Have you ever been in a place or situation where you felt out of place? It may have been because you didn’t feel as accomplished or as intelligent as others. You may have felt inferior because of how you look, where you come from, how you speak, your past, age, background, social class, qualifications and so on. Psychologists have written lots about imposter syndrome where someone can feel like a fraud despite their achievements and even attribute their successes to luck or coincidence because they don’t feel like they measure up. Apparently, this is common among high achieving women but affects men and women equally.
I definitely experience this from time to time and it is a conscious effort to suppress the self-doubt and low self-esteem and forge ahead. Those of us who experience this can sometimes hide. For instance, in meetings, you may avoid eye contact, avoid asking questions or doing anything to stand out. Equally, we sometimes go to the other extreme where we fake confidence and say something (anything) so that people will think we know what we are doing or that we belong, while deep down inside we are hoping no one will probe further and unveil the façade.
In Exodus 3, Moses, now a shepherd but was once an Egyptian prince, has a divine encounter. He had been on the run for 40 years because he was wanted for murder. Suffice it to say he wasn’t feeling great about himself when God asked him to go and deliver an entire nation from slavery. He said to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” [Exodus 3:11 NIV]. Moses argues that he is a nobody and people won’t believe him. God even shows him a series of signs and promises to go with him, yet Moses still finds another excuse: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” [Exodus 4:10 NIV]. Jeremiah said something similar when God also called him years later [Jeremiah 1:6-7]. Both men essentially said, “we are inadequate, send someone else.”
Struggles with self-doubt and confidence are usually multifaceted but we must understand our identity first. In that regard, John tells us that we are children of God [John 1:12, 1 John 3:1-2]. That’s not a status to be conferred at a later date, it is our present status and what should be the primary source of our identity over and above everything else. There is no higher status to be attained in this life and it is conferred on us freely through faith in Jesus [Ephesians 2:8-9]. However, with that status comes a responsibility. The Bible teaches that the kingdom of God is already here but not fully revealed. As sons and daughters of God, our principal task is to go about our Father’s business just like Jesus did [Luke 2:49] doing our bit to advance God’s kingdom. I am learning to erase the word coincidence from my vocabulary because God orders the steps of the righteous [Psalm 37:23] and we are made righteous through Jesus [Romans 3:21-26]. This means that as long as I am not living in disobedience, I will find myself where God wants me to be.
That knowledge should create a paradigm shift in how I view myself in my surroundings because I am where God has placed me to advance His kingdom. Furthermore, as Paul told Timothy, God has not equipped me for life with a timid spirit. Instead, I am equipped with a Spirit of boldness, love and good judgement [2 Timothy 1:6-7]. This same Spirit also gives us wisdom, understanding, discernment and all the attributes we need to thrive [Isaiah 11:2-3]. However, I have found that knowing this is one thing but living it is something completely different. Will I trust that the God who has placed me where I find myself knows what He is doing? Will I trust that because He has placed me there, I am neither a fraud nor inferior to anyone else? Will I lean on Him rather than my own understanding to get me through the situations I find myself [Proverbs 3:5-6]?
It was a massive revelation for me the day I understood that God’s word isn’t ethereal without practical use for everyday living. When we find ourselves in tricky, vulnerable situations, we tend to rely on human wisdom and the social conventions of the day to get us out of it. The Bible says let your yes be yes and your no be no [Matthew 5:37], yet we look to blag our way through life. The world says don’t show any sign of weakness, might is power but God says His strength is perfected in our weakness and His grace is sufficient for all our needs [2 Corinthians 12:9]. If God is the Creator and Author of life, then it stands to reason that He knows exactly how we ought to live it best and it’s in our interest to listen.
Moses, Jeremiah and the other great heroes of our faith didn’t accomplish all they did because of their own ingenuity, it was God working through them [Philippians 2:13]. God is seeking to do the same in us if we trust Him, especially when we feel inadequate. The next time you are struggling with inferiority complex or imposter syndrome, remember that you are a grand design [Psalm 139:13-14] and you belong where you are because the God who put you there did not make a mistake. He has equipped you to shine and bring glory to His name [Mathew 5:13-16].