11 Feb Proverbs 31 Humility or Imposter Syndrome
Christ-Focused Financial Planning
I have often times felt like a fraud as a woman in business. Before I fully understood how Grace worked, I believed that because of my financially illiterate upbringing, I would never be well educated enough to adequately help others.
As Christian Women in business we can all feel like a fish out of water. So often we are isolated in our business struggles and our successes. If we admit to struggling then we open ourselves up to that well meaning advice: it’s okay to give up. Sometimes God allows us to try and fail to teach us something. It’s okay to do small things. It’s okay to go back to a safe familiar place of working for others or being financially supported by others. And if we admit our success then we open ourselves up to more invasive questions about how we are spending our time and our money. Are we giving enough? Are we spending enough time with our family? Christian men don’t get this kind of advice or these same questions nearly as often if at all. It doesn’t matter if we have been directly ridiculed for having children and continuing to work, or having children and staying home, or not having children. We all know someone or has heard about someone who has been accused of compromising their ‘highest calling’ as a Christian Woman.
As Christian Women it is much easier to pretend to be a humble 9-5 worker who would rather be home raising children, or a loving devoted wife with a ‘hobby’. Naturally we wouldn’t be open about our desire to work in a field that interests us, or a passion for the challenge of entrepreneurship. We dare not admit that we are business leaders out to change the world for the better. Who would understand our drive to hire, and mentor? Our passion to provide financially for our household? Our constant hunger for learning and bettering ourselves for the purpose of being a stronger leader?
“God works through the most unlikely candidates”. “I am nothing without the support of my husband”. “I am just a vessel”. I have said these statements so many times. And although these are all wonderful statements that invoke compassion from others, we must be careful that these are not the flowered-up statements of our inner monologue of self deprecating negative self talk. (I am not smart enough, not pretty enough, not fit enough and not well connected. So how could I really be successful? If people really knew me, they would not look at me and see success.)
I struggle with the imposter syndrome every day because I am trained to educate people around principles that I myself don’t follow. I know that everyone is different and I am very careful to help my clients in a very personalized way. I don’t ever make my clients feel guilty for having debt or for living life against the ‘normal’ financial planning rules. Maybe that is because I personally happen to be a very successful financial planner with multiple masters level degrees and professional certificates. I earn well above the national average and yet I have debt. I purposefully have debt. I know that I am paying interest and that I am living with less disposable income because I have debt; however, I still choose to have debt. I also know how to get out of debt. I counsel people to not have debt and preach the financial rules of wisdom everyday that state: you can never get ahead financially and have debt. I preach these rules as if offering a vaccine against financial ruin because they are the ‘rules’ for most individuals. I have studied at many different schools and learned statistically that these basic rules work for most people. I have learned from many different areas of economics and finance. As much as I have appreciated my humble financial brothers and sisters in their quest to educate the common folk, I just could never swallow the pill myself. In all I have learned about personal finance I hear the same thing: don’t have debt, spend less than you earn and save over time so that you can have a retirement. Practical financial planning is very simple: save, save, save, don’t go into debt, buy a home and save some more. Don’t forget to do all this while being a size 2, eating vegan, raising 3 children and being married to a church deacon.
The Holy Grail of Christian Women
The Proverbs 31 Woman is the Holy Grail of what we should strive to be as Christian Women. I have often tried to squeeze my size 12 booty into her jeans… In my mind she has it all. No matter what I accomplish I will never measure up. I feel like she is who people expect to see when they see me, and if I let them see the real me, well then… They would be sorely disappointed.
The Proverbs 31 woman is the perfect wife and mother. She never struggled to get pregnant and her husband was over the moon excited to be a father always. She barely sleeps but always looks beautiful. Her hair and skin are flawless and her children are all perfectly well behaved. Her husband is well respected and never gets angry. She has a business that is successful but her family obviously comes first. She never sings her own praises but she is working 80 hours a week in the quiet background while publicly running the school bake sale, her husbands campaign for office and the children’s ministry at church. They never miss a Sunday as a loving Christian family, and tithe above and beyond to their local church. She also does Christian yoga, cross fit, and trail running on the weekends. Her family vacations in the Caribbean when they are not leading mission trips or feeding the homeless. She has no credit card debt, went to college through scholarships while working three jobs of course. She would never use student loans heaven forbid. She saves diligently in her 401k and has well funded 529 plans for her children. Their house is almost mortgage free and they will use the extra money to build tiny houses for the homeless in metropolitan areas across the country while donating and volunteering to help farmers and veterans in both mental health and medical care. Her family has adopted three children from foreign countries who have physical and or mental disabilities. She is also a mentor for women of trafficking, domestic abuse and she is a foster care parent. In her spare time she still writes thank you cards and birthday cards, hosts holiday parties, women’s bible studies, prepares healthy meals for her house, writes a blog on her healthy meal prepping as well as proper exercise. She is never anxious and never gets depressed. She can do all things through Christ who gives her strength.
We all have this measure of something we are not doing right. As Christian Women we know we are not good enough or we wouldn’t need Christ and the cross to save us from our sins. The impostor syndrome is something more than that though. We go far past the sacrifice of Jesus to believing that we need to behave and accomplish something extraordinary before we can admit that we are living out the calling God has placed on our hearts. Yet even after we achieve the extraordinary, we still feel inadequate.
We don’t want to give into the ‘life is messy‘ truth, so we hide it and make believe that life is easy and any mess must be our fault. We can never live up to the Proverbs 31 woman fully. She is a mirage of dilution. Of course we are called to work hard with our hands and put God and our family above all else, but does that mean we are not allowed to have our heads held high as we reap the reward for our labor? Note that Proverbs 31 was not written by the woman herself, but by an observer. It is so easy to look at another woman and think that she surely has it easier. I mean Oprah obviously has a gift for speaking and Sheryl Sandberg came from a good family. We easily forget how Oprah came from a traumatic upbringing and struggled deeply before seeing any success. Sheryl worked through her own insecurities and then through the sudden death of her husband. The founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries: Lysa TerKeurst talks openly about facing divorce head on as her marriage crumbled.
