For much of my life, I allowed myself to live inside what I call “the imposter syndrome.” When I was an adolescent growing up, I felt secretly and silently awkward around my straight friends, since life seemed to be a bit easier for them. I thought that meant they ‘got it’ more than I did.
When I was in college, I was secretly sure getting into Stanford was a clerical error—that my spot was supposed to go to someone else. Others around me seemed happy and confident, like they had all the answers. When I looked at them, I felt deficient.
Growing up inside Mormonism as a gay man, I watched the happy families around me each Sunday and wondered how I fit inside my faith. I must, I thought, have something terribly wrong with me if there is no plan for me.
In each instance (and in many others,) I was the imposter. What it fostered inside me was a sense of fierce competitiveness. I had to get better grades, do better at sports, and know more than pretty much anyone around me.
That changed when I made a commitment to build a personal relationship with my Savior. As I embarked upon this path, I met others who were a lot like me, and through those blossoming friendships and much prayer and meditation, I learned the true nature of “the imposter syndrome:” comparing myself to others was driven by pride and fear along with a deep sense of inadequacy. I judged my insides based on other people’s outsides.
Today, I know that when I compare, I lose. I may come up feeling better than someone this time, but I’m sure to feel worse eventually. A better path for me is keeping my focus where it belongs—on me, my path, and my relationship with my Savior. The only comparison that has any validity is when I look at who and where I was in the past, versus who and where I am now.
When I compare myself to others, I diminish my own capacity for happiness. I isolate myself from the very people I wish to invite closer to my heart. I put myself into competition with everyone—including my Savior. And when I battle my Savior’s will for me, I risk losing the one thing I really want to win: His love, His guidance, and His friendship.