Recently I had a conversation with my sisters about our greatest fears. Fears about how we fail. Fears about how we live. Fears about how we’re perceived. Fears about being women, wives, and mothers in this world.
I consider myself a fearful person. I’ve got anxiety, concern, and worry written on my DNA. Thanks, Grandma! Having fears is a piece of cake, but sharing them with others, well, that’s another scary story.
I teach my clients that the only fears worth listening to are those that could threaten or cause harm to your life or the life of another. The other fears, the irrational ones, well, those just have to be confronted. Oh, to practice what I teach! So, you want to know what I fear? I fear being a fraud. An imposter. A sham.
I am a pastor’s wife, and yet, I’m not very spiritual…whatever that means. Fraud.
I am a therapist that specializes in eating disorder treatment, but I am constantly re-evaluating my own relationship with food, exercise, and my body. Fraud.
I am a believer in tolerating difficult emotion, but I don’t always handle my own emotions with grace and health. I sometimes numb them. Fraud.
I just completed the licensure process to become a counseling supervisor, but most days at work, I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. Fraud.
Do I really have anything to offer? Am I just kidding myself when I dream about the future? Are the people in my life that compliment me and encourage me just seeing me from a power-differentiated stance? Am I just fooling them? These are the questions that run through my head on an almost-daily basis.
Until recently, my husband was the only one that had ever heard me say them out loud. It was during one of my bi-weekly, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed rants, and it wasn’t pretty! And then I had the great idea to tell my supervisor at work what I was thinking and feeling. In the most nonchalant way imaginable, she said, “Oh, you’re dealing with imposter syndrome.” Wait, what? Hold the phone! There’s an actual name for it? “Well, it’s not a DSM diagnosis, but it is a common label used in the psychology field,” she explained.
As any completely sane and rational human would, I went home and Googled the hauntingly accurate term. I learned that imposter syndrome is the fear of being a fraud even amidst great success. It is common to women, especially those that hold themselves to a standard of excellence. After reading a few tidbits, I texted and then called the most high-achieving friend I have. She is a pediatric surgeon and published researcher; surely, she’s heard of imposter syndrome. Lucky for me, she had just finished reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg, so she had plenty to say.
As we hung up the phone, I started reflecting on the various ideas that were running through my mind. I quickly started to feel the pressure of having to hurry up and work towards getting rid of this imposter in my life. I’ve got to quit the tunnel vision. I’ve got to stop comparing myself to others. I’ve got to give up compensating for my insecurities. I’ve got to cool it on the self-promoting tactics.
I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta…
This line of thinking was leading me into a full-blown gasping-for-air panic mode.
“Ahhhhhhhhh. God, what do I do? I don’t want to be an imposter, but getting rid of it seems like so much work. Life is feeling like a game of whack a mole, and I’m not sure I can handle any more moles!”
His calm voice swept through my brain. “Shhhh…” he whispered to me, as if He was comforting me like a newborn baby. “You’re already and not yet.”
Already and not yet.
Already and not yet.
A lovely collision of contradiction.
One phrase. One breath. One thought that took away my anxiety about the imposter.
You’re already loved. Already worthy. Already gifted. Already designed for a purpose. Already trained. Already living with access to my power. Already made in My image. Already enough. Already mine.
And… (Not but. AND. To reiterate that these two ideas can exist at the same time.)
You’re not yet fully who you will become. Not yet finished being used to help people. Not yet complete and mature in Me. Not yet done with the sanctification process. Not yet done learning.
I know that “already and not yet” is theological term used to describe God’s kingdom: it’s already here on earth, but it’s not yet fully realized until Jesus comes back. However, it has now become my new mantra. Anytime I catch myself wrestling with the imposter, I whisper it to myself. Already and not yet.
Perhaps you can too? Even if you don’t believe it, hold your head high with the confidence that I believe it about you.
“Shhhhh…you’re already and not yet.”