Thursday, March 23, 2017

Viola Davis, Butterscotch Lattes and the Impostor Syndrome

So imagine I’ve invited you to a Starbucks to catch up and and we find a table next to the window where we can sit and chat for a few minutes. There’s a 95 percent chance I order a butterscotch latte and I’m rambling about how much I love butterscotch lattes and how Starbucks is dumb for only offering it seasonally.
Seriously, since when is butterscotch seasonal? As I’m telling you about my plan to force Starbucks to make the smoked butterscotch latte a permanent fixture on their menu, I realize that your eyes are starting to glaze over.
So I take one last sip of my latte and decide to switch gears. After all, there’s a reason I wanted to talk with you.

THE RANDOM GUY IN MY HEAD

Not long ago I was working on another blog post and as I was writing it, I couldn’t shake this feeling.
The post, which I’m hoping to publish at some point, is basically based around the premise that you don’t have to be an expert in order to be an example. Problem was, I’m not feeling like much of an example myself. Words like fake, fraud and impostor began to pop into the forefront with every word typed.   


That last word struck me. Impostor. It’s such a strong word. I looked it up and it means “someone that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception.” I got this image in my head of some guy in a crowd from an old black-and-white movie pointing at the camera -- at me -- and yelling “You, sir, are an impostor!” Worst yet, for a while, I believed him.

When it came down to the heart of it, I felt unworthy of the words I was writing.

Thanks, Random Guy In My Head.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...

I didn’t watch the Oscars this year. I usually don’t; I’m not a big fan of all these awards ceremonies. Besides, the only film nominated for Best Motion Picture that I watched was Hidden Figures (amazing movie, by the way) and following the festivities on Twitter is more entertaining and informative than the Oscars themselves.
While everyone was in shock over the “Moonlight/La La Land” fiasco (you can go in peace now, Steve Harvey), another Oscar-related headline on my news feed caught my eye: Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis says she struggles with 'impostor syndrome'.
Huh. I’m not too familiar with Viola Davis or her work (I know her best from the movie Disturbia and the 1,023,632 commercials I’ve seen promoting the hit show How To Get Away With Murder), but the headline captured my attention. How could an Oscar Award-winning actress, someone who has had such a successful career, feel like an impostor? I saved the link and told myself I’ll get to it later.

BEING FOUND OUT

After having that mental crisis as I was writing that post I was talking about earlier, I went back to read that article and learned that the “impostor syndrome” means feeling a “sense of phoniness despite evidence of high achievement.” A recent study showed that around 70 percent of people will experience this syndrome at least once during their lifetimes.

While it was initially believed that women were the ones who mostly suffered from this syndrome, it's apparent now that men do, too -- we just tend to hide it better. In fact, people from all kinds of backgrounds experience this feeling. No one is immune.

“I still feel like I’m going to wake up and everybody’s going to see me for the hack I am,” Davis said after the Oscars. "I still feel like when I walk on the set, I'm starting from scratch, until I realize, 'OK, I do know what I'm doing, I'm human.’”

That fear of being “found out” is probably one of the most suffocating feelings we could ever experience. We’re social beings. Deep down, we long for connection with and the acceptance of those around us. We want to love and be loved for who we are.

But we’re afraid that if they get too close, because we think if they see us for who we really are underneath the surface, that they will reject us and see us as we see ourselves: as impostors undeserving of success, of love, of acceptance.

And on a spiritual level, we fear the same with God. I know I do. We doubt ourselves like Moses did and ask “Who am I” to lead or to be used by God? We point to our weaknesses like Gideon, who said that he was part of the weakest clan in the tribe and the least in his own family. You got the wrong guy, Gideon probably thought.

I’m sure they felt like impostors, too. But God called them to do something great anyway. Maybe not even in spite of Moses’s and Gideon’s weaknesses and shortcomings and doubts and their views of themselves, but perhaps because of them. That seems to be God’s standard operating procedure: to take the very thing that we think is a weakness and repurpose it for His glory.

