Tag Archives: enough

Imposter Syndrome

In the early days, to admit that I wanted to be a writer was painfully embarrassing. “What are your hobbies?” someone would ask.

“Um, nothing really.” The asker’s eyebrows would freeze into question marks. But I hated being boring, so desperately I’d cast about for a better answer. “I used to jog, but I have bad knees.” His expression would start to glaze over. “I’ve thought about gardening,” I might stutter. But my husband wouldn’t let it lie.

“That’s not true! You’re a writer! She’s a writer,” he’d proclaim proudly. And the asker would smile and I would turn three shades of pink, throwback to the days when the cute little redheaded boy glanced in my direction.spaces-eclipses-nights

I’m not sure what was so awful about admitting a desire to write. It felt so presumptuous, like Dwight Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager. “And I have a purple belt in ka-ra-té.”

You would think the grip of self-consciousness would lessen, especially as writing became a daily thing. Wrote a novel? Check. Sold a story? Check. But for every accomplishment, a failure. Queried an agent—did she accept me? Um. No. But you sold that book you wrote, right? Um. Nope. Did that story actually appear in print? Yeah… no. And later, when I began to blog, the failures just felt more public—the lack of glory evident for all to see. When I sold a book, there was even further to fall.

moon-crescent-skyI know I’m not the only one. Ryan Pemberton, in his book, Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis’s House and Back Again, confesses the same agony, both as an aspiring author and as a grad student at Oxford. “Imposter syndrome,” he’s told it’s called, the irrational but consuming fear of being found out.

I don’t really belong here, and if I’m not careful, I’ll be exposed. Not a real writer. Not quite… enough.

The world of writing, publishing, platforms, and sales, is a world rigged to take the tuck right out of a person. You struggle to summon up courage to say all the things, to say them plain, to tell the truth. You labor to birth this helpless but lovable infant onto paper and send that baby out into the world, only to be rejected time and again. And then, at last, the book is accepted, the deal inked onto paper. And you just can’t help but hope against the odds for unholy vindication—maybe this will be the next great sensation. Maybe this one will put the naysayers to shame.natural-moon-sky

Ah, but you, wise readers, will have caught my fatal flaw there in the sentences above. All that self-pitying shame is really just the flip side of pride.

Is this something you struggle with, too? The “I’m not yet quite good enough but if I try I can be” line? People usually don’t say the complete sentence, I’ve noticed. We chop it in half and throw an ellipsis in: “I’m just not good enough…” But the dangling, unspoken assumption is that we can be. Probably. Someday.

wafe-ocean-seaMostly our strategy to combat this particular little lie is to tackle the first part. “You are enough,” we tell ourselves, kindness sparkling as we talk ourselves down from the ledge. But maybe we need to also confront the second half of the sentence. Fact is, we never will be—and we don’t have to. When a preschooler hands you a crayon family portrait, the point is not that he’s Michelangelo, it’s that you love his goofy stick figures just as they are.

We aren’t spectacular. We’re just spectacularly loved.

As Tim Keller wisely points out, humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less. That’s not a strategy that plays well in a platform-driven, personality-parading, click-bait culture. We want to sparkle and shine. But what the world needs isn’t more of me, it’s more of Jesus. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

sky-moon-moonrise-nightHang on, you say, aren’t we supposed to shine? In fact, wasn’t it Jesus who said “you are the light of the world?” Absolutely. But maybe He wasn’t calling you to be the sun. Maybe He was calling you to be the moon.

So—writers, pastors, speakers, leaders, singers, shiners—how do we live that out? How do we drag our eyes away from our stats, our status, our successes and our failures? I think the answer is to look into the mirror less, to look up at the Son more. I think it’s to be faithful, plodding along in anonymity if necessary. I think we have to to gain strength for that steadfastness not by daydreaming about far-off days of glory to come, but by daydreaming about the glory of God right now, shining, as He does, quietly, softly, in our midst.full-moon-dark-night

Sara Groves sang it:

“I am the moon with no light of my own. Still you have made me to shine. And as I glow in this cold dark night, I know I can’t be a light unless I turn my face to you.”  You Are the Sun

Photos on VisualHunt.

These Are The Days

I read recently of a homeschool family that ran afoul of local authorities.  Someone looked at this little-bit-different, little-bit-strange family, raised their eyebrows, and made a phone call.  Evidently one of the kids had been brought to the hospital and Mom and Dad left the older kids in charge of the small ones.  Child Protective Services came to the rescue, snatched the kids away, farmed them out to foster families, made inquiries.  What kind of education were these kids receiving?  What kind of parenting?

It’s a heebie-jeebies kind of story, a night-terror.  It’s all of our worst fears come alive:  what if they came for my kids?  What if I lost control?  What if someone sat my son down under a bright light and grilled him with division facts, state capitols, parts of speech?  What if they found out how inadequate I am?

There’s not much we want to get right as much as we want to raise our kids brilliantly.  We remember our own childhoods — the homework, the bullies, the stresses, the disappointments.  We want to shield our children from the things that smarted, to give them the opportunities we never had, to launch them laughing and shining into the world.  We watch other families out of the corner of our eyes and we judge.  One family obviously pushes too hard, one clearly never disciplines.  That mom is too uptight, the other one oblivious.  But of all the parents we criticize, we reserve the harshest condemnation for ourselves.  After all, we know the bitter truth:  we are not enough.

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All the while we fret and analyze, the kids are growing.  Our experiments in educational psychology are not bouncing off bright colored blocks, they are soaking into living sponges that absorb it all and swell before our eyes.  My own kids are almost fully saturated now — at 15, 13, 11, they are almost fully who they will be.  Think, Kate, before you speak; we are down to the wire.  The days dwindle, the season draws to an end.  Only a fraction of what I still want to say will soak in, the sponges are starting to drip.

I can’t afford to waste time on the wrong lessons.  The authorities are coming to see if we’ve caught any fish, but I can’t let that distract me.  The lesson we need to work on is how to fish.  It takes longer to teach.  We might still be empty handed when the squad car pulls up.

But if I scoop up the fish and hand the kid a bucketful, how will he ever fish for a lifetime?

Does he know how to diagram a sentence?  Or does he have something beautiful to say?

Does she know her Presidents?  Or does she value history like a treasure store of wisdom?

Has he learned the Periodic Table?  Or is he endlessly fascinated by science?

And more than all of the reading, writing, arithmetic I can teach, there’s theology.  Do they know the 10 Commandments?  Or do they know the love of God?

Can they recite the books of the Bible, or do they long to know who set the world in motion?

The day is coming when they will fall in love, get a job, apply for college.  It will be a day for courage, integrity, determination, responsibility, self-discipline, and love.  Did I mention grace?  Joy?  And of course, the kids’ll need some of those things, too.  🙂

So we pour out.  For all those years, all the great moments and the battles, all the forgiveness and all of the laughter, we pour out.  As fast as God pours in, we pass it on — love upon love.  And then we have to trust.  We have to let go.

Hopefully they won’t come and snatch my children away.  Hopefully I’ll get my full measure of years before the empty nest.  And hopefully my kids will merrily launch into the wide world with aplomb.  But I know there will be regrets, wistful questions, woulda shoulda couldas.  Because (here’s a little secret for you) they are not perfect.  And neither am I.  (SO not perfect.)  Fortunately I have a Father who will keep on pouring into me.  And it turns out He’s not inadequate.  He’s enough.  And that’s enough for all of us.