5 Types of Impostor Syndrome and Tips to Overcome It
Sat, April 10, 2021

5 Types of Impostor Syndrome and Tips to Overcome It


Impostor syndrome is a pervasive feeling of fraudulence, insecurity, and self-doubt despite evidence to the contrary. This feeling strikes successful and smart individuals, making them think that their accomplishments are results of unexpected luck.

Different Types of Impostor Syndrome

People with impostor syndrome believe that they are incompetent and inadequate despite others seeing them as quite successful and skilled. Impostor syndrome expert Dr. Valerie Young, author of the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, studied for years the fraudulent feelings among high achievers. She shared via job search platform The Muse that the syndrome comes in different forms.

1.The Perfectionist

These are the individuals who set excessively high goals for themselves but when they fail, they will experience major self-doubt. They can also be control freaks, feeling like they have to do things themselves if they want it to be done right. They have difficulty delegating tasks to others and even if they can, they would often get disappointed or feel frustrated with the results. They feel like their work should always be 100% perfect all of the time.  Perfectionists rarely find success satisfying because they think that they could have done things better but their thought is neither healthy nor productive.

2.The Natural Genius

The Natural Geniuses are people who judge their competence based on the speed and ease compared to their efforts. They believe that they need to be a natural “genius” and are ashamed if they take a long time to learn or master something. They tend to set an impossibly high internal bar like the perfectionists. However, the natural genius doesn’t judge themself by getting things right on their first try. Some of the signs of the Natural Genius type is they used to excel without putting much effort, they have a good track record of getting gold stars, straight As, or high marks in grades, was frequently the smart one, and dislikes having their mentor because they can handle it on their own.

3. The Superman/woman

Dr. Young said people who experience this type of impostor syndrome are convinced that they are the fake among the real-deal members of a group. So, they would tend to push themselves more and work harder just to measure up to others. Their motivation is, however, a cover-up for the insecurities that they are feeling and the work overload may harm their relationships with others and their mental health too. Some of the signs include staying later at the office than other team members, getting stressed when not working, considering downtime as wasteful, and feeling they have not truly earned their title yet despite many achievements and degrees.

4. The Expert

These people measure their capability based on how much and what they can do or know. They fear being known by others as unknowledgeable or inexperienced. Some signs of this competence type include shuddering when someone says they are an expert, feeling like they don’t know enough despite being in the role or job for some time, constantly seeking certifications and training because of wanting to improve their skills to feel successful, and shying away from job postings unless it meet every educational requirement needed for the job.

5. The Soloist

This impostor syndrome type makes a person feel as though asking for others' help will reveal their weakness. For them, it is okay to be independent and refuse the assistance of others just so they can prove their worth. Signs of the Soloist include firmly feeling that they need to accomplish things alone and framing requests based on the requirements of the tasks instead of their need as an individual.

Impostor Syndrome: Statistics

It is estimated that 70% of people in the world will experience at least one episode of the impostor phenomenon in their lives. This is based on a previous study, which appeared in the International Journal of Behavioral Science and written by Jaruwan Sakulku and James Alexander from Srinakharinwirot University and the University of Tasmania, respectively. The authors said that anyone can view themselves as an impostor whenever they fail to internalize their achievement and it is not limited to people who are highly successful alone as their study involved both students and professionals.

In a survey involving 2,084 people in France aged 18 and above, it was found that only 5% strongly agree that they have a positive self-image, 39% said they somewhat agree, 35% said they neither agree nor disagree, 15% said they do not agree, 5% strongly disagree, and the remaining 1% did not answer the survey conducted by database company Statista.

Meanwhile, scientific online publication Our World in Data published the share of people in France who believe they are “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied” with their life in the following years: 2000 (80.22%), 2003 (75.39%), 2008 (79.11%), 2011 (80.05%), 2012 (85.10%), 2015 (85.50%), and 2016 (84.07%). The 2016 data shows that France is one of the countries with the highest share of people who say they are very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their life. Other countries with the highest share of people who are satisfied with their life are Germany (90.32%), United Kingdom (93.06%), Ireland (94.53%), Iceland (97.6%), Sweden (96.18%), Finland (94.7%), Netherlands (96.5%), Poland (82.43%), Estonia (80.25%), Austria (84.69%), and Spain (78.13%).

Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Janice Gassam, who has a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology and is the founder of the firm BWG Business Solutions, which helps businesses foster inclusion, shares some of the ways to overcome impostor syndrome. One is by creating a brag sheet so that they will not downplay their achievements and overcome feelings of inadequacy. The second way is through positive self-talk to rewrite the mindset and change how they frame things. Learning from mistakes is the third step. They should use mistakes to strengthen and improve. The fourth way is by surrounding themselves with networks outside and inside their workplace who are as supportive as possible.

As the fundamental fear of people with impostor syndrome is that they will be discovered or unmasked as a fake, developing a new script in their mind will help them overcome it. They have to accept that they do play a role in their success and focus more on the positive things that other people are saying about them instead of the negative.