans 6:11-14. Then, read the stories of Elijah, Peter, David, and Abraham. Pay attention to their failures as well as their successes. Take encouragement from knowing that just as God used them, He can use you too!

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    The Conversation

  1. Brenda Lynett Gates says:

    Thank you, Heather! We just discussed this and I hear it (self doubt complaints) from so many people on so many aspects of life. Thanks for the encouragement to keep my focus on the proper line of sight. I am not good enough, but He is!

    • bythebook724 says:

      I don’t think any profession or person is immune. I’ve seen it time and again in ministry, work environments, parenting groups, and every other place people get together. If we could only see ourselves the way God does!

  2. Vi Stearns says:

    Just remember. They/we all have been where you are. Are you an author? Of course! Are you a published author? Soon to be. I’m writing my first book. I’m on the last chapter. Then on to choosing the title, the cover, the formatting, the editing, and the publishing. One step at a time.
    Signed, Future Author

  3. Marla says:

    “…a couple of apple slices and maybe a grape”…hilarious & true!

  4. I had a dear friend, that is a graphic artist for Moody Publishers, (I say that because she has been around a few authors in her day! ;)) say that you are a ‘writer’ until you are published, and then you are an ‘author’. It has been very difficult to wrap my mind around that one! Another great post here. I think the most difficult ‘role’ for me so far was when my husband was the pastor of our small church for two years. We had been there for about 10 years, working in the AWANA program, Sunday school, etc. but to take on that new title was difficult. I never thought I was living up to other’s expectations of me. When all I needed to be praying about was God’s plans for me. That could probably be applied to all situations in life! 😉

    • bythebook724 says:

      I agree. I am also a pastor’s wife (a position I never wanted since I am also a pastor’s kid who got to see the business side of church growing up!). It has it’s blessings, for sure. But it does have things that make it a challenge too. I believe that struggle to remember it isn’t what others think you should say or do but what God wants you to say or do is a very real one for a lot of us.