God wanted to use them -- and did use them -- to accomplish great things. And he wanted to do so as they were. I know He wants to do the same for you and me, regardless of how we view ourselves. I'll take His word over my own every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Maybe we can cut ourselves a little slack now and then. Maybe we can celebrate who God made us to be and what He has helped us accomplish up until now. Maybe we can rest in the fact that He’s not finished with us yet. Don’t tear yourself down when God is trying to build you up.

"I know I'm not the best but I'm proud of myself," Davis said. "This is the first year I've allowed myself just a little bit, to see that, to realize that, self-deprecation is not the answer to humility.”

WRITING TO MYSELF

Before I write another word on another post, I want to make one thing clear if it wasn’t clear already: When I’m writing something to you, I’m always writing it to myself, too.

I’m challenging myself to put into practice the lessons and insights God is speaking into my life, even when I don’t fully grasp them myself. Along the way, the enemy will try and twist those challenges into accusations. He’ll try to convince me that I’m not good enough, smart enough, disciplined enough, fill-in-the-blank enough. He’ll try to convince me that I am an impostor.

But in the face of the impostor syndrome, we can rest in the fact that God knows us, each and every one of us, more than anyone else can -- more than we know ourselves -- and He still loves us. He still accepts us, wants to know us, wants to help us grow and wants us to know who He is. He says that I am enough. He says that you are enough.

When we forget that, we can go right back to God's word. Read Psalm 139. He knows everything about you, from your inner-most thoughts and fears to what you’re going to say before you even say it. Nothing about our lives is hidden from Him, and yet His thoughts about us are precious and when we wake up in the morning, He is still there with us.

I don’t have it all together. I don’t have all the answers. If I said I did, then that would make me an impostor of the worst kind. I’m just trying to grow and learn and follow Jesus the best way I can. I don’t always feel like it and I’ll fail and stumble along the way. But that’s part of the journey and the process.

That doesn’t make you or me an impostor; that makes us real, broken people in need of a perfect and good God. Like Viola said: “I’m human.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Press Pause

"There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven." 
- Ecclesiastes 3:1

* * * * * * *

There was a lot I wanted to do in 2016, but there was this little thing called graduate school that kept getting in the way.

Since starting last fall, I've had to make some adjustments. I’ve had to say “no” a lot more. I’ve had to step back from some responsibilities. “I’ll get to it later” seemed to become one of my new mottos.

It was frustrating, because it felt like I failed or fell short in a bunch of areas where I was hoping to excel.

It's easy to fall into the I-have-to-do-everything-and-I-have–to-do-it-now trap mentality, and I think I fell in head first into that trap last year. But that mentality, that feeling that if you don't do this activity or chase that dream now it will never get done at all, is a lie. As much as we would like to try, we can’t. In fact, whenever we try to do everything all at once, we wind up not excelling at anything at all.

Last year taught me the value of pressing the pause button. I wrote down a list. On this list are dreams I want to pursue, places I want to travel to, hobbies I want to take up, skills I want to learn. Out of the bunch, I picked two or three to chase right now. For the others, I hit pause. I can’t chase them right now, but eventually I will. I wrote them down and pinned them on my bulletin board so I won’t forget about them. They are there and will still be there whenever I'm ready.

Pressing pause is not failing. There is no shame in stepping back in one area so that you can excel in another. Take a deep breath and take that pressure off of yourself. You do not have to do everything all at once. 

We all find ourselves in different seasons and stages of life, and each season requires something different from us. At the moment, graduate school is my season. That’s my hustle. That’s the battle I’m trying to win right now. What’s yours? Are you willing to press pause on some things in order to win the fight right in front of you?

Don’t be afraid to press pause.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Important Is It To You?

Some questions I’ve been asking myself lately:

How important is it to you?

Are you willing to get up a little bit earlier?
Are you ready to go a little bit farther?
Are you prepared to sacrifice a little bit more?
Are you finished saying, “I’ll start tomorrow/Monday/next year”?

Can you be a little bit more vulnerable?
Can you reach a little bit higher?
Can you let go of the things you’ve been holding on to?
Can you grab hold of the promises God has made to you?

