EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout October, we’re engaging in an online book study of Kathy Khang’s Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How We Speak Up. Along the way, we’ll offer a reflection based on our readings and discussion. Follow along as we reflect on the Introduction & Chapter 1 of the book this week.
It wells up every now and then. That persistent feeling of inadequacy. Scattered thoughts that shake my confidence. A not so quiet voice that makes me question my abilities.
I am an impostor.
Or at least that’s what the big fat lies from the pit of hell tell me. No matter my myriad experiences, achievements, or accolades, I somehow end up seeing myself as a fraud. A charlatan. A fake.
In these moments, I repeat my mantra…
I am more than enough.
I am more than enough.
I am more than enough.
But sometimes this is simply not enough to break through the paralysis that keeps me from taking action, from speaking up. The internal script of self-doubt keeps playing, all the while reinforced by external messages that tell me I am not enough — but less than others.
In a world that privileges whiteness, my dark brown skin is often regarded as foreign, exotic, or suspect. Layer in my female identity, religious baggage, history of trauma and abuse, and impostor syndrome — and I am a therapist’s dream come true.
The struggle is real, but then I’m reminded that God calls me beloved.
Praise be for Kathy Khang who grounded me in this truth through her latest work, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up. She opens her book explaining her own struggle with impostor syndrome, compounded by painful experiences of being silenced as a woman of color. I immediately connected with Khang’s raw and grace-filled storytelling which reflects many of my experiences navigating white supremacy and patriarchy as an Asian-American woman.
Indeed, stories matter — but it also matters whose stories are told and who tells them. Christian publishing is dominated by the writings of white men and (some) women, muting the voices of those on the margins of church and society. But God invites us to bring our whole selves to the table, offering our diversity of voice and experience to nourish and sustain one another along the journey. As Khang explains, “When more of us from different intersections and margins raise our voices, we live a fuller picture of the good news.”
This is truly the heart of the kin-dom of God, but living into this vision is easier said than done. As we have discussed in our online book study group, it’s hard to step out in faith and raise our voices when we’re met with silence, vitriol, or just plain disbelief — particularly among Christian circles.
After all, Christianity has a bad habit of silencing and dismissing women. The gospel itself hinges on the testimony of Mary Magdalene and other women. But these very first witnesses of the resurrection were not believed, since their words were viewed as “nonsense” or “idle tales” to the male disciples. (View various translations of Luke 24:1-11.)
Fast forward to the 2018th year of our Lord and not much has changed. Today the authority of men remains relatively unquestioned, while the bodily integrity, giftedness, and truthfulness of women are contested time and time again.
Just this past week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford took the stand to share her testimony of the attempted rape she endured in high school, allegedly at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Many have lauded Dr. Ford for speaking up, yet countless others have scrutinized her for doing so — including Trump who mocked and maligned her. In the end, our elected leaders decided to confirm Kavanaugh rather than stand with survivors like Dr. Ford.
It’s no wonder that so many of us question our own credibility and struggle to be seen or heard.
“Power dynamics keep us silent and marginalized,” the author says, “especially when race, ethnicity, and gender are factors.” But in the midst of this oppressive reality, Khang also reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, created to use our unique voices and identities to bless others and call forth justice.
We, who are made in the image of God, are more than our history or hang ups. Despite the naysayers and nonbelievers, we are called to raise our voices and speak truth to power. And just like Moses, we are “called out of our impostor syndrome wilderness to proclaim freedom and good news to the world.”
For all of us who have been silenced or made to feel small, may we remember that we are image-bearers of the divine. And may we recall these powerful words by Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure, It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Beloved, you are more than enough. Rest in that truth.
And may you take up space and raise your voice like no other.
Read the other reflections in this series: