Imposter Syndrome

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11

I recently described myself to a friend as a Christian blogger, and right after I said it I had a silent freak out. “Who am I to call myself a Christian blogger?” I thought. I haven’t gone to divinity school. I never even took a religion class in college! I’m just a girl who bought a web domain on Google for $10. Furthermore, I’ve been procrastinating like crazy on blog writing lately. I’ve been having trouble getting motivated and thinking of writing topics, and I’ve even been doing the dishes and sorting through my inbox rather than finish blog posts. I’m pretty far from my image of a Christian blogger.

One of the ways that I like to procrastinate is by reading blogs and articles other people have written. During one such reading sesh, I came across several articles about imposter syndrome. Though I hadn’t heard that specific term used before the last few months, the concept made immediate sense. Wikipedia describes imposter syndrome as “a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” I had a light bulb moment. “This is what I have,” I web-diagnosed myself, “I have imposter syndrome!”

I am all too familiar with that critical voice in my head that questions my abilities and paralyzes my actions. For example, I distinctly remember having a fear during my first year of teaching that one of my student’s parents was going to call the local news station and let them know that a fraud was teaching at their school. I dreaded the day I would wake up to TV reporters outside of my apartment who would break the scandal of my inadequacy as a teacher. Yikes!

I was paralyzed by my fear of being found out as an imposter teacher, yet I knew I had to do something because there were literally children counting on me. I would try to imagine what a real teacher would do, and then I would do those things. Real teachers would probably make lesson plans, read books about pedagogy, grade papers on time, and create classroom management plans. I just kept doing those things, and, after a while, it worked. I had to fake it till I felt it for a long time, but eventually I internalized my role as a teacher.

In the spirit of faking it till I make it, I decided that to deal with my recent blogger imposter syndrome I would imitate what I imagine a real Christian blogger would probably do when struggling with their blog: turn to the Bible. Thankfully, quite a few Biblical characters struggled with imposter syndrome, too.

One of the most memorable and flawed characters in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses is born a Hebrew, but after Pharaoh decides to massacre all of the male Hebrew babies, his mother puts him in a basket on the river and he’s adopted by Pharaoh’s own daughter and raised as an Egyptian. One day when Moses is an adult, he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, and he kills the Egyptian. Word spreads about the murder, and Moses has to flee his homeland. He’s cut off from both the Egyptian family he grew up with and the enslaved Hebrews he was descended from. Talk about an imposter! I mean, who was he? A Hebrew sell-out? An ungrateful adopted Egyptian? He was basically an outcast everywhere. And yet! And yet, he belonged to God.

Moses moves to Midian where he starts a family and works as a shepherd. One day, God appears to Moses in a burning bush and tells him that he is the one God has chosen to deliver God’s people out of Pharaoh’s oppressive grasp. When God shares his grand escape plan with Moses, Moses’ fears and doubts pour out of him. Recalling his past failures, he asks, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” And later he says, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.” A short time later he shares, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Clearly Moses doesn’t feel like he has what it takes to be the deliverer of his people that God envisions.

Maybe there’s some Biblical precedent to this fake it till you feel it idea. Moses’ doubts don’t go away in an instant. In fact, Moses keeps returning to God with his fears throughout the Exodus, and, just as continually, God gives Moses encouragement and shows him miraculous signs. Slowly Moses learns to trust God and to obey despite his fears. Moses eventually delivers his people and becomes a vessel for some of the greatest miracles recorded in the Old Testament. That’s quite a legacy for an imposter!

What about you? Are there areas of your life where you feel like an imposter? What encouragement can you draw from Moses’ story? I’d love to hear your thoughts below, and thanks for reading!

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