Around six years ago, I started a significant journey, transitioning from a career in full-time ministry to the realms of executive coaching and entrepreneurship. It’s been a journey rich with learning, filled with both challenges and triumphs. While it’s impossible to capture every nuance of this journey in a single conversation, some profound insights and enduring themes have emerged along the way. Insights that have not only shaped my path but might also resonate with you.
In this exploration, I wish to delve deeper into a tale of dual identities – the internal battle with imposter syndrome and the profound sense of being an ‘actual’ imposter I experienced as an executive pastor and worship leader. Over the years, I’ve coached hundreds of leaders grappling with both imposter syndrome and feelings of being genuine imposters in their roles. This experience isn’t unusual. Honestly, my journey through these same challenges has been instrumental in understanding and guiding others. The conversation about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is common. Let’s face it, it is just simply safer.
Let me explain…
“Imposter Syndrome” allows us the opportunity to shed some unhealthy beliefs about ourselves and reach for the sky like a rocket would reach for the moon. But… What if our only path to discovering our true potential is recognizing that maybe we are just simply in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things. This isn’t going to be super romantic or polished…but I think it’s worth talking about.
Imposter Syndrome vs. Real Imposter: The Inner Conflict
As I navigated my responsibilities, there was always this background noise – the classic imposter syndrome, whispering doubts about my abilities. But there was another, more profound layer. It wasn’t just about feeling inadequate; it was about feeling misaligned. I was hitting all the right notes, yet the music didn’t feel like it was mine. Don’t get me wrong… I loved being involved in ministry and I love being a singer/songwriter. One of the places that I feel most home at is when I’m sitting down behind a piano or when I’m playing my guitar and producing records. I love leading people in songs that are meant to be sung with everything we have. I still believe that there is miraculous tension between voices singing out, with everything we have, and the creator of the universe.
The Moment of Truth: Choosing Authenticity Over Performance
The real turning point came when I asked myself, “Am I living my truth, or am I just performing a well-rehearsed script?” This question wasn’t just about self-doubt; it was about self-discovery. Leading worship and giving leadership talks was rewarding, but it felt like playing a character that looked like me and sounded like me but, deep down, wasn’t me. It’s not that the things I was speaking about weren’t a true reflection of my values or my convictions, but sometimes we find ourselves in places and with people who just simply aren’t our community. I made the mistake of pretending to believe things to fit in, and it’s really hard to find a balance in the middle of all of it. One of the hard things you come to grips with in church ministry is the realization that you might not be surrounded by true friends.
So many questions:
Can I be vulnerable?
Can I be 100% transparent?
Can I admit that maybe I am still trying to figure some things out?
Am I allowed to admit that maybe I am hurting just as much or possibly even more than some of the people who come into my office on a day-to-day basis?
Is there anybody that I can talk to to let them know that the way that I am treated on a day-to-day basis by people who I thought were my heroes is considered abusive in most leadership environments?
The question I’ve just posed isn’t one I ask lightly. There’s a profound weight and complexity in these words, a depth that perhaps deserves its own dedicated discussion at another time. But here’s a critical realization from my journey: enduring two decades in unhealthy leadership environments has a significant impact. It shapes you in ways you might not even fully realize. Yes, we are each responsible for the choices we make. However, sometimes the healthiest and most courageous decision is to step away. Your family, friends, and even your own well-being deserve the best version of you, not a shadow diminished by a toxic environment. If you’re navigating through similar struggles and need someone to talk to, remember, I’ve been there. You’re not alone, and reaching out for support is a strength, not a weakness.
Embracing the Real Michael: A Symphony of Self
The journey to embracing my true self was less of a straight path and more of a dance – sometimes graceful, often clumsy, filled with mistakes, regrets, and bad decisions. I realized that being true to oneself isn’t a one-time decision. It’s a continuous process of checking in, tuning out the noise, and ensuring that the life you lead is the life that resonates with your core.
A Call to Action: When to Drop the Act
So here’s my call to action for you: if you’re feeling like an imposter in your own life, ask yourself, “Is this really me?” Don’t wait for a grand sign. Sometimes, the biggest revelations come in the quietest moments. It’s about listening to that inner voice that’s been drowned out by the roles we play.
Share Your Journey: From Imposter to Authenticity
I want to hear your stories. When did you realize you were more than the role you were playing? How did you step into your authentic self? Let’s share and support each other in our quests to be the truest versions of ourselves.
As always, if you don’t feel safe posting your story, feel free to email it to me. I’d love to hear from you. Michael@teams.coach