We cannot be authentic if we’re trying to imitate someone else. Sounds simple enough, right?
And yet our default position in life seems set to following others in order to live a story worth telling.
There’s a place for leadership – and a place for following – to a point. But if we are ever going to discover how God has wired us to succeed, we’ll need to step away from following in order to become the person God wired us to be.
It’s not always easy. I recall when I served as a pastor, I found myself imitating the speaking style of others. Without any intentional effort, I would incorporate mannerisms of other speakers.
When leading, I adopted the approaches of others when developing people. Even today, I see what other writers and speakers are doing in terms of building their platform or promoting their work – and I sense a rush to follow their every move. Whether or not it will work doesn’t seem to matter in that moment of panic that I may have missed an essential something.
It just feels safer to imitate someone else than to set out on a new course, unique to my own strengths and calling. But comfort can never achieve what courage dares to try.
I used to become like those I hung out with the most. Almost like a chameleon, I would soak up mannerisms, habits, and traits of others around me, rather than leaning into my own natural strengths. As a collaborative writer, it turns out that ability is not all bad, for it enables me to capture the voice of an author. But left to it’s own devices it can stifle my own voice and keep me from fully fulfilling my calling.
It wasn’t until I became aware of this tendency that I began to intentionally choose which traits in others were worth imitating. I began evaluating which were the best fits for how I was wired.
And it led me to recognize five reasons we are so quick to imitate others instead of living an authentic life.
5 Reasons We Imitate Others
- We don’t like who we think we are. Aristotle’s admonition to “Know thyself” is as true today as ever. Few of us truly know how we are wired. Even fewer have taken time develop a self-awareness as to the influences that have shaped us. Consequently, we don’t like the person we think we are, even though the person we think we are is based mostly on our imitation of others. Zig Ziglar points out why what we think of ourselves is so important: “The most influential person who will talk to you all day, is you.”
- We don’t like who we know we are. Each of us fails in ways no one else will ever know. As Christians, we know that the best of our goodness still falls short of God’s holy standard. We can never be good enough on our own –and we know it. So we try to be like others. But they have the same problem. The good news? Grace flows downhill.
- We project our fears and insecurities onto others. Because we fear we can never be good enough, we see others through that lens. We instinctively think they must be better than us, because we know how bad we are and we don’t always see their struggles. Trust me on this one: no matter how successful someone appears to be, they are not struggle-free. I’ve spent enough time in counseling and life-coaching conversations over the years to know that we all have the same fears and same insecurities. Some of us let those fears stop us from discovering who we were meant to be, and some of us don’t.
- We think other people are better than we are. “You’ll never amount to anything. Why can’t you be better, like your brother or sister?” How many parents have programmed their children with such horrific talk? But let’s face it: we don’t need parents to tell us we don’t measure up. There are plenty of friends, marketing campaigns, and our own damaged self-worth to preach that message to us every day. Before God, we are all equal. Just because someone has a title next to their name like Author, CEO, Pastor, or President doesn’t make them any dearer to God than you.
- We want to know what buttons to push to succeed. This is the primary reason we tend to imitate others. We want to minimize risk. We don’t want to try and fail. People will laugh. We’ll be embarrassed. So we follow someone else’s lead. At least we can blame them if it doesn’t turn out. But living an authentic life demands authentic faith. And faith always entails risk. We will never truly become the best God intended us to be until we step out before we know how it all turns out. [Tweet this!]
Question: With which of these reason can you most relate? What other excuses have you discovered for imitating others? Share your thoughts by clicking here.