Culture Making Part VIII: The Imposter Sydrome/Claim Your Maker Status/The Slash Effect


Do you ever feel out of place because you don’t deserve what’s happening to you?

Has anyone ever given you praise or honor that stretches the limits of what you can honestly take credit for?

If you’re like me, maybe you have imposter syndrome and you are not alone.

Do you ever feel that you are more than what people are giving you credit for?

Have you ever been dismissed at a function because you don’t fit the mold?

If you’re like me, it happens all the time.

How can this be? How can we feel we are both more and less than what people say we are, and why does it matter?

Nice to meet you. What do you do?

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who you Are, Dr. Brené Brown discusses how these types of conflicting feelings effect our work.

“[One] thing that gets in the way of meaningful work is the struggle to define who we are and what we do in an honest way. In a world that values the primacy of work, the most common question that we ask and get asked is, “What do you do?” I used to wince every time someone asked me this question. I felt like my choices were to reduce myself to an easily digestible sound bite or to confuse . . . people.”

I know Dr. Brown is not the only one who hates the phrase “What do you do?”

I’ve struggled for years with how to positively engage in conversations that start with “What do you do?” but as I am challenged enough with the phrase “How are you?” I’ve yet to come up with anything satisfying.

The Slash Effect

Dr. Brown shares a promising solution to the “What do you do?” problem:

“Marci Alboher is the author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. Alboher interviewed hundreds of people pursuing multiple careers simultaneously and discovered how slash careers – researcher/storyteller, artist/real estate agent – integrate and fully express the multiple passions, talents, and interests that a single career cannot accommodate.”

What does all of this have to do with culture making?

The Slash Effect isn’t called as such in Culture Making, but Andy Crouch touches on the same issues when discussing where we choose to use our cultural power.

“Real culture making, not to mention cultural transformation, begins with a decision about which cultural world – or, better, worlds – we will attempt to make something of.”

“Some people choose a set of cultural ripples that was not originally their own. When they do so in pursuit of economic or political opportunities, we’ve traditionally called them “immigrants”; when they do so in pursuit of evangelistic or religious opportunities, we’ve called them “missionaries.” But as the wheels within wheels overlap more and more in a mobile world, most of us have some choice about which cultures we will call our own. We are almost all immigrants now, and more of us than we may realize are missionaries too.”

Maybe if we think of ourselves as making something in a particular cultural world it will be easier to claim the label of maker when we formulate our personal slashes.

Claim Your Work

You are in good company if you are afraid you aren’t enough to call yourself a maker.

Dr. Brown shared the Slash Effect in her book because she meets so many people who are afraid to claim their work.

Dr. Brown shares a story of getting to meet the woman whose jewelry Dr. Brown had bought online. The lady blushed at being called a jeweler and explained that she was a CPA and “not a real jeweler” because she only made jewelry for fun and didn’t make much money at it.

“As ludicrous as that sounded to me, I get it. I hate calling myself a writer because it doesn’t feel legitimate to me. I’m not writer enough. Overcoming self-doubt is all about believing we’re enough and letting go of what the world says we’re supposed to be and supposed to call ourselves.” – Dr. Brenè Brown

I’m not blogger enough. I’m not musician enough. I’m not Swiss enough. I’m not mom enough.

You Are Enough.

Please share in the comments where you feel you aren’t enough, and if you feel brave, follow it with the claim that you are enough. I look forward to hearing your slashes!

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

This is Part VIII of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII here.

Culture Making Part VII: How To Encourage Our Children To Be Makers

flower peas

How do we help our children make something of the world?

Last week we discussed the most important way: be a maker yourself!

Here are some other practical ways to increase productive cultural power for our children to encourage their creativity, productivity, and responsibility.

Get Out Of The Way

One way is to get out of the way when our children are making meaning. It’s clear when they are painting that they are being creative, but what about when the 5-year-old dumps water on his dinner then refuses to eat it?

