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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fake It Till You Make It and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves


I have recently been preoccupied by the concept of imposter syndrome.  Well, if I’m honest I think I may have always been preoccupied by this concept, but I didn’t know it had a name until last spring.  I also didn’t know it was something that other people felt… lots of other people.  I want to ask a lot of why questions, but I’m not sure there will ever be an adequate answer to why qualified… and loved… people often feel as if they are not enough or as if they do not belong in whatever good circumstances in which they find themselves.  It’s a quandary, to be sure.  It actually doesn’t make sense.  But I wonder if there are underlying things we tell ourselves that lead to this dilemma.

This got me thinking about the phrase, “Fake it Till You Make It.”  I have uttered these words far too many times and attempted to live into them more than that, and I do not think I am alone in this (see: masses of people suffering from imposter syndrome).  I think we have this idea stuck in our minds that if we work hard and push toward our goals that we are somehow pretending to be people we are not until we finally attain those dreams, which might account for at least part of why we feel we do not belong when we get there.  But how does (or should) this change if the plans we are pursuing are not our own?

Solomon lays out the human predicament rather poetically in Ecclesiastes (the whole book, but this phrase, specifically, for today): “for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” (2:11b, NRSV).  Perhaps the wisest mere human being of all time, and certainly accomplished beyond what most anyone could possibly imagine, Solomon was arguably tortured by imposter syndrome and an endless search for meaning, particularly in relationship to self-indulgent disillusionment regarding what actually matters. 

But it was the apostle Paul who stopped me in my tracks, this week, with these words to the Ephesians: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children” (5:1, NRSV).  Imitators.  So, hold the phone, did Paul just say, “fake it till you make it”?  Maybe, but probably not, because context matters, and Paul encourages the Ephesians (and dare I say, also us) to imitate God, as beloved children, and I think that makes all the difference.  Beloved children belong.  They (we) are not imposters but impressionable, deeply loved and wanted people who may be transformed day by day into something resembling who they (we) were always intended to be, by following the example given to them (us) in Jesus. 

Oh.  Faking it will never do.  This stuff is real.

Beloved friends, life is hard enough when we find ourselves in painful circumstances.  If you happen to be in a good place, don’t make it any more difficult.  You belong. 

L.