Many high-achievers feel an insecurity in their careers called Imposter Syndrome. It goes something like this: you feel that others will ‘discover’ that you don’t belong amongst the ranks of successful people. The advice for this is often to ignore it, or just acknowledge and persevere through it.

However, maybe another tack is to harness imposter syndrome to improve yourself. In a well-researched yet counter-intuitive book called “Confidence: How Much You Really Need and How to Get It” by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, the author argues that the most recent science show that low confidence is a powerful motivator for gaining competence. Competence, the author describes, is the only way to sustainably and authentically improve confidence, because confidence naturally emanates out from competence and success. And, high confidence not based on competence is actually a hindrance in attaining success (which is exactly the opposite of what the self-help industry advises). In other words, confidence is an outcome, not a useful input, in achieving success. Confidence feels good of course, but competence is the most effective way to get it. The downside is that, once competence and success are achieved, the resulting high confidence can dull the drive to grow, possibly leading to complacency. The trick, then, is to maintain enough low confidence to continue self-motivating.

So, maybe imposter syndrome is a durable source of action-inspiring low confidence at all levels of competence progression. While undoubtedly uncomfortable, perhaps it can be useful in sustaining improvement and ultimately success.