17 Feb

This is part two in my series about overcoming Imposter Syndrome-that nagging feeling of doubt that our success is luck and we’ll soon be found out as a fraud. Read Part One for the history and science of this phenomenon. 

Different Types of Impostor Syndrome 

Dr. Valerie Young wrote the book, ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women’ and classified five different types of impostor experiences, which is what this article will cover. Here are the different types of impostors she describes and how each type can possibly be overcome. 


Perfectionists set excessively high standards for themselves, and when they’re unable to achieve as expected, they experience a vicious cycle of self-doubt, worry, and end up thinking of themselves as inadequate. So too does the ‘impostor.’ Perfectionists need their work to be 100% perfect. Even a hint of imperfection sends them into a spiral of worry, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy. 


 They tend to drive themselves too hard and are never satisfied with their output, always thinking that they could do better. They never stop to appreciate their efforts, even celebrate wins, and tend to end up burned out. They also find it a challenge to delegate tasks to others.   


 If you’re a perfectionist, you need to relax and realize that the more you strive for perfection, the less you’ll be able to accomplish, because perfection naturally slows you down and can also take a toll on your wellbeing. Give up perfection for progress and excellence.


Experts measure their worth and value according to how much they know. Knowing that they will never acquire enough knowledge and skills, they always need more time to get something done. Deep inside, they fear being exposed as inexperienced. Not knowing enough, or everything about something feels inadequate or even shameful for them.   


The expert tends to shy away from applying for jobs where they do not meet or exceed all the qualifications. Even in the workplace and being in a role for quite some time, experts feel like they still do not know enough. They keep seeking out training, finding comfort in hoarding knowledge instead of applying it. 


For ‘experts,’ mentorship is a great way to give back and to prove to themselves how much they know. Sharing of knowledge is much better than hoarding and monopoly of it. Trust in what you already know, and in your ability to thrive in the face of new information.

 Natural Genius 

The natural genius takes pride in learning new things with ease and great speed. They judge their competence based on how fast and easy they’re able to appear to master a skill. If they take a longer time than usual to accomplish something, they doubt themselves and feel inadequate.   


Natural geniuses care much more about the destination than the journey, and they’re also conscious of timing. They expect to always get things right the first time. It’s hard for them to move past their comfort zone and be exposed to challenges with unpredictable outcomes.   


Try measuring success based on efforts, not on speed and ease. It’s impossible for a person to be great at everything (instantly). Some things worth knowing can take more time and effort, but they’re absolutely worth it. Open yourself up to new challenges, instead of shying away from unpredictable scenarios. 


The soloist is also known as the rugged individualist. These type of ‘impostors’ find great comfort in their own company, prefer to work alone, and believe that asking for help can reveal their incompetence and is a sign of weakness. 


They care about who completes the task and it’s gotta be them. Soloists frown at the thought of asking for help, or even allowing anybody else on their boat. To them, asking for help is a sign of failure and signifies shame, not measuring up, and total unworthiness.   


It’s good for soloists to reframe their thought patter - asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a vital skill that anybody needs to master to thrive. It is far more noble and productive to ask for help than overdriving yourself needlessly, wasting precious time and effort, when something could be done with greater ease if you simply asked for help at first. 

Superman / Superwoman The superhero a.k.a. superman or superwoman is another person who feels like an impostor. They are the classic workaholics who drive themselves insanely hard. They seem to constantly work and work harder than everybody else as a means to cover up insecurities. 


The superhero impostors are driven by the validation that they get from the impression of constantly working, not even the work itself. Due to overwork, they can tend to burn out easily. 


Try to veer away from external validation and focus on validating your own efforts and value you deliver. If you know yourself well, focus on your strengths and develop them; you’ll realize that it’s even more productive and healthier to say no sometimes. Make your own life a priority, not your work. 

Is Social Media Triggering Your Impostor Syndrome? 

