Impostor Syndrome

Though it’s more frequently applied to career settings, impostor syndrome is a legitimate thing anywhere. It’s “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ … Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.” (Thanks, wikipedia.)

What does this have to do with God? A whole lot, in fact.

I spent a lot of time sitting in churches, convincing myself it was real. We don’t have physical, tangible evidence of God, so the whole ordeal is based on faith. It’s not a lack of faith in Him—it’s a lack of faith in ourselves. We watch those around us raise their hands in praise or sing the glories of God, and we wonder why we don’t have the same ethereal glow. It’s why we begin questioning things: Is this God thing even real? Where do I belong? Am I spiritual enough to understand this?

It’s how I finally stepped out of the Baptist church at all. I felt like an impostor, but I stuck with it. I knew God was real, but I didn’t experience Him like everyone around me. It took a long time to realize that I wasn’t an impostor, and even longer to step out to seek the Truth. I wasn’t faking my faith, despite my fears, but it wasn’t the place I was meant to be expressing it.

When I started attending Catholic events, things were good for a while. I finally found the place where I could be myself, where I could focus on Him rather than my own feelings of inadequacy. But sometimes, as I sit or stand or kneel in Mass, the old impostor syndrome creeps back in. And it’s that old lingering doubt that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m not like everyone around me. It’s a little scary, because I remember what it was like the last time I had those feelings, and what I went through to change it.

It’s also more pronounced this time: “What are you doing here?” it asks, surrounded by these people who know what they’re doing, who grew up in this Church. I know I’m completely wrong. I’m not the only one reading the creed out of the book, nor the only one not receiving the Eucharist. But it still feels like there’s a giant spotlight over my head declaring, She doesn’t belong here.

But I’ve come to understand that this will happen in any church. Anywhere. Impostor syndrome is completely selfish—it focuses on me and how I feel. When I stop feeling sorry for myself, and when I stop feeling self-conscious about not knowing all the responses, He comes back. When I focus on God, things are good. It’s why things were good when I started my conversion. Because I told myself over and over again, this isn’t about me. It’s a simple concept we forget too often.

So, sure, sometimes I feel like a giant fake when I attend Mass. But sometimes I don’t. The career-centric way of overcoming this is “fake it til you make it.” Keep on doing what you’re doing. You know this stuff. And if I keep on attending Mass, and I keep on praying… maybe one day I won’t feel like I’m faking it. But probably not. I’m still human, and I still do stupid things. But if I could be less stupid, maybe I’ll feel a little less like an impostor.

January 1

Even in the midst of 2017, I knew it was a transition year. Everything that I’d been searching for and moving toward came to pass during the year, not that I’d planned it that way. At the end of every year, people are ready to give it the boot. They want to start new, forget their past mistakes, and have an excuse to redefine themselves. But for me, 2017 was a good year—and that includes the dark times. But once I rose out of the darkest moments, everything came to light. Everything changed. And my transformation was truly beginning.

There’s no limit to what God has done for me this past year. I went from the fear of disagreeing with the church I’d been raised in (What if they are right?) to being welcomed by the Catholic Church to be one of its family. There were growing pains. There were feelings of emptiness, of loneliness, of doubt. There was unbridled joy, and tears of laughter. And there were questions. So many questions. For God, searching in His Word and the Catechism; for his priests, in which I doubted my very belonging in the Church; for my sponsor, who received the brunt of my stupid and sometimes obvious queries.

But God always answered. Sometimes not in the way I expected. Sometimes not in the way I wanted. But as I welcome 2018, I welcome Him more into everything I do. I need to keep Him at the center of everything, and I feel (I hope) I’m getting better at that. I’m certainly not perfect. I’m still a slothful, selfish, prideful human being. But little by little, He’s taking over. With every time I talk to Him, with every time I attend Mass, with every time I surround myself with His people—the Spirit shines brighter within me.

2017 was a growth spurt. I wasn’t going to receive the answers last year, but I started to learn the questions. And simply asking the right questions has guided me in the way He desired me to go. But that’s the easy part. Asking the questions has been easy, and even receiving some of the answers hasn’t been so bad. But living it? Not only listening, but doing?

This journey is long from over. If anything, I’m just getting started.

Post-Advent Musings

I’ve been sick in bed the past two days, which gives me little to do but think. This is a good time to think, too–we’ve just finished the advent season, the first that I’ve formally recognized, and it’s been wonderful.

I ended up at three church services on Christmas Eve which, in retrospect, was a little insane. One each for the last Sunday of Advent and Christmas (at midnight!), and one with the family at the Baptist church. They were all so good. I didn’t even consider how one was the “old” church and one the “new.” On Christmas, we’re all there for the same reason. We’re celebrating Jesus’s coming into the world. Is three services overkill? Maybe. Will I do midnight Mass again? Probably not, because I was exhausted. But I didn’t tire hearing of the good news. Jesus is born, and He brings hope to the world!

Earlier in the month, I visited several stores in search for an Advent wreath. (Not an easy task, surprisingly, but Hallmark has the candles, if you’re curious.) At first I thought it was pointless since I’d already missed the first Sunday of Advent. But when I lit the final candle on Christmas Eve, I was proud to have that little wreath. It’s a small thing, but a reminder of something so much bigger.

And the best part? Christmas isn’t over yet. There is still more celebration. Merry Christmas!