The five different types of imposter syndrome
BlogHR Advice Posted: Tuesday 14th August 2018 by
Imposter syndrome: a nagging feeling of inadequacy felt by many professionals who, although successful in their career, still feel like a fraud or that their achievements are down to nothing more than luck. And it doesn’t just affect those in work; job seekers with the syndrome self-impose significant restrictions on the opportunities open to them.
While imposter syndrome is widespread – studies suggest 70% of people experience it at some point in their lives – not one self-perceived imposter is necessarily like the other, as expert on the topic, Valerie Young, points outs. Understanding your thoughts and behaviours is key to dealing with these feelings head-on.
Here are the five types of imposter syndrome as categorised by Young and how you can start battling them.
1. The Perfectionist
Tendencies: The Perfectionist is someone who often sets (near-)impossible goals for themselves and subsequently struggles with self-doubt when they fail to reach them. If you have trouble delegating and always think that you ‘could’ve done a better job’ you probably belong to this category.
Advice: The key here is that you give yourself credit when it’s due and stop dwelling on your failures; instead of regarding them as proof of your incompetence, try seeing them as lessons learned.
2. The Super(wo)man
Tendencies: The Super(wo)man is always trying to work harder than everyone else to cover up feeling like a fraud amongst their ‘real-deal’ team mates. Some clues that you may be a Super(wo)man are that you are constantly thinking about your work, pushing yourself to your limits (and over!) and sacrificing crucial downtime.
Advice: Instead of looking for validation from others, try to find it within yourself. Think about where your skills and strengths lie; look for ways to boost your self-confidence and resilience and realise that you don’t have to be thinking about work 24/7 to be good at what you do.
3. The Natural Genius
Tendencies: Natural Geniuses believe that if something costs them a lot of effort, it must mean that they are bad at it. Tell-tale signs that you fit into this category are: you are reluctant to accept help from others and you avoid trying new things because you’re scared to fail.
Advice: Try measuring your successes by the effort you put into them and acknowledge the fact that you simply can’t be great at everything. Instead of avoiding challenges see them as an opportunity to learn and develop.
4. The Rugged Individualist
Tendencies: People who fit this category will often avoid asking for help because they see it as a sign of weakness and believe it would expose them as a fraud.
Advice: Asking for help says nothing negative about your skills or competencies; in fact, knowing when to ask for help is actually a vital skill. It’s endlessly more efficient to ask for someone’s assistance instead of mindlessly struggling over a task and feeling more defeated by the minute.
5. The Expert
Tendencies: Ever felt like you actually have no right to a job you were doing and were just waiting for those you’re working with to find out how incompetent you really are? Perhaps you don’t even apply to certain jobs because you don’t have every single skill they mentioned in the job description? Sounds like you might fit into this category.
Advice: Remember that skill gaps are normal, but they don’t detract from what you know; there are many people out there applying because they have most of the skills required and are quite happy to develop the others on the job. Take a leaf out of their book: focus on the skills and strengths you do have, consciously note your successes and make a realistic plan to fill any gaps.
Beating the imposter syndrome requires some serious introspection and reflection, while feedback from others and doing personality assessments can also help. The better your understanding of yourself, your skills and your self-worth, the better equipped you are to take positive steps to increase your confidence and performance and beat those demons in your head.