“Imposter syndrome?” my friend asked after I told her my hesitations about a project I was working on and all the reasons I felt unqualified. I had never heard the term and thought she was implying that I really was unqualified. Only after looking up “imposter syndrome” did I realize she was assuring me that my feelings of inadequacy were just that: feelings.
I’m not a naturally confident person. I second-guess what I say in conversations and preface my thoughts as suggestions, peppered with “might,” “maybe,” “perhaps,” and “if that works for you.” In text messages, I usually add an emoji to clarify that I won’t be disappointed if the other person ignores my suggestions.
When I was a teenager, I thought I would have everything figured out when I became an adult. That 18 was the magical age when I would become confident in everything I did because I would know everything there is to know about everything.
Then I turned 18 and felt no closer to knowing even most things.
Maybe by the time I turned 25? Or 30? But now, nearly a year into my 30s, I’m beginning to realize that there is no magical age when confidence and maturity suddenly characterize my life. It appears I’m going to have to learn how to be confident even when I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. And at the root of it? I think my lack of confidence is really just masking a fear of failure.
Where confidence lives
I’m studying Colossians this summer, and as I read the first chapter last week, I was struck by how Paul described God: “…the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Not “will qualify” or “here’s how you get qualified.” We already are qualified for an inheritance and a place to belong — for provision, protection and purpose — and our own abilities have nothing to do with it.
This is mind-blowing. How many times have I skimmed over this verse? Because of what Christ has done for me, I am qualified. Not in every facet of life. I’m clearly very much unqualified in many areas. But in the most important, eternal way I am qualified by the One who knows everything and never changes.
This is an earthshaking truth, and I have felt relief even while typing these last few sentences. But how does our eternal confidence translate to confidence in daily life?
Working it out
Foundational truth always affects our daily lives — and this is no exception. Knowing that Christ has already secured our inheritance and taken care of our deepest need can revolutionize how we look at our smaller needs. Here are a few things to remember when you feel your day-to-day confidence slipping:
Mistakes are opportunities to learn. We will make mistakes. We will mess up. We will be reminded why we struggle with confidence in the first place. But instead of letting a mistake get us down, we can chalk it up to gaining experience. As Nicolas Cage’s character in “National Treasure” paraphrased Thomas Edison: “I didn’t fail. I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a lightbulb.”
God redeems our mistakes and failures. When I was a kid, I read a book called “Mistakes That Worked.” It highlighted common inventions or discoveries (like potato chips) that supposedly came about because somebody made a mistake and then tried to salvage something of it. Sometimes we stumble onto great ideas unintentionally. Regardless, God can take any failure or mistake and make something good of it.
The important things are still true. It’s so incredibly freeing to know that no matter how much we fear messing up, we can’t mess up so much that we wreck God’s plans for us. We can’t fail so terribly that He rescinds His promises to us. No matter what, our God is still God. He is still in control. He is still loving us, working in and through us, and guiding us. For the Christian, even the worst-case scenarios are just a drop in the bucket compared to the glorious eternity ahead of us.
Go forth in confidence
What am I basing my confidence on? My own efforts? At some point those will fail me if they haven’t already. My past successes? Again, no future success is guaranteed. Anything in my own strength or power isn’t enough.
But when I base my confidence on the God who made me, called me, and has planned good works for me to do, I can rest in His ability to bring good out of my mistake-ridden, insufficient, accident-prone efforts.
We don’t have to fear mistakes and failure. I will make mistakes. Probably quite a few. Some will be embarrassing. But no imposter syndrome here; regardless past mistakes or future failures, I can walk into any situation with confidence. My God has qualified me, and no matter what, I can rest in that.
Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.