Don Rogers: We’re all faking it

I don’t suffer from imposter syndrome. I am an imposter.

Know thyself, a certain troublemaking Athenian said. Honesty is involved here. With yourself if no one else. It all starts with you.

And so here we are with me, or you, that most familiar face in the mirror. But we never see ourselves, exactly, do we? The truth can only be reflected, bent in the light, always some degree of funhouse.

We use people as mirrors, too, in our hyper-social society, an instinct of our species. Community life functions not only in the balance of cooperation and competition, but also in that unholy twilight between character and reputation.

Science offers little hope here, sadly. We can’t even figure out what consciousness is, never mind get a grip on the elements of personality — how much of ourselves we know in waking life and how much is buried, repressed or suppressed, the depths only sometimes expressed, often to our chagrin.

It’s enough to turn some to drink, to depression, to Jesus, which is to say salvation and really surrender to something greater. God’s ways may be mysterious, but we seriously have no clue about our own selves.

Yes, I’m saying you’re an imposter, too.


Oh, you thought I meant work. Position and title. Secretly feeling unworthy, expecting exposure any moment now as a fraud. Well sure. That, too. It’s all part of the same.

Our occupations are an expression of life every bit as much as family, play, personal time — these compartments, convenient fictions. We spend more time working than anything, other than maybe sleeping.

But I’m not nearly so much out of my depth now as in my first job in journalism, when I managed to get hired as a newspaper reporter before I could type. Sure, I could hunt and peck. With enough patience and Wite-Out, I could produce a cover letter, a resume, some freelance clips from a couple of newspapers and magazines.

Enough to fool my new employer. For a short while, anyway. I’m not sure I thought through how an actual workday might go.

Turned out, typing was the least of it. I still look back in wonderment how I squeaked through those early days, always out of place, everything way over my head and coming so fast. Sucking at my job, fumbling at far more than the keyboard, feeling the days ticking down to that inevitable “Got a minute?” beckon and wave into the boss’s office, expressionless formality on the other side of the desk, not even a pink slip, only good riddance. Any day now, any day.

Except that day never came.

Instead, shock of shocks, I won a statewide award for Best Writing. What? The editor had submitted a story I wrote about backpacking with my wife, a whimsical thing about lugging a bottle of wine along with a fat steak into the Lakes Basin, tapping into a local legend about a pot of gold never found, some geologic wonders from a book before it was published.

I might have been insufferable for a while after that. Probably. I was still young. I’m sure I swaggered like some kind of star. Yep, I was on my way, surely. Or was that relief? Suddenly, they seemed to think I was some kind of star, too. Whew.

I still couldn’t type worth a …


If we’re honest with ourselves, we have no idea who we really are, what we’re capable of. Along with this ignorance, we’re hardwired to try to fit in with whole networks of similar know-nothings. But fit in with what, whom, exactly? There is anxiety. Lots of anxiety.

Maybe this is why the Bible is stuffed with balms of all sorts. “Be anxious for nothing” might be the most prominent. I reach for it, along with the valley of the shadow of death passage. Many confess their faith as a wager against existentialist anxiety or a leap in all absence of evidence and cold logic to assuage fear.

No issues with such conversions. Probably accounts for my own irrational belief in God.

But down here on the ground, where we must exist for now, I’d argue for embracing the imposter. At least while feeling brave.

Seems we’re doomed to live with this anyway, and I can’t help but notice that anxiety’s shade only lengthens when we retreat. Well then, why not plunge in further, get into bigger surf? Life gets more exciting then. I’m alert, alive, if also plagued in that “who do you think you are fooling” kind of way. Here stands the imposter.

I remember thinking that while pausing outside the door of my new job here, heart pounding, stomach fluttering, wondering what in the Sam hell I’d thrown myself into with such happy talk about embracing the imposter, blah, blah, blah. This was just dumb. I had owned my last posting, there for almost two decades. Almost comfortable, certainly confident.

What was I thinking? What was I ever thinking, all the way through, every move, every new thing I was pretty sure I could never do, shouldn’t dare trying?

No idea.

But you know, I can type now. So there is that.

CLARIFICATION: Last week I referenced tax rate data from Wallethub that showed California among the lower taxed states by accumulation of local and state tax rates compared to median income. That was the median income of U.S. households. The same table shows our state among the higher taxed states by median state income, with Texas lower. There are many ways to look at tax burden, even in the same table. Check it out. It’s interactive:

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.


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