Monday, September 9, 2019

Imposter Syndrome

"I'm not a writer.  I've been fooling myself and other people."
John Steinbeck

I can definitely relate.  And I think most of us can relate to the idea of fooling themselves and other people.  Feeling truly unqualified. 

If you want to know what can help exacerbate that feeling, look no further than the modern job search.

On average, 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening.

More and more, in their initial pass, resumes are filtered through software that will exclude resumes that do not meet keyword requirements.  Meaning a person may never even look at your resume or cover letter.

The average HR manager spends less than seven seconds looking at the average resume.  But, they are scouring your online and social media presence. 

Only 2% of applicants actually get interviews.

This means, there will be jobs that you feel extremely qualified for, that exactly match your skillset, that you never, ever hear from.  And the jobs that you may interview for, you are keenly aware of the deficiencies in your skill set. 

All of this can feed into one's imposter syndrome.  "The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own effort or skills."  In other words, the constant feeling that you are an imposter in the role and it is just a matter of time before everyone figures it out.

I know my search is starting to wear on me.  I've sent out over seventy-five applications, at least.  I've had discussions regarding around six, between recruiters and companies.  I've progressed through interviews with one.  I've had to discuss my deficiencies for positions that I really like; things I am sure I could learn and would look forward to learning, but not current practical skills that I have.  I've also had a couple of positions that I thought I was extremely qualified for that I never hear from.

In looking over the imposter syndrome, it can generally be broken in to five types.  The perfectionist (having to get it all right), the superwoman/man (needing to be able to do it all), the natural genius (needing it to come naturally to them, to get it on the first try), the soloist (having to do it on their own), and the expert (having to know it all).  It comes down to the internal expectations we place on ourselves compared to how we see everyone else.  The expectation that everyone else is just better than us, so we have to do more to keep up.  To be perfect, to be superhuman, to do it all yourself.   

Generally, I've fit into the natural genius type.  I know that was me through school.  Most things came easy to learn.  When they weren't easy, it was difficult to keep momentum to push through it.  Law school really presented the first challenge, it's where I got my first C's for a class grade.  And I cannot be prouder for following my Contracts professor's advice, in that it would be better to be the student who dug in and improved each quarter than to peak first and never push yourself.  Thankfully, I was able to break through those early C's and change how I studied and prepared, enabling me to get A's in the hardest classes at Baylor my last quarters.

Thankfully, with job applications, the motivation definitely remains.  It just makes the internal questions and doubts a little more amplified. Talking through them helps, as does realizing everyone feels this way at some point.  If not frequently.

"Not qualified is where he starts."
Jon Jorgenson

The imposter syndrome can extend far beyond our work or school though.  It can also extend to our spiritual lives.  We can feel extremely unqualified for any form of ministry that we are called to, from evangelism to service to children's ministry to missions.  

At its worst, this is what makes can make believers doubt salvation, feeling completely unworthy of love and saving, despite knowing that there is nothing they could do to deserve it.  To feel in a special class of people that are just too bad, too far gone.  Too wretched to receive what they feel others have and will.

I think this can acutely happen in the spiritual realm because only we know exactly how depraved we truly are.   We know what hides behind the mask.  "If you really knew me, you wouldn't want me."

It's a common thread you can also see in the Bible.

In Moses:
"But Moses said to the Lord, 'Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.'"
Exodus 4:10

In Gideon:
"He responded, 'But sir, how can I deliver Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'"
Judges 6:15

In Jeremiah:
"Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God!  Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.'"
Jeremiah 1:6

In the woman at the well:
"The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans)."
John 4:9

That's the great thing, though.  God never leaves people at the state of feeling unqualified.  He is actively looking to use the unqualified.  The weak, the ineloquent, the young, the undesired.  What He calls people for, He qualifies them for.  He provides them the resources, the tools, the skills to accomplish the task.  He wants us to be dependent on Him, to be continually seeking Him.  He wants our weaknesses to be seen as His strengths.

Further, perhaps it is only from His vantage point that the touch points for our callings can be seen.  While Moses may not have been the most eloquent speaker, from hindsight we can see that he was the Hebrew with the best access to Pharaoh, having lived in his court.  The woman at the well would have the greatest impact on the community. 

It would be the same with our calling.  While we cannot see it at the time, God has a purpose for the call.  For His glory to shine.  For our pasts to be redeemed and purposeful.  For us to rely on Him.

I know in this waiting period whatever job is out there, I'm getting because of His provision, not my skill alone.  I'm getting because that is where He is leading us, not because I'm the most qualified.

And whatever it may be, He will be the one to qualify me.  He will be preparing me, guiding me, leading me.

As long as I'm willing to listen.

And as long as I can realize the imposter syndrome is false to begin with.  It depends on the feeling that everyone else doesn't suffer from it.

But we all do.  Even the best of us.

"...Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things.  And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn't qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name.  And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, 'I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am i doing here?  They've made amazing things.  I just went where I was sent.'

And I said, 'Yes.  But you were the first man on the moon.  I think that counts for something.'

And I felt a bit better.  Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did.  Maybe there weren't any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for."
Neil Gaiman

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