Your community plays a role in how you perceive your personal identity. That may not be an earth-shattering notion, but it is one that we may not take seriously…until it’s too late. Dr. Mollie Bond lays out evidence of how those around you play an instrumental role in building you up or keeping you down.
What was it like to be a Christian working in a secular environment versus working in a Christian environment?
Mollie: When I made the switch from a secular workplace to a Christian nonprofit, I thought actions like being able to pray in meetings would help ease my feeling of impostor syndrome. I was wrong. Let me share how I came to learn the lesson of the falsehood of impostor syndrome.
While working at several television and radio stations, I found myself in a culture where swearing, cracking jokes about God, and lazy work were all part of the “norm.” It’s not easy to stay true to my beliefs of doing my best always for God (Col. 3:23) when I didn’t want to be without friends at work. Then I began work at a Christian radio station and thought all those problems would disappear.
Within the first few years of my new employment at the Christian station, I realized that it didn’t matter my surroundings; I am a Christian in any environment. Instead, the way that I interact with people changed. Meaning, I never was an impostor while in a secular corporate position. Instead, the Holy Spirit guided me differently in my interactions with people.
Paul mentions this adjustment in 1 Corinthians 9:22 where he says, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
This passage helped me realize that in some situations in my life, I must meet people where they are, even if I am not expressing my beliefs loudly and proudly. Christ met me where I was before I knew Him. Since He is my model, I strive to do the same.
It reminds me of this picture, a Bible that was in a construction work belt.
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22
If the Bible is in your work belt, sometimes you will take it out and use it, and other times it is not the right tool to use at that time.
So, to work in a secular environment and switch into a Christian environment didn’t change who I was, but rather how I interacted with others. My “impostor syndrome” was, in fact, an indication that I was responding to the Holy Spirit and showing Christ by loving others in the way that they needed it.
How can someone build an authentic identity rooted in Christ?
Mollie: As Christ followers, identity begins with claiming yourself as a daughter of the King. As a Christian, I know my identity is in Christ. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if I am a banker, a lawyer, an executive, or a nonprofit leader. I am to serve him in the best way possible in whatever comes my way that day.
Fortunately, He gives some insights into how to do this best, and He designed me to live this out in a unique way. I would call this purpose. Others have called it a calling or a passion.
I struggled with the thought of calling—I thought you had a pre-planned route, and if you misstep, watch out! Yet, as I grow in my faith, I’ve realized that God cares more about who I am rather than what I do. It’s not a tightrope walk, but aiming toward a round bullseye.
Each day, I aim for the center of the bullseye—to be more like Christ. This is purpose. How that gets lived out can look differently for everyone.
Once you know who you are, where do you go from there?
Mollie: After knowing who you belong to, then you can determine with God your purpose. It’s not what you do, but the natural responses and motivations that you have that help you be more like Christ. From purpose comes how you live that out—the tasks and activities you accomplish. In other words:
Identity –> Purpose –> Activities
I think about the simplify series on the 4word blog in April 2018. Simplifying was a catalyst toward getting “rid of every weight” (Heb. 12:1) that held me back from my purpose. That blog series helped me to ask myself the question when I walk into work, “what is the one thing only I can do to help my company?” That seems to simplify what I can accomplish with God’s help and stay true to the way He’s created me as His daughter.
Without starting as a Christ-follower, some try to figure out their tasks and activities (work) before determining who they are (purpose) which should always hinge on who you belong to (beliefs). Without belief (your identity), impostor syndrome runs rampant.
What role does the culture of your community play in building your identity?
Mollie: I believe impostor syndrome comes up more in situations where others try to dictate who you belong to and your God-given potential and purpose. That’s why I appreciate 4word so much. My local group through 4word reminds me that I belong to Christ, and gives me space to live out my purpose and work.
You may have heard it said that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most. If you remain close to Christ, then it is more likely you will take on his characteristics.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Mollie: As I shared in the video, there are three ways to avoid impostor syndrome.
1) Cultivate your core. This is your relationship with God. It doesn’t have to be a plan or become an obligation, but it is critical to get in touch with the very core of who you are. Find your identity in Christ.
2) Cultivate your community. Find those who will help you aim for the bullseye of being more like Christ and don’t dictate who you should be. 4word’s local groups are a great place to find like-minded Christian women who are passionate and faithful to God.
3) Cultivate your clarity. This could be the hardest step. But if you remain true to Christ first then build your purpose and activities upon that, it will be easier to avoid the false sense of impostor syndrome.
Dr. Mollie Bond is the Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations for Moody Bible Institute. She holds a BA in Radio-Television Production from the University of Montana, an MBA from Kansas Wesleyan University, and a doctoral degree in nonprofit leadership from Governors State University. Outside of her role at Moody, Mollie serves in various volunteer roles, including 4word’s local group leadership and as a 4word mentor.