This term, also known as imposter phenomenon, was coined by Drs. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in a 1978 article entitled, “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.” It is defined as “the situation in which highly accomplished, successful individuals paradoxically believe they are frauds who ultimately will fail and be unmasked as incompetent.”
The phenomenon is pervasive and widely acknowledged as a significant psychological barrier for individuals to succeed in business. It is not limited to women but cuts across genders, race, and culture. Growing up, I felt privileged to attend an excellent private high school. Yet, I knew that I was not as qualified as my peers, when I compared myself to their grades and accomplishments. They were all so much more well-rounded than I-science fair finalists, scholar-athletes, and members of prestigious national honor societies. I hoped college would be different, however, when I left Hawaii to attend college on the mainland, the doubts magnified. One third of my freshman classmates were either valedictorians or salutatorians of their respective high schools! Not me! I knew it was only a matter of time before I was revealed to be a fraud; I did not deserve to be there. The doubts crept into my personal life as well. If I wasn’t a good enough student, perhaps I was not as good a son or friend as I thought I was? Was I deluding myself?
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (CSB)
In my sophomore year of college, God intervened in my life and by His grace and mercy, I was able to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I no longer had to fear that I was not good enough as my peers, nor did I have to believe that I would be unmasked as a fraud. When He saved me, I saw myself the way that God saw me. I am a sinner but was saved, not by any righteous works, but washed and cleansed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I was no longer fearful but grateful.
Before Jesus Christ, I suffered from imposter syndrome and labeled myself a fraud. After He saved me, I became a child of God with my identity and self-worth resting in Jesus Christ alone.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.