Imposter Syndrome: What is it and what are the types?

Imposter feelings represent a conflict between your self-perception and the way others perceive you.

Even as others praise your talents, you write off your successes as timing and good luck. You don’t believe you earned them on your own merits, and you fear others will eventually realize the same thing.

Consequently, you pressure yourself to work harder to:

  1. Keep others from recognizing your shortcomings or failures
  2. Become worthy of roles you believe you don’t deserve
  3. Make up for what you consider your lack of intelligence
  4. Ease feelings of guilt over “tricking” people
  5. The work you put in can keep the cycle going. Your further accomplishments don’t reassure you — you consider them nothing more than the product of your efforts to maintain the “illusion” of your success.

Any recognition you earn? You call it sympathy or pity. And despite linking your accomplishments to chance, you take on all the blame for any mistakes you make. Even minor errors reinforce your belief in your lack of intelligence and ability.

Over time, this can fuel a cycle of anxiety, depression, and guilt.

Furthermore, we will talk about 6 different types of Imposter Syndrome

  1. The Perfectionist

The perfectionist is prone to set extremely high standards and then beat themselves up when they don’t reach them.

This can often look like negative self-talk or denying yourself rewards because you “failed to earn them”. As Rawlinson expands, the drive for perfection and fear of failure can leave you deliberating over minor details, either procrastinating or overworking.

  1. The superwoman 

The superwoman feels like she should be able to excel at every role she takes on in life.

If you feel like you’re struggling with work-life balance and spreading yourself too thin, this is likely to resonate with you. Superwoman imposter syndrome could also easily fall into people-pleasing behaviours, as you try and keep all the plates around you spinning while neglecting your own needs.

“You believe you can do it all and are unable to say ‘no’ even if you’re struggling to keep up with everything,” Rawlinson says, and learning to enforce your boundaries gently but firmly is key.

  1. The rugged individualist (or soloist)

You believe you should be able to handle everything solo. If you can’t achieve success independently, you consider yourself unworthy.

Asking someone for help, or accepting support when it’s offered, doesn’t just mean failing your high standards. It also means admitting your inadequacies and showing yourself as a failure.

  1. The expert

The best new show to watch on Netflix right now? You know it. Best picture at the Oscars? You’ve predicted it already. The exact impact of the cost of living crisis? You’re the most clued up in the room.

The expert expects to know everything and feels ashamed when they don’t. “You want to gain as much knowledge or as many skills as possible, believing there must be a certain threshold of experience needed to be considered competent or successful,” Rawlinson explains.

  1. The soloist

Independence and trust in your own decisions is undoubtedly a strength for many people. However, it can slip into imposter syndrome territory when you begin to believe work must be accomplished alone and refuse to take the credit if you’ve received any kind of assistance.

Rawlinson explains that soloists typically turn down help to prove their worth as an individual, creating toxic patterns of negative self-belief and second-guessing their ability.

  1. The natural genius

Similarly to the soloist, the natural genius’ imposter syndrome manifests by making things harder for themselves with their way of thinking.

The natural genius tells themselves that everything must be handled with ease, otherwise, it’s not ‘natural talent’. Like that annoying classmate that would ace a test after declaring they barely studied for it, the effort is seen by the natural genius as a sign of weakness. They should be able to do it with their eyes closed and if they can’t, they’re a fraud.

While you may resonate with one, or perhaps even all of these personality types, you shouldn’t worry. Rawlinson stresses that it’s normal to fit into more than one category.    

To move past these feelings, you may need to become comfortable confronting some of the deeply ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself, and understanding your imposter syndrome personality type is a good way to start.