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.

8 thoughts on “Culture Making Part VIII: The Imposter Sydrome/Claim Your Maker Status/The Slash Effect”

  1. Oh my goodness, how to quantify all of my inadequacies! I’m not attachment parent enough. I’m not free range enough. I’m not Catholic enough. I’m not doula enough. I’m not wife enough. I’m not engaged mom enough. I’m not fit enough. I’m not friend enough. I’m not daughter enough. I’m not writer enough. I’m not reader enough. I’m not educator enough.

    How to wear all of these hats in a 24 hour day? Can we consider the idea of a life’s journey, or the concept of “seasons of life” and hope that, over the course of our long life, we might have been enough when we look back at the end?

  2. Absolutely. I notice it most in that I shy away from using correct technical terminology because I’m afraid of giving the impression I’m claiming an expertise that I don’t deserve.

  3. This isn’t actually the comment I was thinking of making. That’s still percolating. But it’s what came out when I sat down to write.

    Unlike others I know, I’m not attending writers’ workshops, submitting articles to magazines, reading books about writing, and seeking out publishers. I don’t get paid for writing. I just write. I’m not writer enough.

    I don’t have a degree or any certification in genealogy; I haven’t taken any classes, nor read much about the proper way to do research and write up my findings. I’m not paid for my uncounted hours of work. I’m not genealogist enough.

    I’m not really an educational resource creator. I’ve made educational books, flashcards, PowerPoint presentations, and videos galore, but nothing marketable. It’s not enough.

    Except for a few days out of the year, I’m not a part of the physical lives of our children and grandchildren. I can’t soothe a crying baby, give a hug, read a story, bake cookies, share work, give a harried mother a break, or engage in long walks and talks with those most dear to me. I’m not mother and grandmother enough.

    My husband is more important than any project. Yet it’s all too easy to let my projects, for which there is never enough time, keep me from being enthusiastically open to his suggestions for more activities. I’m not wife enough.

    Not citizen enough. Volunteer enough. Sister/aunt enough. Homemaker enough. Baker enough. Chef enough. Choir member enough. Christian enough. I’m not even ME enough!.

    But enough is enough of that. You know the joke: What do they call the person who graduates last in his medical school class?


  4. Not patient enough. Not firm enough. Not housekeeper enough. I could go on, but I won’t.

    It is very sad to see these lists. God put us where we are and he makes us enough.

  5. Oddly enough, I find these lists less sad than empowering. They remind me of how astounded (and a little annoyed) I was when an amazing choir director confessed to me that she often felt like an imposter. Deep down, maybe we all feel inadequate, and look for degrees, certificates, and paychecks to legitimize our identities. Not good.

    I’m going to embrace my slashes. I write, therefore I am a writer. I research genealogy, therefore I am a genealogist. What level I am on is irrelevant to the identity itself.

    Nonetheless, I’m still so uncomfortable with the “What do you do?” question, and the more probing questions that often follow, that I dream of answering, “I’m a spy. If I tell you any more I’ll have to kill you.”

  6. Good for you for claiming your work, Linda Wightman! I’ll follow your example and share mine – which was hard enough to come up with.

    I’m an educator/entrepreneur. I could probably claim writer since I blog, but I relized I don’t care if I’m a writer or not. My passion is child development in all areas and all the other hats I wear can fall neatly in the “entrepreneur” category: blogging, running the house and home, serving others, doing music, etc. Nobody asks an entrepreneur “what do you do all day?”

    Just claiming the slashes for myself makes me feel empowered.

    I understand you all want to be better at the things you do, but go ahead and be brave and claim your work and share your most important slashes!

  7. Oh, there’s another challenge. I was only giving examples, with the writer and genealogist labels. There’s so much other work that’s important to me, too. I need to figure out how to incorporate it into general labels, like your “entrepreneur,” so that my slashes don’t multiply out of control. “Educational consultant” might cover a few of them.

    Another thing: we don’t have to reveal all our slashes in every circumstance. Since most people don’t want a complex answer to “What do you do?” any more than they do to “How are you?” answering with one or at most two of them, depending on the audience and what we feel like talking about, should do the trick in most cases.

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