Is There Relief From The Imposter Syndrome? (Meditation on Ephesians 1:14)


Decorative Masks
Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Photo by Russell Smith

“You are a fraud.” 

Imagine opening your mailbox – the real one, not your email – and finding those words handwritten on a tidy notecard.  What would you feel?  How would you respond?

Next question:

How often do you mentally recite those words to yourself?

A lot of us do.   It’s a condition called the “Imposter Syndrome.”  I first learned about it from an article by Michelle Kerrigan.  She shares some powerful quotes that illustrate this mode of thought.  

  • “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?’ And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”–Meryl Streep
  • “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”  –Maya Angelou
  • “I still doubt myself every single day. What people believe is my self-confidence is actually my reaction to fear.”—Will Smith

It’s endemic, this feeling of being a pretender, of not being fit for your station.  Perhaps you too live with the looming fear that the facades of competence will be ripped away and the world will see you revealed as a charlatan, a poser, a sham?

Take comfort, then, in these words of Paul’s letter: “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” (Eph 1:14).

Have you ever had a document notarized?  A Notary Public watches you sign the document, and then stamps her seal to signify that your signature is genuine, bona fide.  

That’s pretty much what’s going in this passage.  The Holy Spirit is God’s seal, indicating that you are really and truly His child.  This isn’t based on anything you’ve done or earned.  It’s simply God’s good pleasure to extend you His grace through Christ.  You may be a screw up, but God seals you as His anyway.  You are His. 

“You are no fraud.  You are not an impostor.  You are a child of the King.” 

Try reciting those words to yourself instead.




2 thoughts on “Is There Relief From The Imposter Syndrome? (Meditation on Ephesians 1:14)

  1. How we know ourselves and what we know about ourselves is an important question. Many of us get our identify from possessions or people or our own self-talk or a mixture of those. But another question is “why?” What is in it for us if we get our identity from those things? Pleasure, status, affiliation, achievement, meaning. But God has much to say about seeking these things. If we seek these things we have disordered our priorities but if we seek God first, he will give us these blessings. He has given us all we need for life and godliness.

    If our internal mantra is “failure” or “child of the King,” it is possible that we could be seeking the blessing rather than the One who blesses. What does it look like to seek God when your internal self-talk is “failure?” Perhaps the self-talk reveals our guilt and the need for confession. Perhaps it reveals our misunderstanding or doubts about how we’ve been adopted into Christ’s righteousness. The Psalms can help us find refuge from the mess that encircles us by showing us what it looks like to seek God in the face of doubt, insecurity, failure, guilt, fear, danger, sin, physical pain, emotional pain, or accomplishment..

    Changing our self-talk may be a valuable step but if it can also be a substitutionary refuge that leads us inward rather than outward to Christ. The solution to our self-talk is not inside us but is the One who has given us his identity.

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