We live in the golden age of information a.k.a. the digital age. A constant influx of information reminds us that knowledge is at our fingertips at any given time. We have never been more overwhelmed with information and data in history than today, and we have also never been more aware in a collective sense, about the most relevant (a subjective term) or current issues of the day. 

It’s the self-appointed job of social media to badger us all day with trending information online that is very difficult to ignore, except when we take steps to do so intentionally. One way or another, with the right digital strategy, any content can be made highly visible around the globe, and this poses both the most amazing benefits and potentially the greatest threats for our awareness and mental health. 

It is also due to the inevitability of social media in our lives today that most people have a keener awareness of mental health than was previously common, one aspect of which is the growing concern about impostor syndrome. 

Impostor Syndrome is not classified as a mental health disorder, but it is defined as a psychological phenomenon, one that causes people to unreasonably fear being exposed as a fraud. This term was originally coined by clinical psychologists as an identified pattern of behavior that is common amongst highly successful people. 

Despite having strong and visible evidence of their accomplishments, affected individuals fail to validate their worth, and are plagued with a persistent belief that they do not deserve the success they’re experiencing. 

Impostor syndrome can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social status, or gender. Impostor syndrome has been determined largely to be a reaction to certain external circumstances, and there are potential triggers that can make its occurrence more likely. One recently evolved trigger that is seen as a high-risk factor for impostor syndrome is the virtual reality of social media. 

These are some of the ways that social media can increase the occurrence and heighten the effects of impostor syndrome: 

Social media can put people under increased pressure to succeed and reach their highest potential. But with this increased public scrutiny, will remaining authentic and embracing imperfections be possible too? 

It used to be that the glossy pages of a magazine or a shiny billboard were our typical sources of inspiration to an idyllic lifestyle. Today, you only need to open your social media apps, which is fairly frequent in any given day, to be constantly reminded of how you could, or should, best live your life. 

The more we see these reminders, the more it encourages us to take steps to succeed and to reach our full potential. But the question is, at the bequest of all the things standardized to us by social media, can we still remain authentic and embrace ourselves with the knowledge of our own perceived imperfections? 

Social media encourages people to create a social media image and online reputation that may feel detached from the real person behind the profile. 

When our true selves feel in conflict with our online image and reputation, lingering self-doubt follows. This dissonance can provide a breeding ground for impostor syndrome and amplify feelings of fraudulence, anxiety, and may even lead to depression. 

Social media encourages constant comparisons and triggers impostor syndrome.  

Having instant access to how most people appear to be living their day to day lives according to their social media posts can exacerbate the impostor phenomenon. Social media encourages us to make comparisons. Another thing that social media can do is to challenge and warp our notion of what is normal. 

What we are frequently exposed to ultimately becomes the norm in our minds, given enough time.  If we’re not discerning, it is very easy to take another person’s social media profile at face value, and yet feel that our very own is fraudulent or at least misleading. 

Counter feelings of impostor syndrome caused by social media with these suggestions:Share and discuss your experiences with other people.  

This gives a sense of belongingness and support to make you realize that you are not alone.

 Regulate your social media consumption. 

This is even more important if it triggers uneasy feelings of insecurity, comparison, and negativity. 

Build strong offline support.  

Prioritize your relationships outside social media. 

Find a mentor with possibly relatable experiences to you. 

A mentor can guide and motivate you with their own similar experiences. Also, take steps to develop a stronger offline influence to balance your online persona. This can act as a circuit-breaker to disrupt you from putting all of your energy there.

Seek counsel from a professional. 

If the previous suggestions aren’t helping to overcome feelings related to impostor syndrome, outside help may be needed. Seek the counsel of those who are professionally trained to help you restore your emotional balance and trust in your self-worth. 

Your success is not by accident. Luck is made and you deserve all recognition that comes your way! 

Shawna Lake is the Founder of Deep End Talent Strategies, an HR consulting firm for business and career coaching practice for professionals. Schedule a free call with us to talk about your unique situation.