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The Five Types Of Imposter Syndrome That Live In Your Head

If you’ve ever experienced crippling fear or anxiety in a room full of supposedly more intelligent and qualified people, then you’ve suffered from the frustrating types of imposter syndrome. It can be incredibly exhausting and insidious, but it can be managed. 

types of imposter syndrome

“I don’t deserve all the good things coming my way.”

“I feel like all my success was a fluke, and the world will soon realize I am a fraud.”

“Nothing that I ever do is good enough.”

If you have ever resonated with these statements and felt like you didn’t belong in your office or within a group of people, it’s actually the imposter syndrome inside you talking. And as per a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, it’s felt by an astounding 70% of people at some point in their lives. 

People affected by imposter syndrome types are plagued with worry and fear all the time. It could be your incompetent feeling about your new job, your inability to take a compliment, or even your usual self-deprecating words about your successes. 

It can make you doubt yourself and everything you achieve, eventually leaving you feeling miserable. This is why learning about the types of imposter syndrome and how it affects different people is the key to combating the phenomenon. 

In this post, we will dive into the various imposter syndrome types that live in your head and their symptoms. We’ll also understand how you can combat each of these types. Let’s get started.

But Before That, What Is Imposter Syndrome?

The imposter syndrome is a harmful and unnecessary critical voice in your head that constantly holds you back from taking the plunge. The harder the step, the louder the voice. It constantly whispers, “Why would they hire someone like you?” and “You are just really lucky.”

Sounds really familiar?

The imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of thinking first documented in the 1970s when psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance published a paper titled “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women.” 

The duo interviewed around 150 highly qualified women who felt that despite their impressive professional standing, they weren’t creative, smart, or simply capable enough. One of the participants, the chairperson of her department, said, “Of course, I am in this position because my abilities have been grossly overestimated.” 

While the study is pretty old and probably outdated for now, imposter syndrome types have persisted through the years. While initially called the imposter phenomenon, pop culture interferences culminated in the process being referred to as imposter syndrome. Even though experts agree that feeling like an imposter in your world is totally normal, it’s not a diagnosable psychological syndrome

That said, feeling like an imposter is something we have all experienced. Here are a few symptoms that might help you spot the signs if you haven’t yet. 

Signs Of Having An Imposter Syndrome

People who experience any of the types of imposter syndrome suffer from the following signs and patterns of thinking:

The manifestation of various types of imposter syndrome depends on a person’s nature, environment, and background. Apart from the above-listed signs, these are the common symptoms associated with imposter syndrome:

5 Types Of Imposter Syndrome

Dr. Valerie Young described the five types of imposter syndrome, depending on how they affect different people. Each of these five different types of imposter syndrome comes with its own set of struggles. In this section, we will discuss these types and how you can combat them. Let’s dive in.

1. The Perfectionist Type

types of imposter syndrome

Perfectionism and imposter syndrome are best buddies and go exceptionally well together. Perfectionist individuals set extremely high standards for themselves, which they seldom attain. They fixate highly on their faults and drawbacks rather than things they can do well. In fact, people with the perfectionist type of imposter syndrome are rarely satisfied with their own work.

For instance, a PhD student might write the perfect thesis and defend it successfully. However, they might fixate on the thing that they could have done better while ignoring the praises and compliments coming their way. 

Simply put, perfectionists doubt their abilities. They are obsessed with controlling things, and how do they deal with this?

By setting even higher expectations for themselves. 

If you deal with the perfectionist type of imposter syndrome, you tend to:

  • Find it really difficult to delegate work.
  • Feel the urge to do everything by yourself.
  • Constantly feel like you are not good enough if you make even the slightest mistake.
  • Get frustrated during group projects or activities. 

Here’s how to combat this type of imposter syndrome:

  • Get an outside perspective. Try having conversations with people who support or are respectful of your work. This will help you get a much-needed reality check.
  • Don’t overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion. Additionally, do not accept extra work because it’ll only keep you on your toes more. 
  • Set a strict time limit to save yourself from spending too much time on a task. 

2. The Born Genius Type

imposter syndrome

This one of the different types of imposter syndrome is particularly common in those gifted with special skills or higher IQ than usual. These individuals believe that success should come naturally and any effort put into achieving it will be counted as a failure. 

The ‘natural genius’ type usually aligns their value as a person who can naturally master skills. Therefore, they might be highly disappointed if they can’t figure out something independently. 

For instance, a highly gifted musician might feel inadequate if they can’t figure out how to learn a new instrument without the help of a teacher. 

Just like perfectionists, the born geniuses also set high expectations of themselves. Moreover, since they have the habit of succeeding at everything, they usually panic or give up when they spot a hindrance. 

