By: Sammi Cuevas, Resonate Boise
Almost immediately upon graduating college, the phrase my 10th grade history teacher always said finally made sense to me - “the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know.” Most recent graduates struggle upon entering the real world, where you do not have the Mad-Libs type script written out for you. “I am going to go to (University name) for college. I will study (College Major). My graduation day is (Date of Graduation).”
The thought “I do not know what I am going to do with my life” crosses your mind in a different way. In college, friends and family asked me what my plans were post graduation, and I had no answer for them. After college, it’s different. It’s game time, and there are no supports in place to lean on. It’s not acceptable anymore to say, “Well I do not know what I am doing after I graduate but for now I am doing this or that.”
In 12+ years of school, if you pass a unit it can feel all encompassing, like you know all you need to on the subject. For instance, if I got an A on an Impressionism Era test in my Art History class I would have thought there must be very little left for me to learn. However, I would never have been able to write a scholarly article including the necessary intricacies of the topic that someone who was an expert on the subject would.
Upon graduating college, I started directing the children’s ministry at Resonate. I truly felt like I was as prepared as I could have been for this job. I was heavily involved in kids ministry, and I received my degree in Elementary Education. However, I often felt like an imposter. I did not know the answer to basic questions about the structure, I knew very little about different curricula, and I was gravely under-prepared in training volunteers. I often felt like I did not belong because I felt like I was drowning. This was a stark contrast to the years prior where I was not in charge and felt confident. About myself, I thought, I do not belong. I hope no one finds me out.
Fast forward 3 years, I entered graduate school and repeated the sinking feeling of inadequacy and deceitfulness. I got into this program by a mistake. I hope no one finds out how much I do not know. Talking to a professor in one of my classes, she could sense my unease and doubt. This was the first time I had heard of Imposter Syndrome. She explained to me that imposter syndrome is the idea that you’ve only arrived where you are by chance, not because of work or qualifications. Thus, you are inevitably going to be found out as a fraud.
Through every season before graduating, there were very specific steps; there was always a clear path and set schedule, each night of the week, or even the next year. After college, structure isn’t as clear. After graduation, just like taking ownership and responsibility in a job, it is time to take ownership of your faith and choose community and growth.
I often struggled with feeling like an imposter in my faith. I have had thoughts like I do not have enough verses memorized. I do not read my Bible enough. Maybe I am not prepared to do ministry like I thought.
The good news is that I am not an imposter or a fraud because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross (Colossians 1:9-12). There is nothing that I can do to add or take away from the identity God gave me because of His sacrifice. Therefore, I should not be living my life feeling as though I am an amazing, mediocre, or horrible Christian, because my status with God has nothing to do with what I have done but has everything to do with what Christ did on the cross.
Therefore, knowing the truth that we have nothing to add to or take away from the gift God gave us, we can freely do the “works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Just like in the workplace when you feel inadequate, you have a choice. You can own it and have the humility to endure and learn, or you can let your pride get in the way and stay stuck. The difference is that in the workplace you actually do earn your merit or status based on how you perform, while in the Kingdom of God your status is already bought by Jesus. You can choose to believe that you are a fraud and all the things you used to do in college such as sharing the Gospel, going to church, and living in community, may not be for you anymore. Or you can choose to live in gratitude and humility, growing into who God made you to be.
We cannot start to live an empowered life if we believe that we will ever “make it.” We will always be in process and in need of grace. The good thing about never being able to reach sufficiency is that we will always be dependent on the Lord (Proverbs 3:4-5). Reliance on the Lord leads to humility; a humble person is ready to be refined into Christlikeness (James 4:10). An intriguing thought is that the very thing that can lead us into the perception that we are a fraud is the exact situation that God uses to advance us in our spiritual maturity. The demand is that we own where we are with honesty and humility, not trying to appear to be in a different state than we are like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ time (Matthew 23:25-26). Because Christ’s sufficiency frees us to admit our deficiencies.
Let us choose humility and realize that we are not imposters, no matter how the world makes us feel. However, we are inadequate to live our lives fully how God intended without reliance on Him (John 15:5) so we should be thankful for a realization of our limitations. We can start to realize our limitations by prayer for God to show us where we are not relying on Him. We can have accountability in deep community and honest communication. We can be refined, challenged, and experience growth through the reading and application of the Bible to our lives (Hebrews 4:12). As we overcome the imposter syndrome, we can readily aim to make an impact through our careers and our faith in the world around us.