Imposter syndrome and why it’s a good thing

Introducing our new blogger – Mike Molton. Here he outlines why imposter syndrome may be no bad thing, including for parents.

parental burnout


Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome? That feeling that you’ve been given way more responsibility than you really should have? 

Of course you do. In fact, any minute now everyone will probably realise what’s going on. You’ll arrive home to find a group of people – which includes your boss, partner and local officials – sitting in your lounge, staging an intervention. You’ll end up having to hand over your car keys and bank cards to the grown-ups who actually know what they’re doing.

But you’re not alone. According to studies, up to 83% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their life – pretty much everyone. Presumably the remaining 17% are that minority of people so dangerously self-confident that they end up thrusting themselves forward right up to the position of running entire countries: something that should fill any sane person with terror. By rights, it’s this 17% that should have a syndrome named for them (I vote for calling it Liz Truss Syndrome). 

The truth is, no-one really knows what they are doing, and those who think they do are a dangerously overconfident minority. So that’s comforting. 

It’s interesting to think about who might be in that 83% of people secretly thinking they’ve been given way more responsibility than they ought to have. For example, adjusted for inflation, the Apollo mission to the moon cost $257 billion – imagine being the person in charge of that. Trying to look serious and competent during the countdown to lift-off whilst all the time your mind is screaming ‘This is madness! What the hell am I doing in charge of this MASSIVE ROCKET?!’.

Parental imposter syndrome

Of course, imposter syndrome does not just apply to professional situations; becoming a parent is a ludicrous proposition for any committed imposter. You get handed a tiny fragile bundle of human and told ‘you are now responsible for this new person, off you go’. And suddenly you have to be a proper grown-up, having to think about everything you do in the context that you might be accidentally raising a serial killer (note: I don’t think the parents are necessarily to blame for serial killers. Just getting that clear here and now). 

But you should remember: this anxiety is probably actually helpful. If you weren’t secretly concerned that you were doing a terrible job, worrying that sending your prodigy to school covered in jam was proof to the world that you aren’t fit to parent, could you say you were really trying? As attractive as it may sound to strut around the planet pleased with yourself and how much you’re ‘smashing it’, in doing so, you almost certainly won’t actually be ‘smashing it’. 

So if you feel like an imposter, maybe it’s not necessarily a disadvantage. It’s like having a little outboard motor compelling you to do better, albeit one powered with high-octane insecurity.


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