If the answer to those questions is ‘yes,’ then say so. But don’t stop there. Back it up.

Set the alarm.
Run the extra mile.
Say “no” to good so you can reach for greater.
Start now.

Break down your walls and pour it all before Godall of it.
Dream bigger dreams. Set a higher vision for yourself.
Let it go. Surrender your will for His. Every day.
Write down His promises and circle them in prayer.

If it's important to you, it will change the way you think. It will change the way you speak. It will change the way you live your life. It might change everything.

How important is it to you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Election Is Over. Now What?

It’s over, America.

We’ve watched almost two years of wall-to-wall campaign coverage, argued politics in Facebook comments sections for hours on end and endured an onslaught of political advertisements and random strangers asking us if we’re registered to vote. 

And now we have chosen a new president. 

Chances are, you’re not happy. You’re not happy with the candidate that won. You’re not happy with Uncle Bob or your friend Jane. You’re not happy with leaders you used to admire. You’re not happy with the media. You’re not happy with America. 

Maybe “you’re not happy” is an understatement. You’re probably sick and tired of all of it. Let’s go a little further, you’re probably mad as hell.

I’ve felt it, too. The anger. Disgust. Frustration. Sadness. Disappointment. 

Those emotions have led me to think, say and do some things I’m not proud of. I have strong opinions, I’m passionate about those opinions and I get emotional about them – not always a great combination. 
    
Don’t get me wrong – I have had some great conversations with wonderful people, many of whom disagree with me on just about everything. Those exchanges have helped me understand why people are thinking the way they are and have helped me shape my own stances on certain issues. I hope you’ve had some of those types of interactions, too. But I’ve also let my emotions run wild, both in person and on social media.

Now it’s over. The votes have been cast, the winners announced, and the speeches delivered. 

But it’s not really over is it? The wounds and divisions that have been caused by this election might take a long time to heal, if they ever heal at all. The anger is still very real and very much on the surface for all to see (just take a quick glance at Facebook or Twitter). 

We’ve pitted ourselves against each other based on a wide variety of lines: race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, political party… the list goes on and on. 

The most disheartening thing for me has been the division among Christians in this election and how we’ve let two political candidates rip people of faith apart from the inside out.

We need to heal. We need to heal as a Church and as a country. But how?

I don’t have a lot of answers, but just some thoughts on how we might get started. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last Page


The other day I reached the last page in the journal I’ve been writing in and tracking my life with for the last two and a half years.

I decided to flip through some of the early entries I made in the journal – and many of those entries seemed pretty familiar to me. Some of the struggles I’ve had to work through are the same ones I’m wrestling with now. I had to double check the dates of the entry to make sure they read “2014” and not “2016.”

After I closed the journal, leaving that final page blank for the moment, I felt a wave of discouragement and disappointment. How could I still be dealing with some of this? Why do I feel like I’ve made so little progress? Why is this taking longer to walk through than I originally hoped?

A discouraging thought then popped up in my head: God, You must be pretty disappointed with me.

* * * * * * *

Writing is how I process what’s going on in my life. The good stuff. The bad stuff. And everything in between.

Everyone processes life differently, but it’s critical that we find an outlet – or a combination of different outlets – where we can express ourselves honestly and completely. We have to find a way to air out all of our junk and pour out our hearts before God and the people closest to us.

For some of us, writing is that outlet. For others, it might be just talking it out. Maybe its artwork or music; exercising or building something.

I’m a huge believer in journaling. As someone who is naturally prone to forgetfulness, it’s a great way to remind myself of that God is good and still faithful. God is. I can go back and remember all the answered prayers, all the times He walked me through a difficult situation, all the reminders to just trust in Him and find rest, peace and joy in Jesus and nothing else.

My journals also a reminder that life is messy. It’s not always going to feel like I’m listening to “Walking on Sunshine” on repeat (although that gets old really quickly).

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). There will be moments where you feel like you’re in over your head. But Jesus is bigger than all of it.

It helps to write all that down once in a while.