On Youth Worship and the Virtues of the Impostor Syndrome

William Bairamian
6 min readMay 15, 2020
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Pompeo Batoni, 1773)

When wealthy Romans died, those surviving them would display wax masks of their faces in their homes, often in prominent locations like the home’s atrium, where it was plainly visible to visitors. It was not uncommon to pray to ancestors and, along with Roman gods, ask for their favor. To take pride in ancestors, to remember them, and to place them in the Roman Pantheon indicated a profound respect for an ancestor’s contributions to one’s present status.

Roman ancestor worship was eventually replaced by its companion in Christian filial devotion, as enshrined in the Bible through exhortations to respect one’s father and mother. Thus, the custom of respecting one’s elders continued unabated in the west for millennia.

By partaking of relationships founded upon family, religion, and culture, you were exchanging deference as a youth for the invaluable currency of wisdom accreted through the ages that would give you an advantage in leading a fruitful life. Doing this intimated that you alone were insufficient for getting through life successfully — and there was nothing shameful in this. To dismiss the wisdom of elders would be hubristic stupidity by ignorant youth.

But talk about filial piety, ancestral wisdom, or ancient ethics today and befuddled looks will greet you.