Maybe we know all these things in our heads; however, we will look at these successful women, see their hardships and still think of how God meant them for something great while we are called to be small. I must be called to earn a modest income while being grateful to accept a minimal benefits package. I must be called to raise children at home while my husband works because if I do anything else people will think I don’t care about my kids. I must be called to live in an apartment while I’m going to college because if I accumulate any student loans I will never be able to teach on financial planning.
I’m an impostor…
I was raised to be small. My mother always told me that I could do or be anything; however, the world around me let me know early on that I was not welcome to just do or be anything. By the 2nd grade, I was reprimanded for speaking in class and alienated by my classmates when I spoke about my traumatic experiences. I learned that if you are too honest or speak too loudly about who you are, then people will turn away from you and not want to be your friend. In my youth, I learned to hide my flaws with rebellious behavior. I believed that no one could hurt me that bad if I volunteered to be hurt. Then when I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior at age 19, I learned from the church that I could ‘fake it until I make it’ as a proper Christian lady.
I have never been able to silently follow direction but I got the impression early on that, that was exactly what I was supposed to do. So I tried to act small and be a good girl.
This trying to be small thing is a problem Christian women in particular struggle with. 1 Corinthians 14:34 says that women are to be quiet after all. Never mind the countless times women are called to speak up, lead and break down barriers in the Bible. We need to listen to that one verse out of context and just submit to our husbands without a mind of our own.
I for one was designed in such a way that I am not able to be small or silent. Pretty soon after my salvation, as I studied the Bible relentlessly; I read books like Esther and thought how amazing she was as a leader and problem solver. I read about Ruth and how she wouldn’t do what she was told and how God blessed her for it. I read about the women who followed Jesus. The woman with the flow of blood who was brave enough to touch Jesus’s robe. The women who never left Jesus when he was crucified. They never left the cross, and they went to Jesus’s grave first, and were blessed to see him raised from the dead first! A woman was first called to preach the gospel. Priscilla led a man to Christ with her husband present but his name was listed second, implying that Priscilla was the leader here.
My Christian Sister, listen to your heart and hear what God is saying to you. You are saved by grace, through faith and you should not boast about your being able to save yourself; however, own your business leadership skills! Own how hard you work and how you are able to support your family with your business profits. We are a part of the body of Christ. Some are called to lead the children’s ministry. Some are called to mentor, adopt and foster children. Some are called to teach diet and exercise. Some of us are called to the marketplace to show business leadership skills.
Our identity is not in how much money we have or don’t have. Jesus is the savior and as He lives as Lord over our lives, we follow Him with all we are. We are all called to place Christ at the center of all we do and to preach the gospel through our words and actions. Our salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone, but our business is the fruit of our labor. Jesus as our business partner, let us give Him glory without belittling our talent or strength as a Christian Business Woman.
I believe that a household’s finances are not that different from a business’s finances. Many businesses use loans to get up and running. Small business owners borrow $600 billion each year as a matter of fact, and it is reported that many small businesses don’t survive because they lack the ability to borrow. So why as individuals do we snub borrowing so much? Perhaps it is because of our misunderstanding around its uses. Marketing efforts by those who profit off of our lack of understanding push us to borrow for consumer goods that are not investments. Borrowing to buy clothes, go on a vacation or cash flow extravagant spa visits can certainly be a way to get yourself close to chapter 11 faster than you would have wanted. I also wouldn’t accumulate student loans for a degree in theater or communications.
Mortgages are not seen as a bad debt even though buying a home that is more than you can afford is a very bad idea. Instead of putting all your borrowing eggs in a mortgage basket, why not finance a car that will reliably take you too and from work. You could finance a computer that doesn’t crash when your working on reports for work or writing to finance your day to day. You could also use student loans wisely by taking business classes or learning about finance or nursing. My point is that debt is dangerous and should not be used as a way to make yourself feel more successful or live a life you can’t afford. If you are going to borrow make sure it is an investment toward your future. Think of a construction company that needs a new tractor. They will finance over 100,000 to buy this piece of equipment because they know that it will pay for itself and then some in a short amount of time.
My hope for you is that you won’t look at your balance sheet and shame yourself for past mistakes. I also hope that you won’t compare your financial situation to someone else’s who hasn’t had to face what you have. A traumatic upbringing, a failed marriage, cancer, abuse, illness or disability can all cause a family to face some severe financial hardships. Don’t judge, and don’t let the feeling of not being good enough keep you from investing in your future. Also don’t blindly listen to advice of those who profit off of your ignorance.
Eyes wide open! Seek Jesus First!! Your Christ-Focused Financial Plan will not look like anyone else’s!
You my dear friend, are so special. You are loved beyond measure and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ!
Thank you for reading,
Michal Slate, MEd, MBA, CFP®
Note: If you have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please pray this prayer with me: “Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life and my business. I know that I have made many mistakes, committed many sins and that I cannot save myself. I acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and accept the Free Gift of Salvation. I receive the gift of salvation as atonement for my sins by faith. I am willing to make you Lord over my life and I ask you Jesus to come into my heart and be with me forever. Thank you Jesus for never leaving me and for dying on the cross for me. I will spend the rest of my life with you by my side and I ask you Lord to never let me turn away from you but keep me with you all my days. You are my Lord, my Friend, my Savior. Thank you Jesus, Amen”