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The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome and How to Beat Them

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Ever felt unworthy of receiving praise, even after a job well done? That your accomplishments are probably just the result of luck and at any moment, everyone around you will realise you’re a fraud? It’s very likely you could be experiencing imposter syndrome. 

Firstly, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that at least 70% of us experience these imposter feelings at some point in our lifetime. It was first recognised by behavioural psychologists as something that only affected high achievers in the corporate business world however, it is now recognised as a syndrome that can be experienced by people from all walks of life which causes feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and self-doubt.  

It is defined by the American Psychology Association, as “very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt” that is “generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression”. We all have doubts and that little negative voice telling us that we’re not good enough. But when we let those thoughts paralyze us or prevent us from accepting that we are deserving of success, imposter syndrome has set in. 

Dr Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome, coined five specific sub-types of imposter syndrome that can plague people. In this blog we’ll delve into these and give you our top tips on how to beat them. 

  1. The Perfectionist 

Have you ever been accused of micro-managing? When you undertake a project, do you expect to achieve a 100% perfect mark? It’s no surprise that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are linked, as perfectionists typically set goals with unachievably high standards. When they fail to achieve these goals, they punish themselves and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they do meet their goals, they’ll credit their achievement to luck.  

Whilst it isn’t a bad thing to strive for the best or to try and do better, it isn’t healthy to expect flawlessness all of the time. Making mistakes is part of life and you need them to learn and grow from. Go a little easier on yourself and give yourself credit where credit’s due.  

  1. The Superwoman/man 

At work, do you stay later than everyone else even if you’ve finished your tasks for the day? Do you feel like you haven’t earned your job title, despite being more than qualified? People with this type of imposter syndrome view themselves as not good enough when compared to their colleagues and constantly feel like they have to measure up. They tend to be workaholics, fixated on proving they’re worthy of success and seeking the validation they receive from work.  

Our advice? Instead of looking for validation in others try to find it within yourself. This will give you the confidence you need to celebrate your achievements and accept your successes, without feeling like you need to work 24/7 to prove yourself. It’s also important to have a balanced lifestyle and invest time into your passions outside of work.  

  1. The Natural Genius 

As a child, were you always told you were the smartest one in the family? Do you experience a sense of shame if you experience a minor setback? Similar to The Perfectionist, those who suffer from this type of imposter syndrome believe that they should always be competent without trying too much, hence the name. They will judge themselves based on speed and ease and if they don’t get something right on the first try, they’ll believe that there must be something wrong with them. 

Don’t let the fear of not being the best stop you from taking part. You’re a work in progress, as is everyone else so try to measure your success by how much effort you put into something, not by how easy or quickly you were able to do it. Instead of avoiding challenges, try see them as an exciting opportunity to learn something new.  

  1. The Soloist 

Do you avoid asking for help even if you need it? Soloists believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness and believe that if they can’t accomplish something on their own, it would expose them as a fraud. Whilst independence is a good quality to have, life isn’t meant to be lived alone and you aren’t expected to have all of the answers.  

Learning to ask for help and more importantly, accepting that help, is the key to overcoming soloist impostor syndrome. If getting assistance will help you achieve your goals and success, there is no shame in asking. In fact, it’s likely more efficient and can strengthen your relationships with the people around you. 

  1. The Expert 

Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single requirement? Do you shudder when someone calls you an expert? Experts believe that they will never know enough, whilst living in fear that their lack of knowledge or inexperience will be discovered. Experts can get stuck in a rut of seeking out more certifications and qualifications in the sector they’re already in, as they believe this will give them the confidence and assurance they seek. 

Whilst it isn’t a healthy attitude to assume you know everything, give yourself credit for how much you do know or how good you are at your job. Most things in life are learned through trying, failing, and trying again. Take the time to appreciate the skills and strengths that you do have and share those with others.  

Recognise yourself in one of these imposter syndrome profiles? That’s the first step! By gaining a deeper understanding of those feelings of self-inadequacy, you can start to take small steps to change your self-talk from negative to positive and prove your self-doubt wrong. Remember, imposter syndrome is real, and you are not alone.  

At HeadStrong we are committed to making mental health a positive and empowering experience for everyone. Our friendly specialist team are ready and waiting, to listen and to help. We’re only an email or a phone call away: contact us today on change@headstrongnlp.com or 0141 255 2123. Hope is here.  

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