At the latest Questions Worth Exploring event, Sister Reyna Aburto, who previously served in the Relief Society General Presidency, gave a message entitled, “How do I let go of imposter syndrome? Finding purpose through our divine identity.” This all-too-common feeling was a perfect topic to address in this time of curated social media feeds and 24-hour news cycles.
► You may also like: Deepen gospel understanding with like-minded learners
Imposter syndrome is defined as the fear that we’ll be discovered as social or intellectual imposters. It can be isolating, making us think we’re the only ones who feel a certain way or the only ones experiencing a certain situation.
In her message, Sister Aburto said, “My dear friends, do you relate to me? Despite all the spiritual and intellectual and all kinds of preparations that you have had, the assurances that you have received from heaven, do you feel sometimes that you don’t deserve a blessing from heaven and that somehow a mistake was made in there and that you don’t deserve God’s goodness? Well, if you do, welcome to the club. In fact, many of us belong to that club because as human beings we feel many times like we are not adequate for a blessing that we receive from heaven.”
Sister Aburto pointed out that there are people in the scriptures who seem to feel imposter syndrome and their experiences can help us.
Peter was one of those people. Sister Aburto says of him, “After witnessing a miracle that Jesus performed through which he was blessed with a multitude of fishes, Peter ‘fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ [Peter] like us, did not feel that [he] deserved God’s trust.”
Peter’s story is different than mine, but I relate to how he looked at his physical circumstances to gauge his worth—his empty nets may have signaled to him that he wasn’t good enough. When Jesus then filled the nets, Peter questioned his value because his focus was on the external circumstances of the miracle rather than on the internal change of heart that Christ offered.
Our physical circumstances have no bearing on our intrinsic worth as children of God. We know this, but social media feeds usually highlight the things we accumulate or our accomplishments, trips, and accolades as ways to determine our value, creating an impossible standard of measurement for our self-worth.
Sister Aburto shared that when there is a tendency to compare ourselves to others, we can overcome this by focusing on our spiritual gifts. “Jesus told the remorseful Peter, and us, ‘Fear not; from henceforth, thou shalt catch men.’ When I look back, I can see the hand of God guiding me and helping me, and giving me the strength that I needed to move on, one little step at a time.”
Concentrating on our spiritual gifts not only helps us turn our focus to remembering we are beloved children of God, but it also helps us look outward for ways we can serve others.
“Truly knowing who we are, and the purpose of our existence can help us overcome feeling like an imposter when a blessing comes to us,” Sister Aburto says.
If I look at my metaphorical empty net, I’m concentrating on what I lack. When I turn to the Savior, I see not only all that I have, but I can better see all that I am and what I have to give. I see my nets are full.
Sister Aburto later shared this quote from Elder J. Devn Cornish, “The only opinion that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what he thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us.”
In total, Sister Aburto shared five ways a person may experience imposter syndrome and specific aspects of our divine identity to help overcome these feelings.
- First, we can shift from being afraid to let our light shine, to to recognizing our dependence on God.
- Second, our tendency to compare ourselves to others can be overcome by focusing on our spiritual gifts.
- Third, fear of failure can become reliance on Jesus Christ’s grace.
- Fourth, our fear of exposing ourselves can change to letting others know that they are not alone.
- Fifth, reluctance to trust our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can turn instead to giving them all our trust.
When seeking answers, it is helpful to have someone point out a way that might have been obscured because of feelings of self-doubt. Sister Aburto's vulnerable way of sharing how she has overcome feelings of imposter syndrome provides clear direction and paths for us to follow so we can work through the same thing.
“My dear friends, when we feel like imposters and like sometimes, we don’t belong, maybe it’s because this is not our permanent home. Our home is in heaven. We are here just temporarily, learning to love, growing, and preparing for the eternities, she says. “The Atonement of Christ covers everything. From our moments of panic to our moments in which we are determined to follow the Lord.”
► You may also like: ‘Questions Worth Exploring’: A new speaker series from Deseret Book