I have been paying particular attention to the mechanics of the job and employment market recently and as result, I have started to come across things I had never thought about before.

The latest is the phenomenon known as ‘imposter syndrome’.

Apparently, it is the feeling you are not really qualified for your job. Or maybe you think someone else should have been promoted instead of you.

Now I had never considered this but according to all the jobs websites keen to tell me how to improve my chances of employment, the effects of imposter syndrome are increasingly common and can have a real effect on your confidence and mindset.

According to the fount of all totally accurate knowledge Wikipedia, Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and has a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.

Despite all the evidence pointing to a high level of competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Apparently, although the early research focused on the prevalence of imposter syndrome among high-achieving women, it has been recognised to affect both men and women equally.

Katy Leeson, managing director of Manchester digital agency Social Chain, said this belief that you have not legitimately earned your place is a behaviour shared by many successful individuals including Meryl Streep and Albert Einstein who dubbed himself as an ‘involuntary swindler’.

With estimations of up to 70 per cent of successful people experiencing imposter syndrome, the feeling of being a fraud is not uncommon.

So here’s the thing. A lot of very successful people who have reached high positions of responsibility got there by their own efforts, hard work and talent but are constantly questioning themselves, asking themselves if they are good enough.

They doubt their own abilities and maybe as a result strive to do that little better, try that little harder.

Now the question I find myself asking is do I know any politicians like that?

And the answer I get back is maybe one or two.

Sadly, rather than our politicians suffering from imposter syndrome, I can’t help but think that most of them are just imposters.

Which brings me to the syndrome which is the complete opposite of imposter syndrome which I may have touched on before – the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is when people mistakenly assess their ability as greater than it is.

Again according to the fountain of all knowledge Wikipedia: “It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognise their lack of ability.”

Basically, people suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect don’t have the self-awareness to be able to objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence and over-estimate their abilities.

As described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the bias of illusory superiority results from an internal illusion in people of low ability.

Just bear that in mind will you? An internal illusion in people of low ability – people can’t see or accept that really they are nowhere near as good at something as they think they are.

You used to see a lot of this on the X Factor, delusional contestants who are tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune if it was given to them in a handbag arguing the toss with Simon Cowell when he gave them the bad news they really were rubbish singers.

Now that was just a bit of fun.

But what about when it is serious?

What about politicians who are plainly suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect?

When I look at my Prime Minister, I want to see a person who is capable, talented and hard working – whatever their party – but who is maybe suffering just enough imposter syndrome to make them think twice before making a decision.

Which, of course doesn’t really happen in this country.

What we get are Old Etonians – David Cameron and Boris Johnson to name just two.

I was drawn to an article on the Telegraph website written by an anonymous Old Etonian.

He said: “It’s not just privilege in the sense of being wealthy, or coming from a fine family, or being blessed by every advantage society can confer, though that is all part of it, of course. It’s that Eton thing, that astonishing self-confidence, that innate, unshakeable sense of being special that is at one and the same time enviable and, to a very great many people, absolutely infuriating.”

And these are the people we elect to lead us. Heaven help us.


By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment