Imposter Syndrome – Hidden Plight of High Achievers

“I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.”
– PSALM 121:1-2 (TPT)

“I’m not qualified for this”, these are words which cross my mind more times than I should allow. What starts of as a creeping feeling of self-doubt, someway somehow, completely overwhelms. I know that I can do whatever I need to do, but still, the feelings of inadequacy are so strong sometimes. Regardless of the compliments, high praise, and evidence of success in my life, nothing seems to ease these thoughts.

For me, the feeling of inadequacy has been most strong in transitional stages of life – a new job, a new course, a new house move etc. I felt this way a lot at university, I felt like I knew nothing and was somehow cruising through the course and I was sure I would be uncovered as a fraud. I completed university, completed my training year, and started work as a pharmacist. I constantly felt underqualified for the role, I even felt like stepping down in the early days of being a manager and I wanted to switch to an ‘easier’ job. But the truth is, I trained for the role and I was more than capable of accomplishing it. However, the self-doubt and constant feeling of inadequacy was so strong.

This feeling is far more common than is spoken about. It is a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome.  

What is imposter syndrome? A feeling that you are not as ‘good’ as you seem – a feeling that, at any moment, you will be uncovered as a fraud. Imposter syndrome says that everything that you have achieved has just been by chance and, really, you are not much good at all. This is even the case when the facts and evidence of success are staring you in the face.

Imposter syndrome commonly rears its head during moments of success or promotion – starting a new job, taking on added responsibilities, graduating from school. A person would often feel that they are not qualified for any promotion and the tendency is there to recoil rather than strive for more.

This phenomenon is commonly seen in high achievers and ‘go-getters’ and, because of this, is often something that is suffered in silence. Would anyone really believe you if you were to voice how deeply incompetent you feel?

Imposter syndrome is not something that is seen as a diagnosable disorder but, if left unchecked, can lead to severe anxiety, depression, or chronic stress. Hence, it is something that needs to be recognised and effectively dealt with.

RECOGNISING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Disclaimer: Any condition or feeling is unique to each individual person so there are no hard and fast rules here. However, common traits of those with imposter syndrome are:

Feeling Inadequate: a common feeling that you are unqualified and generally lacking confidence in your abilities.

Fear of Being Uncovered as a Fraud: unique to imposter syndrome, is the constant feeling of being uncovered. It is a feeling that everyone around you will discover that you are less than best.

Perfectionism: wanting everything to be perfect all the time, often setting unrealistically high expectations.

Downplaying Achievements: frequently speaking negatively about yourself/achievements. Brushing off the work and effort taken to achieve goals and tasks – “oh, I didn’t work that hard”, even though you may have stayed up all night working.

As a believer, I seek help in Abba Father. He is a Jehovah Shammah, the ultimate present helper. When struck with imposter syndrome, it often leaves me feeling weak, helpless, and below standard. But the Father knows all things and He is able to help through these moments and we have the ability to come to Him will all boldness (Hebrews 4:16). This is the confidence we have as believers.

“I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.”
– PSALM 121:1-2 (TPT)

This scripture reigns true for moments of imposter syndrome. The writer was looking around, longing for God’s help; he knew that he could not do it alone and needed guidance. We all feel like this at some point or another – we find ourselves lost and helpless, we find ourselves feeling “not good enough”. In these moments, we must come to the realisation that true help comes only from the Lord. True help is one that is pure, authentic and will not fail. Imposter syndrome may have been driving you to work hard to give an appearance of holding it all together but, when you rely on the true help of God, you do not have to have it all together because He does. He is our Creator, if God created you then surely, He knows what you need? You were not made to rely on your own strength and ability but to rely on His grace to help you. Seek His help, seek His guidance and look to Him for everything.

OVERCOME IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Prayer is first and foremost the most important way to tackle any issue – be honest with God and then, open up to trusted people. Here are some practical ways in which you can overcome:

Acknowledge the Issue: The first step to overcoming any issue is admitting there is one in the first place. If you know that this is something you struggle with, be honest and open about it. Sit down and prayerfully analyse what causes these feelings, what are the triggers? Write these down and submit it to God in prayer.

Talk to Someone: We are not made to venture through life alone and it is said that a problem shared is a problem half solved. Once you know there is an issue and you have acknowledged this and opened up to God, then you can seek godly counsel. Find someone you trust who can pray and help you stay accountable to your progress.

Be Grateful: Imposter syndrome is something that makes you very introspective, you can lose sight of all that is right when focussing on your weaknesses. Instead, make a conscious effort to thank God for everything in your life. By doing so, you shift the pressure to achieve from yourself as you recognise God as the source of all.

Rely on God: You do not have to do it alone; He is your helper, and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

SCRIPTURES THAT CONQUER IMPOSTER SYNDROME

The Word of God is always a weapon, these are scriptures to meditate on and memorise for moments when imposter syndrome tries to arise:

  1. I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
    But then I realize that our true help and protection
    come only from the Lord,
    our Creator who made the heavens and the earth. Psalm 121:1-2 (TPT)

  2. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

  3. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
        I will not be disgraced.
    Therefore have I set my face like flint,
        and I know I will not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:7 (NIV)

  4. Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favour to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]. Hebrews 4:16 (AMPC)

  5. God is our refuge and strength,
        always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NLT)

It is my prayer that as you have read through this post, you have been encouraged to overcome. Imposter syndrome is a very real reality for many but, I want you to know, that with the grace of God you can overcome. You do not have to be perfect; you do not have to have it all together, but you do need to rely on Almighty God.

Abba Father,

We thank you for we know our help comes from you. We do not have to be perfect; we do not have to know everything. We rely on you.

Please, help us to overcome feelings of inadequacy. Help us see your power in all we do. Amen.

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