One of the most eye-opening chapters I've ever read is chapter two in Abba's Child. It is entitled, "The Imposter." The very chapter title makes my face wince and my chest concave because I know there is an imposter in me - one with all the masks to look good, successful, important and worthy. The one who fears rejection and being seen as a failure. The one who really needs a ton of love and fears if it really exists - especially for the "parts" of me that feel "less than."
The first time I read this chapter I pretty much blurted out the refrain: "Damn, that's me. Damn, that's me again. Shit, really? Ugh! How could Brennan know me so well?" Even then, my imposter wanted to go into hiding and not be "found out." Even now I can feel my defensiveness rising to protect my precious glittering image (like who is going to think less of me because I just wrote shit and damn.)
Brennan knows me (and us) so well because he has courageously and compassionately encountered his own humanity. So uncomfortably honest, he invites us to take a similar courageous and compassionate inventory of our own imposter who operates primarily in fear, preoccupied with acceptance and approval and finding our worth in things outside of us (by doing and having stuff). Because of this - our imposters implore us to overextend ourselves in busyness and drivenness - because when we are busy and driven, we don't have to face our inadequacies and perhaps people won't see our shtuff.
"Imposters are preoccupied with acceptance and approval. Because of their suffocating need to please others, they cannot say no with the same confidence with which they say yes. And so they overextend themselves in people, projects and causes, motivated not by personal commitment but by the fear of living up to others' expectations" (30).
Here are a few ways that Brennan describes the imposter:
- lives in fear (30)
- is preoccupied with acceptance and approval (30)
- buys into outside experiences to a personal source of meaning (31)
- blinds us to the light and truth of our own emptiness and hollowness (31)
- demands to be noticed - craving complements (33)
- gains identity & status from achievement and connection with "important" others (35)
- struggles to have true intimacy in any relationship - including self and God (because connecting to please, to be seen as important etc) vs being able to be authentic) (37)
- dreads solitude & silence with no distraction (39)
- is hard on self - and projects fears and anger of self out onto others (40-41)
- Finds it difficulty to have gentleness and compassion toward self - and, as a result, toward others. (40-41)
What's the solution?
"The imposter must be called out of hiding, accepted and embraced...we come to grips with our selfishness, we make friends with the imposter and accept that we are impoverished and broken" (40). Furthermore,"when we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether or not we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace. With a graciousness and an understanding of human weakness that only God can exhibit, Jesus liberates us from alienation and self-condemnation and offers each of us a new possibility....freedom (42).
I am discovering that on this faith journey - this is my most difficult work: To let myself be embraced in full - warts and wonders, crap and glory - both are my story. If I only try to "battle" or try to be "victorious" over the dark side, I usually only strengthen my imposter. It is an upside-down pathway to peace and freedom - not fists, but a fearless embrace.
Take a few deep breaths and ask for God's Lovingkindness to envelop you as you are. Maybe even wrap a blanket around yourself or as silly as it might seem, embrace yourself. Breathe deeply again.
Gently notice what is welling in your heart in this moment: is there harshness or condemnation? or Can you relax into being you - just as you are - even just for this moment?
There is nothing in this moment that you need to prove...do...accomplish...figure out. Simply thank God for his deep, deep love. Stay for a few moments...and soak in love for ALL parts of you. The imposter will want to be fidgety and/or fight...that's normal. Return to the embrace and any spark of a longing in you that desires freedom to be all God created you to be. That spark is the truest and best thing about you.
Respond in prayer in whatever way feels appropriate to you (draw, dance, journal, cry, pound your fists, open your hands, etc)
If you've never noticed the tagline on the homepage of the reFresh website it says this:
What we offer through our retreats, our resources, in Spiritual Direction, on FB and Twitter, podcasts and blogs are ways for you to develop a deeper and more authentic intimacy with God and self - which will grant you greater authority via a deep authenticity as you engage with your world. We believe this happens in unhurried spaces - because deep, transforming moments cannot be rushed. Love is unhurried because "hurry always empties a soul" (Ann Voskamp).
If you feel a tug in you to deepen and learn how to embrace this imposter, please contact us, buy Paula's book, or join us on one of our events. And, we'd love it if you'd share this on social media or with friends. Peace and good!