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Jacinda Ardern says she sometimes suffers from 'imposter syndrome'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted she suffers from imposter syndrome, but says she uses that self-doubt to signal areas of improvement.

Imposter syndrome is an experience where a person doubts their own skills despite external evidence of their competence and success, sometimes suffering from an internalised fear that they will be exposed as a fraud, or imposter.

Ardern spoke with former All Black and mental health advocate Sir John Kirwan for his Mentemia series Open Minded, where Sir John revealed he felt like an imposter after his 1987 World Cup try against Italy.

"Everyone said that was a great try, but I came off and I was wondering when the coach was going to drop me because I was just lucky — when he was going to find out I wasn't good enough," he explained.

Ardern said she first heard the term imposter syndrome at school, when a teacher of hers told her he doubted himself too.

"I had a teacher at school that was just remarkable. All of us will at least have a teacher who was memorable for all the right reasons or all the wrong reasons — he was memorable for all the right reasons," she said.

"He just had a way of teaching that stuck.

"When I became a senior student and was about to leave, he mentioned to me that he suffered from this thing called imposter syndrome. And the way he described it to me, he said he would always wait for, I think he described it as a leprechaun at the back of the classroom to jump out and expose him as not really being a teacher.

"I just remember thinking if he can feel like that, someone I admire so much, then maybe I shouldn't worry so much about feeling like that.

"Some of the people I admire the most have that self-consciousness and that slight gnawing lack of confidence — I think there's a little bit of Kiwi in that, a little bit in our nature.

"But I've tried to channel that into, instead of being a gnawing lack of confidence just something that drives me to be better.

"Why am I feeling a bit worried about that? Does it mean I have to do a bit more prep? Does it mean that I need to think a bit more about my decision making?

"Just try and turn it into something positive."

Ardern said that doubt "hasn't been as pronounced for me" during 2020, as the busy year and pandemic had left her with little time for doubt.