Our son did just that the other day and it turns out that his rice was too hot to eat and he wanted to cool it down. He’d recently watch a few videos on how water puts out fires by reducing the heat of the flame.

He was making meaning. As he had predicted, the water cooled the rice down, but he also learned that it made the food inedible.

Lori Pickert gives some hints on how to build what she calls a “maker culture” for our families in her book Project-Based Homeschooling.

I’ve mentioned before Pickert’s idea of producing what we consume.

“[When children] don’t just passively consume [but] actively produce . . . they take ownership over ideas and work with them, build with them. They take what interests them, what they enjoy, what they love, and they make something new.” – Lori Pickert

This idea takes us a huge step away from the idea that there are good and bad activities or good and bad media, and challenges us to ask what process is going on beyond the surface.

Instead of thinking books are good and movies are bad, notice whether or not a child play-acts his own stories after watching a movie, or shares a scene after reading a book.

Even if we don’t particularly care for Frozen we can appreciate the important work our children are doing when they play-act, draw, make dresses, and otherwise make something of the Frozen world.

A Frozen obsession won’t last forever, but the skills gained in making something of their world will if we choose to appreciate it rather than condemn it.

The Power of Attention

This brings us neatly to another tip of Pickert’s:

Give attention to what you want to grow.

“Think hard about what you value most, because that’s what deserves your attention. Your child will respond by doing more of whatever earns your focus. You feed a behavior with your attention, and by feeding it, you create more of it – so be thoughtful about what you invest with that power.” – Lori Pickert

What we shine the light of our attention on will increase, whether it’s the negative, or the positive.

It’s important to encourage with actions and not words. Make time, space, materials, and support for making and sharing.

Make Making Safer

To help get over the hurdle of starting, think of how you can lower the stakes so that creating and sharing aren’t attached to big risks.

Provide art materials that you won’t get upset about if they are dropped and broken.

Stay calm when you want to scream “What were you thinking?!” in the aftermath of a failed act of making meaning (like water on dinner).

Don’t immediately judge when your child (or spouse!) shares his work with you, rather show genuine interest and ask open-ended questions to learn more about the meaning behind the work.

For details and more concrete ideas, visit or read the book (it is not at all just for homeschoolers!).

In Short:

A child’s play is often the important work of using their cultural power to make something of the world. We can increase our children’s productive cultural power by getting out of the way when we see it happen, shining the light of our attention on it, and making it safer to venture into creative work.

Did this post inspire other ideas for encouraging and appreciating your child’s work?


This is Part VII of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI and Part VIII here.

Culture Making Part VI: Be A Maker Yourself


So far in our Culture Making series we’ve discovered that nobody makes culture, we make one specific cultural artifact at a time. We cook a meal, we paint a picture, we write a letter.

We can’t make Culture, but every act of creation changes the horizon of what’s possible and impossible.

Nobody has the power and influence to change the whole world. Everyone creates within one or a few culture groups. The most powerful culture group is also the one where we have the most cultural power – the family.

Cultural power is the ability to make something of our world.

What are we making of the world?

How do we help our children make something of the world?

Be A Maker Yourself

Perhaps the most important and effective way foster creativity and making is to model it ourselves.

For most of us, this is anything but easy.

The Courage To Create

At the same time I read Culture Makers I read The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think you’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Dr. Brené Brown.

Like Crouch, Brown connects specific acts of creation with making meaning

“If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.”

Culture Makers gave me solid reasons to create, and Brown’s book gives me the courage to try.

It’s scary being creative! It makes us vulnerable to judgment. Dr. Brown understands this. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite. I recommend book whole-heartedly.

“There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”


“Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning.”

I love the idea that value-judgment words lose their meaning. They aren’t just things we’re supposed to avoid saying, as though we’re sweeping truth under the rug, they just aren’t relevant any more. Words of comparison and judgment are important in other places, not here.

“When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love. When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others.”


“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurmann

What will you make today?

