My Struggle with Imposter Syndrome

I entered the seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in 1971 to get my Master of Divinity degree. What was supposed to be a mountain top experience sitting at the feet of theological giants for two years, instead turned into an unexpected wrestling match with fear. Even though my creaky car made the 885 mile journey, I apparently did not. By the time I drove onto campus, a serious case of self-doubt had begun to take root. I had no way of anticipating the difficult struggles that lay ahead.

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I guess I’m surprised that a student would have such a reaction to Gottfried Oosterwaal. I knew him as a colleague, and a very friendly guy at that. After I left the Andrews faculty I promoted a Forum chapter in Bloomington, Indiana, and he came to speak here once. I remember entertaining him and his wife on the front porch of the house that I still live in.

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Oh, I can uderstand that ! Coming from a college with six classes weekly in Greek, five in Latin, five in Literatur, then Philosophy, - - -yes, and having changed from Economics to Medicine - I just HAD to be successful !. Well, years of “Science” -
The relief came in third semester : The first (oral) exam in “Scence” - Chemistry ! -"excellent ! " - What a surprse ! What an outlook on future in this new field !

It was - this I believe - with Gods help ! The exams beun at 08.00 am - I was (because of the polluted laboratory equipment I had gotten, repeatedly falsely cloride and chloride and chloride ) - the last candidate at 16.50. pm !

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I went through this when I was enrolled in a masters of music performance program in classical guitar. Didn’t matter if I gave good performances or had my teacher giving me positive feedback. I didn’t believe I belonged. In some ways, it has hamstrung me to this day as a performer…even with a career in music and music education.

I can relate! Thank you for sharing your experience.


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I believe you were struggling with a case of anticipatory anxiety instead of an imposter syndrome. The evidence? Once you were out of the precipitating stressors, you returned back to your normal self.

This is a normal reaction, particularly when one is uncertain how to respond to stressors. We experience this on the first day of kindergarten all the way through dating and marriage proposal. The treatment? Always be prepared and believe in yourself.


I had a bad case of imposter syndrome the Friday night before I was baptized.

Woke up in a cold sweat and found myself crawling to the bathroom to get a drink cause I was dying of thirst and for some reason my legs weren’t working right.

I was 11 or 12 at the time.

13 or 14 years later, I admitted to the sin of “impersonating an Adventist” and asked to have my name removed from the church roles.


It took me about 15 years before I realized I didn’t believe much of what the church taught. Unfortunately I had the foolishness at age 40 to give SDAism another try for about 10 years.


It is unfortunate the idea that one must be a member of the Adventist church is required to qualify as worthy of the kingdom has been present in the church culture. It is a grave misrepresentation of salvation as a free gift.


Gottfried Osterwal formed the core of a fledgling graduate religion faculty at our mission school shortly before he joined the seminary at Andrews University. His classes consisted of from a handful of 5, including him, to a roomful of up to 20 graduate students who came from Eastern and Southern Asia as well as Africa. Yes, he started his class by asking for a volunteer to provide a summary of the previous class session. Needless to say, he welcomed comments and questions from us. We could not ask him a seemingly irrelevant or foolish question that he was unable to turn into a meaningful conversation that contributed to our collective understanding of the deeper issues underlying the topic of his lecture.


It is my experience that self image and self confidence or lack of either is a stressor of significance. To acknowledge the reality of growth and increase in knowledge over time is crucial. I relate these topics to the experience of salvation. I must humble myself and I must accept my personal responsibility for my moral decisions. Only Christ has the power to save me, not mother or father, as the Bible says. All good comes from God and God’s gift of love overcomes fear. The SS lessons about faith have been meaningful to me but more than that I have faith to believe that God will make things work out for the good of all. I find encouragement in your story. When I was younger I found Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living to be of great value in my development. May God bless all of you.

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