S1E5: The Imposter Syndrome
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
We Love You So Much...
... That we recorded this twice for you. Hugs and kisses!
The Imposter Syndrome! “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”
We created a few examples that may portray what some people are struggling through:
Example of a mother: I am supposed to be a superwoman with a clean house, perfect treats for my kids that are healthy, and always be sweet with time to listen to everyone―but I can’t sleep because I yelled at my kids about the messy house and let them eat pizza for the third night this week.
Example of a single adult in the LDS church: I am supposed to be a temple-worthy young adult working hard to find my eternal spouse where I can have a picture-perfect family with annual reunions and be perfect in my calling―but work is hard which consumes all my time and I don’t have the time or money to visit family for the holidays.
Example of a convert: I am so glad to be a part of the church and I try hard―but I fail because this lifestyle is new and hard and I’ll never be as good as the Relief Society President.
There is so much drive in the church especially that can be extreme. Especially in Example #2. Get married, have kids, and that’s it. It doesn’t talk about keeping a good family or how to do that. We don’t address having a good relationship and so on. This, at least, is what we believe is thrown at single adults.
Often we don’t feel good enough when everyone around us is getting married. It’s easy to feel that we’re not good enough in this church, even when we have our recommends.
Our Personal Experiences
As Kaylee explained, “It’s about realizing where all these precedents are being set up for people and deciding if they are really that important or not.” We get to choose our standards and our limits. If we are not married now, that’s okay and it doesn’t make us an imposter in the church. “We tie things into our worth that doesn’t belong there.”
“I feel that the pressure that comes from this syndrome,” Tracy said, “is definitely from society and the culture we have. Perfect example is me turning 30! The weeks leading up to it, I was getting overly anxious with myself thinking that my life isn’t fixed, I’m not married, I’m not working, I’m not where I thought I would be when I was 30… The pressure I put on myself that by 30, I'm supposed to have all these things in a row and realizing that I don’t have any of them was stressing me out. Then my 30th rolls around, I get my tattoo, and I realize it’s just another day... Why am I freaking out? I have time.”
Life won’t blow up when things don’t work out like that.
No one is going to come tell you, “Get married or else.”
All these external influences are going to be telling us what to do, when to do it, and so on. Whether in society or the church, we can never seem to escape these voices. But we hear them loudest when we forget that the personal plan that Heavenly Father has set for each of us is going to be totally different from anyone else’s. There is no earthly timetable that He follows.
There are a lot of expectations we feel we need to meet. When we don’t achieve everything, we feel the pressure to keep doing more. Greatly accomplished people feel the same way; writing books, doing great deeds, they never feel they are done or have achieved everything they needed to. “I might have been able to do this but it doesn't mean that I’m perfect. There’s still work for me to do.”
“That’s the interesting thing about ‘enduring to the end.’ You don’t just endure to the next step. You keep going.”
Your potential keeps growing. You take a step forward and it grows more. You keep meeting that and it will keep growing. Yet even when we do, we can still feel that we lack value. Whether it’s our careers, families, or other issues, it’s so hard for us to feel that we have earned everything.
The External Expectations
We face a lot in this world. No matter how well-meaning, just about anything has the possibility to inflict lasting trauma. The more that we face external expectations in the world, the harder it can be to separate our personal expectations to what other people want from us.
Society: Society tells us arbitrary milestones and accomplishments we should have made at certain ages with our careers, marital status, and everything else.
Social Media: We are constantly going to be comparing ourselves to others, and we are always going to be harder on ourselves than the Lord is with us.
Unrealistic Expectations from Parents: Enough said… every problem comes from our parents.
“The Lord will not give us a laundry list of things to do. He will give us one thing to work on.”
We take it one step at a time. We are harder on ourselves than anyone else is. The Lord is looking at the big picture.
We always want to take a moment for a big shout-out to therapy!
We need to take care of ourselves mentally. The imposter syndrome is just one struggle that most of us face. Getting real help to handle these issues can help us understand our pain and learn to move on from it. This provides an objective outsiders’ point of view who can help you see what your coping mechanisms are, where you’ve been traumatized, and will help you build the right tools to help you be better.
Who Gets the Imposter Syndrome?
If you don’t, you’re a liar or a psychopath. Probably.
The majority of people experience this at one time or another. It may come and go. But it often returns.
Especially for those who are more prone to it. Those of the introverted nature and people pleasers will deal with this a lot. Even those who are self-aware are bound to fall into this issue at some time or another.
Tracy spoke to someone at one of our last RS activities who said that they overthink a lot. They latch onto one thought of the potential consequences of their actions, and they begin to obsess over the matter. It builds into guilt, shame, and sends you in a rabbit hole of thinking you’re not worthy.
We Get the Syndrome
We all go through the imposter syndrome. We all have those moments where we don’t feel like we are good enough. It happens.
And that’s okay.
But we also want you to know that you are doing SO MUCH BETTER than you think you are. You are doing so well. You are succeeding, adulting well, being as spiritual and worthy as the Lord needs you to be. You will be helped through this time in your life.
Kaylee had to take charge at work as a manager. It was a tricky situation and she had to pick up and figure out what to do. She didn’t feel qualified to make any decisions, but this issue directly affected her and her work. No one else could have done it for her. “I needed to learn how I can progress. Whether I succeed or fail in the moment, I am adulting. I am working hard... At least I am making progress.”
Even in recording this podcast, we were facing this problem. What do we know? We’re not experts. All we did was research on Google. Who is to say we are qualified for any of this?
We don’t know everything.
We are the imposters!
We’re not Sheri Dew. We’re imposter podcasters.
Seeing the Problem
There are going to be certain thoughts that we face and find ourselves struggling to move past. They are often common and subconscious but we can learn to recognize them and fight them. These can include:
I must not fail
I feel like a fake
It’s all down to luck
Success is no big deal (downplaying it)
Anyone can do it (downplaying success; “I’m not impressive”)
There is a great story by Max Lucado, ‘You Are Special’:
In the story, Punchinello lives in a village among other wooden toys. People got stickers, giving them to each other. Black dots were given to those who were “not good enough”: those who failed, messed up, or had too many black spots. Gold stars were for the pretty people and those who succeeded. Punchinello sometimes had them (black spots and gold stars both) and sometimes not.
Then he met Lucy who didn’t have any stickers at all. How was that possible? He saw people try to put stickers on her but none of them would stick. When Punchinello asked Lucy about it, she explained, “I go up to the workshop every day to see Eli. I think you should do that too.”
So he did. He got there, got scared, and turned around. Eli called him out by name and invited him back. Shy Punchinello explained what Lucy had told him. He doesn’t want the stickers anymore.
Eli nodded and said, “You don’t have to worry about what they say. You don’t have to worry about their stickers. I’m the one who made you. And I made you to be who you are meant to be.”
Feeling better about himself, Punchinello eventually decides to leave. Eli parts ways with him saying, “Come back tomorrow so I can remind you how great you are.” And as Punchinello goes down the street, one of his stickers falls off.
It’s a great visualization of how God has sent us to this world surrounded by people with their opinions. All we have to do is turn to our maker and say, “Hey, what do you think of me? I could use some healing,” and the Lord will turn to us and say, “You are special. You are made just as you are meant to be. You are exactly who you are meant to be.”
No matter our situation, you don’t need black spots or gold stars to tell you your worth.
Noticing the Atonement
We explain, “The atonement is there to remind us that no matter how far off the path we go, and how far we fall from the Lord’s grace, as long as we are willing to turn back to him and take that step to make things right, he is always going to welcome us back with open arms and say ‘I’m proud of you. Let me help you get to the next step.”
“What you create doesn’t have to be perfect…Don’t let fear of failure discourage you” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
That’s all we are trying to do. We can’t be so scared of fear and failing and focusing on them that we’re letting our progress slip by the wayside.
