5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome and How To Overcome Them

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the belief that you are inadequate despite your accomplishments. According to Time magazine, the idea that your success is owed to luck rather than your skills was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Imposter syndrome makes you feel like you are a fraud as it tricks you into thinking that you have not earned the things you have. For example someone with imposter syndrome may believe that the only reason they were hired at their dream company was that somebody else declined the job first. Alternatively, they may think they were the only applicant or that a mistake was made. In any case, they will never feel like they earned it. The name of this syndrome comes from the feeling it gives you: it makes you fear that one day, the people around you will discover you are an imposter.

There are 5 different types of imposter syndrome.

1. Perfectionists

As the name suggests, these people strive for perfection. It follows then that they set extremely high and unrealistic expectations for themselves. Therefore, when they cannot meet these unrealistic goals, they feel like failures. Even if they did meet and accomplish the majority of their goals, the things they did not achieve will make them doubt their competence. Moreover, meeting their expectations does not give them a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. The reason for this is that they always feel like they could have done better.

How do you overcome this?

To fight imposter syndrome, perfectionists need to learn how to celebrate and own their accomplishments – no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be. In addition to this, they need to learn how to accept their mistakes and view them as a part of the process. Everybody fails sometimes and nobody’s work is ever 100% perfect.

2. Experts

Experts believe that they need to know everything there is to know about a certain subject. These people will not apply to jobs if they do not meet every single requirement. Moreover, they constantly seek to educate themselves as they feel like they do not know enough. Therefore, they are always taking new courses and improving their skills. Despite their incessant training and learning, they feel like they do not know enough. The experts will hesitate to speak up in meetings or raise their hand in class as they fear that they will not know the right answer.

How do you overcome this?

Understand that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Nobody expects you to know everything. When you feel stuck and unsure, ask a coworker for help. Alternatively, seek advice from a supervisor or career coach. There is no shame in admitting that there are things you do not know. If and when you do come across something you do not know, you will learn. You cannot prepare for everything.

3. Natural geniuses 

These people are used to skills coming easily. This means that if they have to work hard to learn something or accomplish a goal, they begin to think that they are not good enough. Since they are used to learning things quickly, putting in effort makes them feel like they are imposters.

How do you overcome this?

Learn that you – just like everyone else – are a work in progress. Instead of telling yourself that you are not good enough when you do not perfect something on the first try, be patient and kind. You are setting impossibly high standards that nobody can achieve. You cannot excel at everything. Some things take time.

4. Soloists

Soloists believe that if they do not know how to do something on their own, they are not good enough. They never ask for help and refuse assistance if someone notices that they are in need. By doing things on their own, they try to prove their worth and show that they are capable of succeeding without external help.

How do you overcome this?

Like the experts, you need to understand that there is no shame in seeking help. Needing assistance does not mean that you are not smart or that you are incapable of achieving something. In the same way that you do not think other people are stupid when they ask for help, others do not think that you are.

5. Superwomen and supermen

These people think that they need to be perfect and better than the rest in all aspects of their life. To prove that they are not imposters, they need to succeed at being the perfect parent, partner, child, student, or professional. When they do not accomplish something, they feel like they have failed in all aspects.

How do you overcome this?

Superwomen and supermen look for external validation. Until you learn how to be happy within, you will never be satisfied with the things you achieve. You cannot excel in every aspect of life all of the time. Look for contentment and satisfaction inside as people will always find something to critique. Your happiness is more important than what others think of you and your achievements.

If you can relate to one of the above, do not be afraid. According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, an estimated 70% of people experience these feelings at some point in their lives.

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