Is Imposter Syndrome Ever Useful in Business?

Posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

This week, the topic for discussion at the MEG meetup in Colony, Piccadilly Place, was imposter syndrome.

What was especially interesting was the shared view that imposter syndrome might be a necessary, even useful, aspect of business and entrepreneurship, and not simply something debilitating.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The term imposter syndrome refers to a pattern of behaviour, which involves people doubting their accomplishments. A persistent fear of being found out accompanies this.

Often the sufferer internalises this fear, and remains convinced they will be exposed as a fraud, despite any external evidence of their accomplishments.

They feel they do not deserve their success.

Have I Done Enough?

Like other psychological aspects of behaviour, imposter syndrome is an acute expression of other, more regular feelings and thoughts.

In this case, there is the nervousness which can come with winning a big contract.

For many of us, there is the anticipation of taking on a new challenge combined with a niggling sense of perfectionism. It’s that sense of wondering whether you’ve done enough and lived up to your own, as well as your client’s, standards.

Step Change Deals and Changes in Culture

Sometimes, in business, there can be a step change. This is that one key deal that allows you to put your business on a whole different level.

However, with step change deals, self-doubt can come with the territory.

It’s human nature to feel a twinge of self-doubt.

Similarly, business can take you into unfamiliar situations where the culture is unfamiliar or alien. Here, feelings of being out of place can persist.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The received wisdom is that ambition in business is a good thing, and that a little confidence goes a long way.

While it is important to convey a sense of professional competence and to have an eagerness to compete for work, there needs to be a realistic approach to seizing opportunities.

Hunger for work and success can be a powerful driving force in the earlier stages of a business, but it can have its downside.

On the one hand, imposter syndrome can inhibit growth and development and stop people taking opportunities. But on the other, you could put yourself in difficulties, or even jeopardise your business if you seriously overstretch yourself.

It is important to know how you will deliver for your client, not just to be able to sell yourself to them.

Realistic Self-confidence

There’s a well-known Richard Branson quote:

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure if you can do it, say yes – then learn to do it later!”

But self-confidence needs to be realistic.

What are often seen as the outliers of business enterprise might not always be the best examples to follow.

The idea that you can fake it until you make it can be extremely damaging, leaving reputations in tatters.

Sometimes, the best demonstration of integrity is not to try to punch above your weight.

It is better to aware of your limitations than unaware of them.

The Surrogate Boardroom

Imposter syndrome can be tough on people who suffer from it, but it can also be a way of protecting yourself from taking the wrong decisions.

What it also highlights is that we could all do with some form of support, even if it is just somewhere to sound off or a place to gain a different perspective on what’s been eating away at us.

MEG is a surrogate boardroom where business owners and like-minded professionals can exchange ideas, opinions, thought and insight. It aims to add value to business networking.

Book a visit to MEG here, or email



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