Sunday, July 14, 2013

God Knows You Are Not An Imposter

I recently read the book Lean In, by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It addresses women, work and the "will" to lead. I was reviewing some excerpts from the book today while preparing for a teleconference talk that I was giving this evening. There was a specific topic that struck me as being very relevant to what I've been writing about with the 63 Day Blog. I'm going to share a few of the excerpts and what it meant to me as it relates to "faith".

In the book, Sheryl addresses a very interesting issue for women, self-doubt. I don’t know if you’ll relate to this as much as I did…

She had attended a speech at Harvard while in college. The keynote speaker, Dr. Peggy McIntosh from the Wellesley Centers for Women, gave a talk called “Feeling Like a Fraud.” She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are—impostors with limited skills or abilities.

It’s strange because I remember feeling this way when I first started out working in the male-dominated financial services industry. I wore my dark pin-striped pant suit to look like I fit in…but then discovered I really didn’t when I didn’t join the men smoking cigars at business dinners!

This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name—imposter syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible to the impostor syndrome, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it.  Even the wildly successful writer and actress Tina Fey has admitted to these feelings. She once explained to a British newspaper, “The beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”

For women, feeling like a fraud is a symptom of a greater problem.  We consistently underestimate ourselves. Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is.

In a shocking way, I discovered when I read this part of the book that I could really relate to this concept of the imposter syndrome. I could relate to vacillating between the egomania of "I can do anything" to the feeling of "they are on to me, I'm a fraud!". Even as I write this article, I have a little of that feeling. "Who am I kidding, I'm not really a writer." Even though I just published a book that has gotten wonderful reviews!

What occurred to me today as I was pondering this phenomenon, is that we are not imposters in God's eyes. God knows our true heart. God knows our calling. God knows the path that is already determined for each of us. God has given each of us our own special set of skills, talents and abilities.

And so I realized that it comes down to being connected spiritually with a greater force and feeling in your heart that you are doing what you're supposed to be doing. Listen to that inner voice, because it just may be God trying to tell you that you are not an imposter at all, but that you are right where you belong.

Love and Prayers,

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