March 1, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
If you struggle with impostor syndrome, the upside of this problem is that you’re probably doing important work. Leaders and those with heavy duty responsibilities are more susceptible to impostor syndrome – the erroneous fear that you’re secretly not cut out for your job, or that you don’t deserve the authority you’ve been given. If you wake up in the middle of the night worrying that you’re letting down your employees or customers or the children in your care, the silver lining is that God has entrusted you with something important.
What’s even more silver? According to Psalm 139, perhaps you don’t need to worry so much after all.
I recently took over the management of a large technological project at work. Suddenly I was in charge of a lot of moving parts. I started waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety. What if I forgot something? What if I dropped the ball and everything went wrong?
Bigger than the fear of my project going south, I was afraid for my reputation at work. I was sure I would mess up, and then everyone would hate me. This quickly turned into wholesale fears about my worth as a person. I worried that everyone would realize something was the matter with me, that I wasn’t really cut out for leadership. Sooner or later they’d see that they never should have put me in charge in the first place.
My mix of fears and the desire to protect my own ego put me in an uncomfortable pretzel position where I couldn’t go to anyone else to ask for help. By day I was using all my energy to act the part – to try to convince everyone around me that I had everything under control. At night I gave into the fears that I was an impostor and soon my colleagues would see the real me.
“If I make my bed in the depths,” Psalm 139 says, “you are there.” The word “depths” describes my state of mind exactly.
God hadn’t left me to fumble through my work on my own. But in my ego and fear I had left God. My self-centered belief that I had to do everything right all by myself made me shut the door on God and on other people. My exhausting days and my restless nights stemmed from the fact that I had shut myself off from any help I might receive from God or from other people.
In a fitting description of me flying off to run the world all by myself, Psalm 139 says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, even there your hand will guide me.”
It took a few weeks – and a few mistakes – for me to realize my control-the-world attitude wasn’t working for me. Then one morning, after making a particularly embarrassing mistake, I cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore!” I told my coworkers that I was struggling, and I asked for help. The result was nearly instant. Other people came forward with suggestions and practical offers. Rather than ridiculing me, they valued my humility. The project got back on track. My fears were lifted. And I could sleep better.
Whether I’m flying high managing a difficult project, or in the depths of despair with my own fears, God is present if I just turn to Him. Psalm 139 reminds me that no matter how hard I try to take control, I am never alone in my work.
Something to Think About:
Is there any area of your work where making a good impression has become so important to you that it’s disturbing your sleep or the quality of your work relationships?
Imagine God is flying with you as your co-pilot. What direction do you think God would give you in this situation?
Something to Do:
On one side of a sheet of paper, make a list of all the work responsibilities God has entrusted to you. On the other side of the paper, list all the people God has provided to help you. These could be colleagues, friends or family – people who can provide either knowledge, advice, or direct aid. Draw a line between each or your responsibilities and the person or persons who can help you with that. As you’re drawing the lines, pray “Thank you God that I’m not alone.”
God, thank you that I don’t need to take care of the world all by myself. Please bear the weight of my responsibilities. No matter where I go in my work, be with me today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.