CAREER | August 13, 2021

by Stephanie Ritz

What Are The 5 Impostor Syndrome Types?

Do you feel like you’re lying to yourself? Often feel like a fraud or fake? 

This sounds like you’re experiencing Impostor Syndrome, something so many of us go through, especially in our professional journeys.

This shows up as: Questioning your self-worth. Thinking you don’t have what it takes. Wondering if you’re likable. Thoughts driven by fear that often get in the way of creating your empire. 

What if I told you that even the great Maya Angelou struggled with impostor syndrome, how would that make you feel? Well, here’s what she had to say about her own success:

‘“I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” —Maya Angelou

So even Maya Angelou worried that others were going to “find her out,” as if what she was sharing wasn’t of value. But you know what? She never let that stop her – she kept going.

The 5 Impostor Syndrome Types

As we’ve now defined impostor syndrome as that feeling of inadequacy, the feeling that you aren’t good enough, doing enough, or you don’t belong, let’s first put one thing out there before we go any further. None of those things you believe are actually true. This psychological feeling is all internal limiting beliefs. And while your work may never be “perfect”, this just means that there is always room for growth!  

Not all impostor syndrome is the same, though. Dr. Valery Young discovered that the phenomenon that is impostor syndrome comes in various forms.

With so many personalities and backgrounds, each person’s experience with impostor syndrome is different. Let’s take a look at the 5 different types:

The Perfectionist

Dr. Young split these Impostor Syndromes into 5 separate subcategories, perfectionist being the first, and said “For this type, success is rarely satisfying because they believe they could’ve done even better. But that’s neither productive nor healthy.”

When dealing with this type of impostor syndrome in your work life, you can incorporate some mindset shifts that boost your self-confidence and satisfaction.

A great mindset trick to put into practice is the act of aligning your expectations of success to match your level of success. Keep in mind that your level of success may not be the same as your coworkers. We’ve all fallen into the habit of comparing ourselves to others on social media…

I wish my house was as big as theirs….I wish I made as much money as them…STOP!

This habit impacts our own view of ourselves and skyrockets our expectations. 

Take some time away from social media to figure out where your level of success is and then create healthy expectations for yourself based on that level. 

You’ll feel such a burden lifted off your shoulders. No more leaving the office feeling defeated. 

The Superhero

We all know someone who works way too much…the workaholic. And that someone might be you. Of course, it’s great if you love your job, but when you do it out of worry, then it can easily become a detriment to your mental health. 

Do you ever…

  1. Work extra because you need validation that you’re doing a good job?
  2. Feel like you’re wasting time if you’re not getting something done for work?
  3. Have trouble relaxing at the end of the day or can’t get your mind off of work?
  4. Feel like you’ve gotten nowhere regardless of your many accomplishments, titles, degrees?

Turns out, being a superhero comes with the worry and fear of having to save the day every day. Those with this Superwoman/man type of impostor syndrome are convinced that their true identity of being a great employee is absolutely false. 

If you wear the cape as a Superwoman/man, then you probably know how exhausting it can be to strive for greatness but never feel great. 

What can you do to beat it? 

You can start by shifting your mindset from external validation to internal validation. No one can have more power over how YOU feel about your work. You do not need anyone else’s stamp of approval to know that you are hardworking and successful. 

The second would be to introduce a self-care routine into your daily life. Being a superhero feels like you are always on the go, but if you don’t take breaks, you’re going to burn yourself out. Do what you need to do to relax, whether it be to leave work at the office, get to bed earlier each night, or just having a glass of wine at the end of a long day. 

The Expert

How many courses do you need to take until you’re considered an expert? With endless opportunities to learn – not to mention the thousands of courses and trainings you can take online these days – it can feel like you’re never able to keep up with the constant changes in the industry that you work in. 

Even worse, this can put a lot of pressure on you to do more and learn more all of the time. 

Remember when I mentioned that there are 5 types of impostor syndrome and each person’s experience is different? Well, this idea that you will never know or learn enough is actually part of one of those types of impostor syndrome: The Expert. 

Dr. Valery Young describes this type as, “Believing they will never know enough, they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.“

If you feel this way often, you may be an expert type. However, what is really true is that you’re more than skilled and talented enough to do whatever you set your mind to. You just need to work on some mindset shifts that can help you feel more confident in yourself and in your area of expertise. 

Start by asking for help where needed. If you find yourself procrastinating because you’re constantly doing research but never progressing, it may be time to hire a coach! A coach can assist you in reaching your goals in a way that makes your work feel impactful and will help you feel more aligned and supported within your professional journey.

The Natural Genius

Has knowledge or learning always come easy to you? Did straight A’s seem effortless in school? 

