“Belief in oneself is incredibly infectious. It generates momentum, the collective force of which far outweighs any kernel of self-doubt that may creep in.”
Like many people, I wrestle with the shadow of imposter syndrome: I sometimes doubt myself, feel like a fraud, or question how I came to be in the position I am in. Early in seminary, as a student, I was made aware of this phenomenon and that each of us was not alone with this concern.
I had thought by now I would be “cured” of my imposter syndrome. Alas, I have not been. I do not think I ever will be entirely. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Recently I reflected on photographs of a social justice vigil that I helped organize. In looking at these photos I focus on the group—the individuals who took it upon themselves to side with and demand justice, with picket signs and chants echoing out from courageous voices. I am proud of them, and of this possibility for human concern, camaraderie, and bravery.
I too am there, clad in black and wearing a clergy collar. To me I was just background. Yet looking at this image years later, I recognize the significant presence I had: standing in the line of activists, my right hand holding up two peace fingers. I held my ground despite earlier anxiety rumbling within my belly and making my heart race, nonetheless knowing this must be done. As hecklers shouted “All lives matter!” I remained in solidarity with others beside me.
I now acknowledge myself in this picture more accurately: a minister engaged in prophetic witness. I am not my peace sign, my collar, or my anxiety. I am the beating heart and soul within a body doing brave, amazing, new, good, imperfect things. This is me in ministry.
Though uncomfortable, I appreciate my remaining skepticism of self. Imposter syndrome can help me remember and find discoveries about myself, keeping me humble, appreciative, and self-aware.
When doubting my capability and place in ministry, I shall come back to this image of me in vigil. I am a minister. I say it now and I believe it. I am a holder and caretaker of people’s hearts as they grapple with complexities of existence. This is my vocation and where my own heart resides. Just as I can believe in others, I also believe in me.
In times of self-doubt may you be curious to discover who you are; to hold fast and be empowered in knowing you are worthy. May doubt be a tool on your path, and not the destination. May you believe in yourself.