Exposing Ourselves for the Frauds We Are

Sometimes when I write, I feel like a fraud because I know I am not the best writer out there. I am not the best writer or editor or nurse or friend or any other role I find myself in.

Every time I decide to show up in those roles, a tiny (or not so tiny) voice inside of me cries out that I’m a fraud.

“Watch out!” it warns. “If you do that, they’ll know you’re a fraud. If you write something crappy, they’ll know you aren’t a real writer. If you say something you regret in a conversation, they’ll know you aren’t a true friend. You’ll be exposed!”

It’s very hard to ignore. If I keep listening, the voice continues: “Better not hit ‘publish.’ Better file the document away and eliminate the risk of being found out. Better not call that friend back. Better avoid having to tell him you don’t know the answers to any of his questions.”

Other times when I write, I feel like my most authentic self. I don’t feel like a fraud at all. It’s just me, typing words from the bottom of my heart, to you. 

I’m guessing the same back-and-forth switch happens to you sometimes, too. Sometimes feeling like a fraud, sometimes feeling authentic, even if it’s the very same action in both scenarios. When we know where that persistent voice telling us we’re frauds comes from, it’s much easier to combat it. So what makes the difference?

When we dissect the voice telling us we are frauds, most likely we will find out the root of it has to do with shame. In one of her TED talks, Brené Brown explains how shame plays two tapes: ‘not good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are?’ Both try to convince us we are frauds.

Most of the time, buying into the lie that we are frauds only makes sense if we are, in fact, trying to put up a false front for other people.

I only believe I am a fraud as a writer if I am trying to come across as the best blogger ever to my audience. I only believe I am a fraud as a nurse if I believe I am supposed to be a super-nurse. It has a lot to do with what we think we should be or what we want others to think.

A while back, I met a woman who served overseas with the International Mission Board for a couple years. I had recently returned from spending the summer in Cambodia and was struggling with some hard things I had seen in Cambodia. She shared some of her struggles overseas and how she too had worked with a counselor when she re-entered the States. She shared how on one occasion her counselor said, “You feel weak? Good! You are weak!” This woman said she sat in shock at the blunt blow of the statement before dialogue began again, but the point was this:

We are weak. It’s good to realize that.

Because we really like to put up a front that we’re strong.

If we are brave, we will admit this truth to ourselves. If we are wise, we will admit it to others as well. We can choose not to admit it to others, but often outside forces unexpectedly reveal that we are not who we say (or want others to believe) we are, generally ending in embarrassment and a deeper shame spiral. Embracing truth, however, leads to freedom—and also just to feeling better in general because it means we can be our authentic selves.

I am a writer. I am not the best. Now that we have that out of the way, we can get down to what’s really on my heart that I want to communicate to you.

I am a nurse. I am not the smartest, most experienced healthcare provider there is. Now that we have that out of the way, we can connect and address what you need most right now.

I am a friend. I am not perfect, and I often forget birthdays. Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to deeper things—the imperfections that make us need friends and community in the first place.

That is the inner fraud exposed. And when the fraud is exposed…suddenly we are not frauds any longer. We are back to our authentic selves, speaking from the bottom of our hearts, one to another.

And that's a much better place to be.

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