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As Broken as the Rest of Us

12/01/2022 09:38:07 AM

Dec1

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

No matter the age, the gender, the relative “professional success/failure” ratio of the person I am counseling, one of the most common existential crises that arise is this notion of “imposter syndrome.”  This is the feeling that we don’t deserve whatever job, recognition, or status we have achieved.  Professional coach Jen Robinson writes, 

“The common definition of Imposter Syndrome tends to focus on how high-achieving people do not give themselves credit for their accomplishments and have an internalized belief that they are only successful because of luck, not talent, intelligence or hard work. Further research has expanded this definition to include feelings of failure, most especially fear of failure."

Ironically, I have found that this notion isn’t at all limited to people who are perceived as “high-achieving,” nor is it at all limited to one’s professional interactions.  It is this general tendency of each one of us to tell ourselves self-denigrating stories that are often not borne out by a little bit of perspective.  And yes it is true that there are those in our lives and in the world, who do not engage in this negative self-talk, but often enough, this is such a heavy lift that it is quite often borne of its own inherent denial.  Meaning, negative self-talk, to a certain extent isn’t all negative.  It is borne of a desire for authenticity.  Most of us want to know that we are who we project ourselves out in the world to be.  And that too, at least all of the time, is a bit impossible.

There was once a thriving ancient yeshiva whose Rosh Yeshiva (Head) was kind and patient and made no requirement of level of study nor level of practice to enter.  But a new Rosh Yeshiva arrived, who required that all who enter must be the same on the outside as they are on the inside – that through and through, their behavior must always match their professed values and the other way around.  And little by little, the burgeoning attendance and the enthusiasm of its students dropped, leaving just a small portion of its students, until it had to close.  

We are all imposters, and we all belong.  In our authentic selves, we are broken, and we are perfectly imperfect.  There is no one in your life who has it all together.  Can you imagine the work it takes, the sacrifices required, to put on that face?  To create that façade?  To shore up against the powers of self-awareness, vulnerability, and humility?   Its not possible to always be in control.  If you know someone who appears to be, offer a prayer for them that they let their hair down and permit themselves to be as broken as the rest of us. 

Sat, January 28 2023 6 Shevat 5783