Now that we have put a definition to Imposter Syndrome, it’s on to the next step

How Do You Spot It?

Melody Wilding writes in The Muse, quoting Dr. Valarie Young, that there are 5 types of imposter syndrome – the Perfectionist, Superhero, Natural Genius, Soloist, and Expert. Each of these has a set of thought patterns and ways they manifest themselves.

Perfectionist – Have you ever been accused of being a micromanager? Do you have great difficulty delegating? Even when you’re able to do so, do you feel frustrated and disappointed in the results? When you miss the (insanely high) mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for your job and ruminate on it for days? Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?

Perfectionism and imposter syndrome often go hand-in-hand. Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, feeling like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.

Superhero – Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work? Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful? Have you left your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside, sacrificed to work? Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?

Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health, but also their relationships with others.

Natural Genius – Are you used to excelling without much effort? Do you have a track record of getting “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in everything you do? Were you told frequently as a child that you were the “smart one” in your family or peer group? Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own? When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame? Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?

Young says people with this competence type believe they need to be a natural “genius.” As such, they judge their competence based ease and speed as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they take a long time to master something, they feel shame. These types of imposters set their internal bar impossibly high, just like perfectionists. But natural genius types don’t just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations, they also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they’re not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.

Soloist – Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own? Does “I don’t need anyone’s help” sound like you? Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?

Sufferers who feel as though asking for help reveals their phoniness are what Young calls Soloists. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can prove your worth.

Expert – Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single educational requirement? Are you constantly seeking out trainings or certifications because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed? Even if you’ve been in your role for some time, can you relate to feeling like you still don’t know “enough?” Do you shudder when someone says you’re an expert?

Experts measure their competence based on “what” and “how much” they know or can do. Believing they will never know enough, they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

For me, the Perfectionist and Soloist are perfect descriptions of me, with a little bit of the Expert thrown in. I do feel like my work must be 100% perfect 100% of the time. I fall into Soloist mode mainly because I don’t believe anyone in the world wants to help me unless I pay them to help me (with the exception of my VA 101 Mastermind family), which is usually a challenge for someone whose business is still relatively new.

Do any of these describe you? Please tell us in the comments.

Next time, we’ll talk about what to do about all this.

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