According to a 2020 review, up to 82% of people experience Impostor Syndrome. So the good news is, if you feel like a fraud, like you’re just faking it, like you’re not enough at work or at home or in a relationship….you aren’t alone. I’m going to break down the 5 main types of imposters, and what you can do about your own imposter thoughts so that you can live a more fear(less), authentic life.
As a stress physiologist and professional speaker, I work with a lot of highly accomplished people that share a dirty little secret: deep down, they believe all their accomplishments were just luck, and that despite all the evidence to the contrary, they are inadequate failures that have just managed to fool everyone around them to achieve their position. I understand, because I battle this imposter phenomenon myself. But the more accurately we can label these false thoughts and name our psychological saboteurs, the more readily we can fight off the stories that will otherwise hold us back. If you have imposter syndrome you likely fall into one of these categories first defined by Dr. Valerie Young:
- The perfectionist
- The superwoman/man/person
- The natural genius
- The soloist
- The expert
Let’s start with the perfectionist. The perfectionist is at risk of burning out, being a micromanager, and never feeling satisfied with the results of anything (no matter how high a mark they might hit). Perfectionists feel like their work must be 100% perfect 100% of the time, and anything less is unacceptable. This sometimes leads to procrastination, because if you know it can’t be perfect, well, why even bother starting? The mantra that perfectionists need to repeat is: “Progress is more important than perfection. I can push myself before I’m ready, and reframe perceived failure as an opportunity to grow.”
The superperson persona is defined by people that push themselves to work harder to cover-up for their insecurities. They are often described as workaholics, and their extra efforts to prove themselves “worthy” are often costly to their relationships. The mantra superpeople need to adapt is: “I don’t have to do it all. I’m valuable, but not irreplaceable. I can ease my own demands by giving up some control and working as a valuable part of the various groups or teams in my life.”
Third up, is the natural genius. Natural geniuses don’t believe that “try” is an option. They judge their worth based on the speed and ease of their accomplishments. Anything that takes work or effort results in shame, as they expect themselves to be experts at the first go. To the natural genius, success should be effortless based on their inherent talent and intelligence. The mantra that is helpful for natural geniuses to adapt is: “Success takes time and effort. Just because it isn’t perfect on my first attempt does not mean I’m not capable of learning and growing.”
The fourth type of imposter is the soloist. Soloists believe the only credit they can take is when they complete a job alone. Needing help is seen as a weakness and something they shouldn’t need. Asking for assistance means they are phonies, or not good enough for the job. The mantra soloists should adapt is: “Asking for help is a strength. I deserve to be a part of this team and don’t need to shoulder the entire responsibility to be worthy.”
Finally, we come to the expert. Experts believe that they need to know everything and feel shame when they don’t have the answers. They often seek new credentials/accolades to add to their name but it never feels like enough.They measure their worth on how much they know and fear being exposed as inexperienced. The mantra that is useful for those who identify as Experts is: “I am already enough. I don’t need to prove myself to be worthy.”
So, which type of Imposter Syndrome do you have?
Until next time, live more, fear less.