It’s common to take one look at the smart kid and think….”I bet life is so simple for them!” But, for a lot, that just isn’t the case. 

If you relate, then you might experience an impostor syndrome type known as The Natural Genius – yes, that’s really the name. 

Out of all of the impostor syndrome types, the Genius’ self-expectations are the highest. Because work comes so simply to them, they internally set the bar insanely high, if not impossible to reach.

So, what does this mean for the no-brainers? You might be a Natural Genius type if you: 

  1. Feel shame if something is taking you longer to complete
  2. Judge yourself for not getting things right on the first try
  3. Lose confidence when faced with a setback
  4. Are labeled the smart one at your job

I guess you could say not EVERYTHING comes naturally to everyone. However, you can take control and feel less pressure and more faith in your work as the Natural Genius. 

Dr. Valerie Young says, “Accomplishing great things involves lifelong learning and skill-building—for everyone, even the most confident people.” 

No one is perfect. It’s essential to keep that in mind when you start to be too hard on yourself at work. Take a moment to appreciate your success and get excited for the new knowledge that’s to come because it’s all a work in progress. 

It’s also crucial to remember that not everything has to get done right away. Slow and steady wins the race, right? The more time you put into something, the more you will appreciate your own efforts. 

The Soloist

Your independence could actually be holding you back. Why? You could have what Dr. Valerie Young described as “The Soloist” type of impostor syndrome. 

You might have this phenomenon if you:

  1. Never ask for or accept help from others at work
  2. Pride yourself on getting projects done by yourself 
  3. Find teamwork difficult or annoying
  4. See asking for help as a weakness

How many of these did you say yes to? If it’s one or more, then you might be the Soloist. 

Because the independence in a Soloist type is so strong, it often fuels their need to prove that they can do anything without the help or need of others. Asking for help can equate to feelings of embarrassment and shame for them.

Having a strong sense of independence is generally a great attribute to have as an employee – you are able to get solo projects done without any managerial assistance or supervision. However, when it comes to working as a team, it might not come as easily to you. 

And, of course, you want to be a part of the team, but maybe you’re just not sure how to without taking control of the entire project. Some ways you can learn to let go of this type of impostor syndrome are:

#1. Realize that your impostor syndrome does not control you! You are in control of your life, and you can choose to step away from the one-man band and allow the help that is offered to you. 

#2. Trade weakness for knowledge. Maybe there is an area of expertise in your position that just isn’t your forte. Instead of seeing someone offering help as being put down or not good enough, try to think about what you can gain from it – more knowledge on the subject or a sense of growth in the workforce!

#3. Share your skills to help you work better as a teammate. Since Soloists care about WHO gets the job done, it might help to make part of your job as being a great coworker. Offer YOUR help to another coworker when completing certain tasks for the day. They’ll appreciate the help, and you’ll feel great about being the one that DID help. 

Overcome Impostor Syndrome

In closing, impostor syndrome can strike anyone, and from my experience, I have seen one of the impostor syndrome types in just about everyone I’ve met. From those experiencing insecurity to those overcompensating. So the next time impostor syndrome strikes, try these six tips:

  1. Believe in your self-worth. Make a list of things you are good at and proud of. 
  2. Be confident. Know that you are worthy of attracting all you desire. 
  3. Take note of where improvement is needed, and then take action! Visualize your success and start making things happen.
  4. Show up even when you’re still learning. “Those that mind, don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind,” as the saying goes. You would be doing a disservice by not showing up, as those that do need your help won’t receive it. They will love you even more for being open and authentic with where you are in your journey.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. The best way to grow and continue learning is to practice and adopt new habits.
  6. Love always conquers fear. Choose to lead with your heart and not your head – and when you get into those moments where fear starts to creep in again, take a moment to realize that it’s there and then confront it with positive, loving thoughts.

Don’t let your impostor syndrome stop you from embracing your true self any longer. And if you’re not sure how to shake the impostor syndrome blues, send me a message, and let’s talk about ways you can shift your mindset and step into your confidence and power.

About The Author

Stephanie Ritz is a business strategist and mindset coach who empowers women to tap into their strengths, skills, and desires to build a second income stream while in their full-time job. Her unique approach combines mindset coaching with business strategy to help professional women create a second income stream through building a coaching, consulting, or online-service business. 

Stephanie developed her coaching and mentoring skills through training as a Certified Coach and an NLP Master Practitioner and drawing on her own life experience. Starting as a single, teen mom, she put herself through school and went on to corporate leadership roles in multiple industries while starting two successful businesses.

For more information or to work with Stephanie, please visit www.ClaimYourCareer.com.

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