“We can be experts, and we can be successful, and that doesn’t mean we need to be without fault.” As Mormon women, we have often been raised and taught to think that we need to be perfect and without fault. And while we may know this fairy-tale type of existence is unrealistic and impossible, we still believe that those around us have it more together than we do—others do it better, know it better, and are just plain better! However, even the top experts are not 100% correct and “the best” 100% of the time. - Aspiring Mormon Women Blog
As women, we are taught to be perfect all the time. Look perfect, raise perfect children, etc. Which we can’t do so we always fall short of it. We need to cut that. Get rid of that negativity.
This isn’t the Lord’s expectations, however. He has other desires for us.
Other Famous Imposters
We have a lot of examples through history, including the scriptures, of people experiencing imposter syndrome and how they dealt with it.
Nephi has the line where he says, “O wretched man that I am.” That has imposter syndrome written all over it after what he has done. He says that he isn’t good enough, he doesn’t know why he has such power when he has so many weaknesses. He wasn’t perfect and he was trying hard. We shouldn’t discount the struggles that we go through just to focus on our accomplishments. A balance is necessary.
2nd Nephi 4:17-20 is where Nephi is basically reaming himself a new one:
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
Nephi feels so inadequate even as the Nephi in the scriptures. He built a boat, he did so much. And he still struggled. It’s a great example because it shows that even the greatest people in the world can have a fleeting moment of the imposter syndrome. Nor can we ignore how he brings it back to say:
"Why should I yield to sin because of my flesh? Why should I give in?" (Paraphrased)
We are freaking awesome. If you can’t remember that, Nephi can. And so can Lizzo. You are 100% that bitch even when you are crying your heart out.
Moses is another great example, called as a prophet to guide the people, directly from the Lord in a burning bush. “I’m God, and you’re doing this, by the way.” Yet Moses still thought that he was unqualified, reminding the Lord that he was slow of speech. But the Lord assured him that He would make ways for Moses to do this.
Eventually, Satan tried to get at Moses but he was able to defend himself this time:
“Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?” - Moses 1
(Sometimes you need to read the scriptures with some sass.)
Moses knew who Satan was, who God was, and who he was. He was able to push back. He fought back against the Father of Lies. He knew as a son of God, that he could do anything.
We can have those moments where we acknowledge our weaknesses and shortcomings, and still turn around to say, “I’m fabulous.”
There is also the story of Gideon, who didn’t believe that it was really the Lord talking to him. Then he couldn’t believe that the Lord would have him to command an army, claiming that he was ‘the least in my family.’ He kept questioning himself, not feeling qualified.
That’s what the Lord does. He takes a small part of us people, the bits of us, and turns us into more than what we believed we were.
Joseph Smith was fourteen freaking years old. At fourteen, Kaylee was in her theater phase and Tracy was getting her braces on. The imposter syndrome is real.
He was able to do so much, carrying the weight of the church on his shoulders. He had so little and worked so hard to bring about the church.
It’s Going to Be Okay
“We are going to be asked to do hard things. And that’s okay. Just because we don’t feel adequate, that we feel like frauds and imposters, we just have to remember that the Lord is with us.”
“As a matter of fact, if we try to base our concept of who we are on our background and our accomplishments on earth, we will probably always experience Spiritual Imposter Syndrome. Because we are a fraud when we build our self-worth on worldly achievements or our superficial physical appearance.
In contrast, when we anchor our identity in our divine nature, just as Moses did, we will have the kind of confidence to authentically declare in the face of anyone (including the adversary): “I AM A CHILD OF GOD!””
It totally comes from society’s focus on achievements and our church’s idea of success.
When we think about the grand scheme of things, this life is just a blip. We are so much more than what we are doing on this earth. We are doing better than we think we are. Forget what society is saying; this pressure comes from Satan. All thoughts of “I am not good enough” comes from him.
“You are surrounded by imperfect people like yourself, who are relying on a merciful God to provide for them the ability to become what He knows they can become. A God who, through His son, has given us a way to overcome the doubt and fear of Imposter Syndrome and replace it with the confidence and faith of an authentic child of God.”
