I Don't Belong Here
One of those funny things about doing a PhD is this feeling like you don’t belong. As soon as I got here, I talked to a number of colleagues and they all talked about feeling like an imposter. In fact, this phenomenon has been given the name ‘imposter syndrome’. To some degree every PhD student feels this at some point (or for the duration) of their program. Asking the question, ‘Do I belong here?’ Being convinced that everyone is smarter than you. Being afraid that you will be found out that you are a fake.
While ‘imposter syndrome’ is acutely felt in a something like a PhD program, I am pretty sure it is a part of everyone’s life. We all that those moments when we start to worry that we will get found out as a fraud. Whether it be with our work, family, or friends, we worry that the people around us realize that we are not everything they think we are. We worry that when they find out that we are not as cool, smart, funny, or sanctified, they will turn their back on us and leave us alone. We all worry that we will be found to be an imposter.
Sometimes my own fears can cause me to get distracted with other things so as to avoid the work that I need to accomplish. When it is at its worst, I will just procrastinate and avoid doing any writing. I worry that I need to just keep reading because I don’t know everything I need to know to have a good opinion or a properly nuanced understanding of all the issues. What will happen if the people reading my work or hearing my presentation realize I am a phony and just faking it?
Here’s the thing, we all feel these moments of fear. Fear that everyone around us will reject us and we will be kicked out of the group. To some degree this fear is a good thing. It motivates me to do my best in the work that I am doing. It keeps me from making ridiculously stupid decisions with our lives at times.
However, all too often this fear can control me. It can keep from doing the things that have been placed in front of me to do. It is at those moments that need to be reminded of God’s presence in my life. At the core of the promises that God makes with his people is his promise of presence. He promises:
I will be your God, and you shall be my people. - Jeremiah 7:23
This promise points us to the truth of God’s presence in the life of those with whom God has made a covenant. If we are the people of God, God promises to be our God. He promises to be in the midst of us. He promises his presence in our lives.
When the fear that I may be found out to be a poser, an imposter creeps up in my life, the temptation is to keep faking it. However, the Gospel calls me to something else. It calls me to know that I am found in Christ. It calls me to know that God is my God. It calls me to realize that even if I am not that smart, funny, or good looking, God is still my God. He will not reject me.
While there are some benefits to fear, living life afraid of other people is no way to live. The Gospel frees us from that fear. For even if I am found out, God already knew me and loved me. He knows me in my worst and yet:
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us - Romans 5:8
This is the hope in the midst of fear. We have already been found out and he still loves. This is the hope in the midst of fear:
[B]ehold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:20