The world measures worthiness (in theory) by merit. You get certain rewards for the amount of work you put in. you get the grades you get because of how hard you worked. You are able to access the best higher education because of those grades. You get the degree, which enables you to get the job, which pays you the salary, that (in theory) reflects all the work you put in, and the value you add to society.
As a human, I am acutely aware of my inability to be perfect- which is, to live without sin, screwups, mess-ups or mistakes. I have made a few whopping great errors (to put it mildly) in my short stint on planet earth. I have learned, and I have lived with consequences sometimes.
As a Christian, my awareness of my mortality meets my awareness of my inability to pay off my debt to God for all my sin, and the knowledge that because I could never possibly pay, Christ sacrificed himself so that atonement could be made and I could live a life of freedom like I had never owed a thing. This leaves me in an awkward spot where as a human, I am aware than by all definitions of the word, I can never be “worthy”.
It’s easy, knowing this, to live life in a defeatist manner, only if the story ended there. It doesn’t.
At the cross, Christ exchanged his righteousness, holiness, and worthiness, for my sin, failure, and unworthiness- and essentially gave me a renewable ticket to freedom (what we call grace), with added help from him via the Holy Spirit to ensure that though I am bound via my humanity, to err again, I am able to get up and keep going without condemnation, not giving up, but pressing forward, until life in this fragile, flawed body ends and a perfect, eternal life begins.
What on earth has this got to do with Impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome was first described by psychologists in 1978. Research from 2011 estimated that 70 percent of people would experience at least one episode of impostor syndrome in their lifetime. That’s only an estimate. And I do believe that if everyone on the planet knew that what they had experienced at some point in their lives had a name and this was it, they would all report having experienced it at some point or another, and some, multiple times.
That’s a lot of “phony” humans. Or, is it?
I feel as though, as a Christian, I would be placed at a further disadvantage believing that I am incapable of being “worthy” because I am doomed to always make mistakes- and though I know that these mistakes are covered for by the grace of God through Christ’s sacrifice, I wallow in the unworthiness, and crush myself, cheating myself of the freedom to be and do my best that I should possess.
But here’s where it gets interesting. It’s not considered by God, because we are flawed, an impossibility for us to prosper. Not once does He say this. In fact, the act of Him providing a way for us to keep going, is a trust in the capacity He has given us to make progress. Besides, not always making the right choices is not always the exact same thing as sinning and offending God!
In fact, He implores us to use the resources He has given us and put within us, to “have dominion over the earth”, “run the race well” and to “show ourselves approved” unto Him.
These sayings talk about hard work! We are not incapable of anything just because we are flawed. Rather we bring more glory to Him by what we are able to do and achieve despite not being perfect.
Funny enough, non-christians already get this. Ever heard the saying “try, try, try, again”? Or thought about how the people of the world value working hard towards goals and achievements?
It is not wrong to believe in the ability God has given us, to train it, improve it and do our best to build it up, believing also in the additional help of the Holy Spirit to help us learn all things!
It is not wrong to think of yourself as qualified for a job, or a position, or a mission! In the same way, it is not wrong to try to become qualified for these either. It’s actually illogical and unbiblical to not do your best. It pleases God when we work on the gifts he’s given us and make something of them.
I’ve slightly strayed, here, but stay with me.
Logic dictates that to work on a gift you have, that would require study and/or practice. Sometimes this requires going into academic institutions to learn more or into jobs to gain more experience. Both of which, often require you to meet requirements and apply. This means you need to prove your worthiness.
If you deem yourself unworthy, you would not bother to apply, nor would you bother to train, and you would achieve nothing, withering away to nothing with time. This, is the worst thing you could possibly do. See Matthew 25:14–30 for the story of someone who did this, and how God dealt with him. It displeases God greatly, that we do nothing with His gifts to/in us, for the world.
Coming back to feeling like an impostor: In my pseudo-piety (more like a lack of understanding, and deceived state) I believed myself to be wholly unworthy in every way, and incapable of anything. Though, to be honest, some part of you always knows this to be untrue. The only option is to try my best. Even when feedback is negative- that only means I should try harder, not give up.
Even when things get hard and test the very fibres of who I am- the only option is to work harder, try harder, learn new things, and improve to improve the situation.
I say all that to say this:
You, and I cannot afford to feel “unworthy”. We can’t afford to be caged birds living like we’re helpless when the door to the cage is actually open!
If you feel unworthy, the only option is to do something to make yourself feel worthier!
But to be where you are in the first place, the truth is, you have to be qualified in some sense of the word, suitable for, called to, intended for, WORTHY of, the position.
You may not understand or believe it: but you need to put it in your head, get some glue and stick it down firmly- YOU ARE WORTHY. And if you don’t believe or feel it, then simply go GET WORTHY!