Everything you are saying about those uplifting words, it comes from the fact that we are children of God, someone who is perfect. Often we don’t feel we can do the mission right, have a calling, have a job- because we aren't smart enough, good enough, etc. But that’s not the case:
“While there are many experiences like the one we are having today, full of spiritual power and confirmation, there are also days when we feel inadequate and unprepared, when doubt and confusion enter our spirits, when we have difficulty finding our spiritual footing. Part of our victory as disciples of Christ is what we do when these feelings come...We [must] remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough’—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right. Remember Nephi’s words: ‘I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” - Neil L. Andersen
You don’t know everything. BUT YOU KNOW ENOUGH.
Knowing that God loves you can be enough. There are also things we can do about it. These are not just feelings that we want to sweep under the rug.
Recognize those imposter feelings when they are there. Awareness is always the first step.
One of the most important things you can do is recognize these feelings for what they are—a serious case of the natural man surfacing to deny you your true identity. This is a part of our personality that is an enemy to God and tends to heed to the whisperings of the adversary, rather than the Holy Ghost.
Consider the context- why aren’t you 100% confident?
Satan is the first and original imposter, right? While we might just feel like a fraud, he really is a fraud. And he wants us all to succumb to those feelings that we are no good and never will be, so we might as well give up and give in to him. If you are feeling this way because you are genuinely unworthy from sins, fix it & begin the repentance process.
Rewrite it- reframe your words from thinking you are useless to explain the feeling.
Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s not ‘I am angry’ but ‘I feel angry.’ There is a difference.
Talk about it- either out loud to yourself or to someone you trust
Embrace & Celebrate failure
Failure is a great opportunity to learn. Celebrate the times you fail because you’re learning. If you were only successful in your life, you’d never learn or grow at all. And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it.
Be kind to yourself
You are on a spiritual journey in this life. You are meant to have imperfections, shortcomings, and weaknesses. You are meant to grow, change, and become the person Heavenly Father wants you to become. Let yourself grow at YOUR OWN pace.
Things impact us. We can let this happen and make this happen. Amy Cuddy’s 2012 talk at TEDGlobal where she shared the research she conducts on how body language affects not only how we view others, but how we view ourselves. (It really is worth the 20 minutes to [re]watch the video).
“Standing in a posture of confidence—even when we don’t feel confident—can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.” She distinguishes between “faking it until you become it” versus “faking it until you make it.”
Our Heavenly Parents Care
We are meant to make mistakes. We are here to learn, to grow, to fail, to become the person our Heavenly Father wants us to be.
“We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13).
The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being...We do not obtain our heavenly reward by punching a time clock. What is essential is that our labors in the workplace of the Lord have caused us to become something. For some of us, this requires a longer time than for others.
What is important in the end is what we have become by our labors. Many who come in the eleventh hour have been refined and prepared by the Lord in ways other than formal employment in the vineyard. We must not give up hope. We must not stop striving. We are children of God, and it is possible for us to become what our Heavenly Father would have us become.” - Dallin H. Oaks
You should read this every day for the rest of your life. Just saying.
It’s okay if we take more time to learn and grow. Some people are naturally drawn toward being charitable, etc. It can take us more work and effort to get somewhere.
Tracy explained, “Ultimately what we become by our labors and our efforts is what matters to the Lord. It doesn’t matter how long it took us to get there, it just matters that we get there.”
The journey is different for everyone. As we meet people, they are all at different moments in their lives. We can’t compare. Focus on our refinement and who we can become.
“Fear ye not…The Lord shall fight for you. Cast not away therefore your confidence.” - Exodus 14:13-14
The Lord is with us. 100%.
He has confidence in our abilities. He wants us to communicate and work with him. That’s something we will battle, so we need to keep trying. Considering it more often allows us to put more into perspective. It’s one of the battles we are facing in the moment but it may not be one of the battles we face for the rest of our lives. In a sense, we have the chance to “get over it” with hard work, help, and effort.
Things can be better tomorrow if we’re willing to try a little harder today.