The five types of Imposter syndrome - Perfectionist, Expert, Individualist, Genius & Superhero

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Different types of imposters? You ask

Before we go there, let’s have a quick look at what Imposter syndrome is defined as.

What is Imposter Syndrome ?

Imposter syndrome is when someone feels like a fraud despite signs of their success and accomplishments.

As a result, they live in fear of being discovered as the fake they believe themselves to be.

Imposter syndrome can be a distressing experience where you feel like you don’t belong or deserve your success, despite evidence to the contrary.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re just pretending to be competent or like you’re fooling others into thinking you’re better than you are, you may be familiar with this phenomenon.

And you’re definitely not alone.

Imposter syndrome affects both men and women and is more common than you might think.

Which type of Imposter are you?

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Dr Valerie Young, an expert in imposter syndrome, has identified 5 types of imposters based on what it means to be competent.

These are The Perfectionist, The Expert, The Soloist, The Natural Genius, and The Superwoman/man.

Each type of imposter reflects the different rules or expectations people set for themselves to feel competent or successful.

What the 5 Types of Imposters Have in Common

While feeling like a phony despite one’s achievements is common to all 5 types of imposters, many people who experience imposter syndrome also tend to engage in all-or-nothing thinking patterns.

That is, you reach the target and succeed, or you don’t reach your goal and automatically fail.

There is no in-between.

There is no learning or growth from failure.

So, let’s have a look at how they differ.

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Here are the 5 types of Imposters based on what they believe it takes to be competent. You may identify with one or multiple types. Let’s take a look at their identifying features.

The Perfectionist.

The Perfectionist focuses on doing everything exceptionally well, without flaws or mistakes. They put all their effort into achieving the top spot or a flawless presentation, as anything less is considered a failure leading to shame.

They tend to overprepare as they always expect perfection from themselves, but even when they deliver, they think they could have done better. Another distinguishing behaviour is the reluctance to delegate, as they lose control of the quality of work being produced.

Tips for the Perfectionist

 Adjust your focus from Perfection to Good Enough.

Review your goals and revise the unrealistic standards you have for yourself.  Are others expecting you to overachieve or is this your way of proving that you are up for the job?  The trick here is to come to terms with the fact that you don’t need to know everything.

You just need to know someone who does.

Focus on the progress you are making as opposed to having everything perfect.

This type of imposter syndrome is focused on knowledge.

The Expert needs to know everything there is to know about a particular subject to feel confident and competent.

You might notice this as enrolling in one more course, obtaining another certificate or gaining extra knowledge about the topic before you can apply for that job, be promoted or start your own business.

The Expert

The Expert type of imposter is concerned with how they are perceived; they are less likely to speak up in meetings or share innovative ideas until they feel like an expert because then no one will be able to challenge them, putting them on the spot or expose them.

The expert type of imposter, a woman looking out from her desk with a pile of books next to her.

Tips for the Expert, type of Imposter

Be aware when the inner critic’s voice pips up and the negative self-talk becomes loud. This is the time to reassure yourself that you are doing your best with the available resources.

Avoid comparing yourself with people who have been in the role longer than you. It’s only natural that they would have more experience.

The Soloist

With the soloist type of imposter, competence is about doing it independently.

Asking for help or needing assistance is a sign of failure, ultimately leading to shame.

They believe that only success achieved through individual achievement is worthy of recognition.

Teamwork doesn’t count because there were others involved.

Do you prefer to work on your own? Even if that means working back and doing long hours.
Which there is a tendency to do because you believe you should be able to handle the workload by yourself.
Maybe you’re too embarrassed to ask for help or don’t want to put anyone out.

You also have a tendency to take on everything that is given to you because you feel pushing back looks like you can’t cope.

Tips for the Soloist.

It is important to remember that when the scope of a project is too big, getting others involved to assist will allow you to complete the assignment without burning yourself out in the process.

The Natural Genius

With the Natural genius, competence is measured in terms of how easily and quickly one masters a skill. They believe that intelligence and ability are innate traits. And are inclined to have a fixed mindset regarding intelligence, thinking you either have it or you don’t.

Maybe you look at others succeeding and think you are the only one failing because you are not there yet.

But you are not taking into consideration the successive mistakes, constant learning and possibly long hours that others have put in to get to that level of success.

Tips for this Type of Imposter.

Adopt a growth mindset where learning is a constant and failing can ultimately lead to greater success with constructive evaluation.

Break down larger tasks into manageable small tasks and acknowledge your effort at their completion.

The Superwoman/man

The superwoman/man believes they should be able to handle everything and achieve perfection in all areas of their life.

Whether it’s juggling full-time work, additional studies, looking after children or elderly parents, playing a sport, running a household, participating in community activities, or volunteering, they often feel they should be taking on more.

You may recognise it as being everything to everyone or being the best in everything you do. When you fall short in any role, you feel ‘not good enough’ or a failure.

Tips for the Superwoman/man, type of imposter

It’s time to reevaluate your goals.

Determine what is important to you and what really matters.

Practice saying “no” more often and learn to delegate. Otherwise, the overextension will lead to exhaustion or, worse, resentment.

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or level of success. The five types of imposters, the Perfectionist, the Expert, the Rugged Individualist, the Natural Genius, and the Superwoman/Man, all have unique identifying features. Still, they all share the same fear of being exposed as a fraud. Suppose you recognise any of these traits in yourself. In that case, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and seeking help or support can make a significant difference in overcoming these feelings. Remember, adopting a growth mindset, accepting mistakes as part of the learning process, and allowing yourself to ask for help when needed can help you break free from the cycle of imposter syndrome and reach your full potential.

There you have the 5 different types of imposters. Can you find similarities to one or a few?  

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