If you deal with the born genius type of imposter syndrome, you tend to:

  • Seek results without putting in much effort.
  • Dislike the idea of having teachers or mentors.
  • Feel like a complete failure the moment you make a mistake.
  • Avoid trying new things to avoid failures altogether. 

Here’s how to combat this type of imposter syndrome:

  • Take a step back and think about what you’re actually trying to do. Think of why you hold yourself in such high regard. 
  • Try to be comfortable with the idea of being a student every once in a while. 
  • Practice new things to break through the fear of failure.

3. The Soloist Type

different forms of imposter syndrome

The people who suffer from the soloist type of imposter syndrome struggle to ask for assistance, especially when they need it the most. To understand this one from the different types of imposter syndrome, think of someone who has lived a staunchly independent life. Think of someone so used to looking out for themselves that it’s almost second nature to them.

The soloist type deals with such tendencies and struggles immensely in group activities. Soloists need to work independently with no interference from the outside. 

If you are one of them, you might see asking for help as a sign of failure. And because you are so obsessed with this ‘lone wolf’ lifestyle, you might struggle to understand how emotionally demanding and damaging it is for you. 

Now, don’t get us wrong. Being independent is not wrong. But disregarding help and support only because you want to prove a point is unhealthy. 

If you deal with the soloist type of imposter syndrome, you tend to:

  • Deny help or assistance completely.
  • Force yourself to do everything alone.
  • Feel like a failure if you use help to reach a goal.
  • Get frustrated when someone offers help.

Here’s how to combat this type of imposter syndrome:

  • Understand that independence is not the sole purpose of life. Being self-sufficient is great, but learning how to collaborate with others is equally important. 
  • Read about the people you admire. Discover more about their personal and professional lives and how the support of people around them helped them flourish. It’ll help you get a different perspective.
  • Learn to let go of control. It can be incredibly hard at first. But you’ll get used to it. 

4. The Expert Type

 imposter syndrome types quiz

Despite their expertise and achievements in a specific field, the ‘expert’ type of person might struggle to accept success. They constantly undermine whatever they have been doing and constantly feel like a fraud in their life.

People dealing with this one from the different imposter syndrome types feel like they have fooled everyone into believing how intelligent or capable they are. 

For instance, a new employee might feel they have tricked their employer into hiring them. As a result of this perception, they are constantly overworking to prove their brilliance. But unfortunately, no matter what they do, it never feels enough to them. 

If you deal with the expert type of imposter syndrome, you tend to:

  • Attend different courses or trainings because you feel obligated to learn more.
  • Avoid opportunities if you feel you aren’t the right fit (like leaving job offers if you think you don’t fit the description).
  • Feel like you don’t deserve your success or position.

Here’s how to combat this type of imposter syndrome:

  • Get comfortable with asking for help. People won’t think less of you.
  • Ignore overworking yourself to prove your abilities. Learn to acknowledge your mental and physical boundaries. 
  • Use positive affirmations. Stick them on spaces you usually see and practice them with all your heart at least once daily.

5. The Superhuman Type

types of imposter syndrome

People dealing with this one of the types of imposter syndrome believe that they are ‘super people.’

Sounds weird? Let’s make it more clear.

These are the individuals who constantly push their boundaries. They have to be all the things for all the people. Just like a superhero, they might want to complete all the deadlines, be a support system for their colleagues, and also plan all office surprises.

More often than not, the superhuman type is plagued by the fear that people don’t deem they deserve to be successful. This might occur when they feel a mismatch between who they are and what people expect them to be.

For instance, a woman might feel that she isn’t the strong, independent persona the world thinks her to be. People who are historically disadvantaged, like those from cultural minorities or oppressed genders, might be more susceptible to this. 

If you deal with the superhuman type of imposter syndrome, you tend to:

  • Feel stressed when you aren’t doing anything.
  • Feel obligated to take care of everyone and everything.
  • Give up your ‘me’ time to be there for others.

Here’s how to combat this type of imposter syndrome:

  • Learn to say no. For those with superhuman imposter syndrome, it’s the actual superpower. 
  • Understand that your self-worth isn’t defined by how many burdens you can carry for others.
  • Plan your to-do lists. There are only so many hours a day, and you must set the upper limits.
  • Take regular breaks and avoid exhaustion. 

Conclusion:

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of thinking characterized by thoughts of self-doubt and lack of self-confidence. It holds you back from accepting who you are and acknowledging your achievements. Moreover, it can affect your sense of self and make you feel emotionally exhausted.

This is why learning about the five different types of imposter syndrome is essential. Understanding and spotting these signs is the first step toward eventually dealing with the whole problem. 

Wondering how to deal with imposter syndrome. Start with building self-confidence. It’s the best way to diffuse feelings of self-doubt. To learn more about how to develop self-confidence, click here

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