Remember, everyone has a different amount of cultural power. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, focus on what you DO have and run with it.

While our example is the most important ingredient, next week we’ll discuss more concrete ideas on how to encourage our kids to make something of their world.

This is Part VI of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part VPart VII, and Part VIII here.

Culture Making Part V: Are Children Poor In Cultural Power?


In the last post of the culture making series, I quoted a larger section of Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, by Andy Crouch.

In it we discovered a new definition of what it means to be poor:

“To be poor is to be unable to make something of the world.”

This perspective changes who we see as poor and what we can do about it.

Who is poor in cultural power?

Immediately children and the elderly come to mind.

While listening to my father talk about how the culture in his home town had changed I suddenly realized that maybe one reason why growing older can be tough is that it is like moving to a new country without leaving home.

I imagine it’s a frustrating experience when the culture around you changes and you find yourself a stranger in a strange land with significantly less cultural power than you once had.

What about children? In many ways they get their way so much more these days than they used to.

Are children poor in cultural power?

If having cultural power is having the ability to make something of the world, then we should ask ourselves whether the power our kids have is productive, cultural power or more like the power of a tyrant.

Letting our kids pick the blue shoes or the red shoes is not giving our kids power of any significant worth. It’s more like a consolation prize for having to put shoes on. Of course there is a time and place for giving our kids this kind of choice.

My question is whether children have the power to make meaningful decisions in their lives. Mostly their lives are governed by circumstances out of their control. Their lack of refined language ability alone puts them in the culturally poor category.

Productive or destructive Power?

Sometimes as a parent I feel powerless by my toddlers destructive power to thwart my will. But it’s not cultural power that’s limiting my ability to make something of my world when my toddler has a tantrum.

As the parent I still have far more resources to influence my world than my toddler does. (Though admittedly I’m often too tired and angry to make use of them – I’m working on it!)

If the ability to make something of our world is a fundamental need for humans, could the lack of productive cultural power be a reason our kids turn to destructive power displays?

If they can’t have meaningful choices and the power to make something of their world will they lash out and thwart the power of those they see has holding them back?

I feel a bit out of my depth, but whether or not the above is true, one thing is sure: I want to raise kids who are able to make something of the world.

Productive Cultural Power for Children

Most skills take practice, so it seems logical to assume that kids need to practice making something of their world while they are young and under the protection and guidance of loving parents.

So how do we give our kids true cultural power? How do we help them practice making something of their world?


This is Part V of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IVPart VIPart VII, and Part VIII here.

Did You Know You Must File US Taxes Even When Living Abroad?


Dear Readers,

As many of you are US citizens living abroad I’m posting this courtesy notice to remind you of your legal obligations to the good ol’ US of A.

1) You must file US taxes no matter where you live or what other country you pay taxes to. Visit for more information.

2) You must file the FBAR (report of foreign bank accounts) by June 30th and there is no opportunity for an extension. Visit for more information.

The good news for some of you:

You might not have to file taxes if you have no income and your spouse is not a US citizen or Green Card carrier. Then your filing status can be married filing separately, and you do not have to declare your spouses income.

The not-so-bad news for many of you:

Because many countries have double-taxation relief treaties it is possible you won’t end up owing the IRS any money, but you still have to file.

EVERYONE who has more than $10,000 in combined assets in non-US banks has to file the FBAR. The US isn’t asking for any of your money, they just want to know everything about your finances.

I could say something about cultural power here. As an upstanding citizen I have to report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network simply because I fell in love when traveling our wonderful world and settled down outside the US.

Sorry I have no real post, but my taxes and FBAR were super complicated this year (even though I’m not rich enough to owe any money) and all my computer time has been spent on that.

This is not legal advice, you are solely responsible for your situation (insert appropriate lawyer talk here). I am just an average person trying to do the right thing and help people.

Good luck!

And if you live in the United States, count yourself lucky you only have one set of income taxes to file!