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Imposter syndrome is better than unshakeable confidence

Half of workers admit to feeling under-qualified for their job, but a little self-doubt isn't always a bad thing.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 14 Apr 2016

Do you deserve your job? Many people feel like they don’t, according to a survey commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians. It found that 48% of British workers feel they are in a job they might not be sufficiently qualified for, and more than two thirds admit to regularly feeling out of their depth at work. 

That does have its downsides. Nobody likes feeling inadequate and concerns that this so-called ‘imposter syndrome’ is preventing some women from seeking out promotions as readily as their male counterparts are well-founded. But there’s nothing like a bit of fear to spur you on in your career. ‘It keeps you on your toes,’ as Ray Kelvin, the camera-shy founder of Ted Baker recently professed, and he’s clearly not done so badly out of it.

The apparently unshakable confidence of Silicon Valley luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs has helped create the impression that to be successful we must ignore self-doubt. But behind the veneer, all will have their personal worries.

Having the confidence to take the right risks is an important element of being successful, both for visionary entrepreneurs and those seeking to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. But a good dose of self-doubt forces people to always be thinking about how they can improve themselves and to realise they’ve always got something to learn from colleagues and competitors alike.

Imposter syndrome is certainly better than the opposite trait, unshakeable self-confidence, which leads to the deadly business sin of complacency. As the late lamented former Intel boss Andy Grove memorably noted 'Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.'

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