Women and imposter syndrome


Throughout your working career, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon) a few times – and if so, you’re not alone. 

According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, about 70% of people have experienced imposter-like feelings at some point in their lives, too. But did you know that there is more than one type of imposter syndrome?

Dr. Valerie Young, author of ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It’, listed them:

1. The Perfectionist
2. The Superwoman/man
3. The Natural Genius
4. The Soloist
5. The Expert

Each of these types has the area in which people tend to struggle, such as their career or life choices.

But why do these varying imposter syndrome types affect so many people on such a high scale?
There are actually a few possibilities. It might be due to a toxic work culture, feeling undervalued or disrespected, perceiving one’s work as below the limit, specific temperaments. Mental illness can also incite the feeling of imposter syndrome.

When someone generally feels low confidence, insecurity, and second-guesses themselves on a constant basis, how exactly do they know which type of imposter syndrome they have in the first place?

Journaling and speaking with a therapist can help an individual identify which form of imposter syndrome they are struggling with.

If you want to know more about which kind of imposter syndrome you have and how to combat these behaviors, keep scrolling.

1. The Perfectionist

The Perfectionist, the most well-known imposter syndrome type out of the bunch, tends to be fearful of being found out. They believe they should accomplish things perfectly all the time and tend to be known as ‘control freaks’ or micromanagers. They fear being questioned about their abilities.

But the truth is, whether others are questioning your abilities or not, you’re already doing that to yourself. One of the ways you can combat this is by listing or taking note of small accomplishments, and visualising successes.

2. The Superwoman

If you don’t consider yourself to be a Superwoman, then you most definitely have worked with one. They’re the ones who push themselves beyond their limits, and feel like they have to measure up against their colleagues. But how do you know if you have this imposter syndrome type or if you just really love working?

An expert says that if one’s work elicits feelings of contentment and comfort, and not frustration, or anger, then one simply loves working.
Those who do work just because they feel they must do it, and not because they want to might just have the ‘superwoman syndrome’.

So, if this sounds like you and you want to stop this cycle, you should make the decision to stop what you are doing.
An expert puts it this way, ‘you most definitely overwork yourself by thinking you have to be the first one in the office and the last one to leave because YOU must get all of this work done and it can only be done by YOU. Once you take a good long and hard look at the outcomes of what you are doing, you’ll realize that it is not healthy for you.’

After all, how you decide to treat yourself will impact how others, like your colleagues and boss, will treat you.
You might begin to get more assignments, and responsibilities while your colleagues do not get such. And while it can be great to be known as the one your boss can rely on, it can negatively affect your mental health by leading to burnout – or by making you feel like you’re not enough if your boss doesn’t consider you to be this person for them.

3. The Natural Genius

If you consider yourself to be a Natural Genius, you may have the tendency to beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish something perfectly on the first go. Not only do you tend to set the bar unrealistically high for yourself, like the Perfectionist, but when a mistake does occur, no matter how minor, you feel like a failure.

But just because you might have to work hard on something doesn’t mean you’re not good at it. If you’re beginning to feel defeated, list ways in which others have helped you over the years, and how different perspectives have helped you succeed.

This will prompt you to perceive asking for help as a positive, less threatening act, which will help you realize that learning and failing as you go is actually part of the process.

4. The Soloist

As a Soloist, you tend (and prefer) to do things on your own. Why delegate, when you can complete everything by yourself?
Unfortunately, the harm in this is that you believe that asking for help is a weakness that will set off alarms to others that you, are a fraud – when this is 100% not the case.

You can let go of this behaviour by learning to get out of your own way.  List ways in which others have helped you over the years, and how different perspectives have helped you succeed, this prompts individuals to perceive asking for help as more positive and less threatening.’

However, this exercise will only work if you’re in a positive working environment. A negative working environment will only feed the negative narrative the Soloist says to themselves.
If you’re a Soloist, this thought process will just perpetuate your actions – which can harm you in the long run and lead to burnout.

5. The Expert

People with the Expert imposter syndrome type tend to measure their self-worth by ‘how much’ or ‘what’ they know. This is because the Expert believes they should know everything about a topic from top to bottom, and they tend to have a fear of being called out for not having the knowledge in the first place.

The harm with this type of imposter syndrome is that you can become a constant learner and hoarder of information, you can become paralyzed with knowledge and feel a false sense of safety gaining all of this knowledge and information to where you’re afraid to actually DO anything with it.

So how can Experts stop obsessing over trying to know everything and anything?
It is recommended that they compartmentalize their time spent working and reserve time each day to exercise and simply rest, instead.
This will help you put the focus on your mental and physical health rather than entirely on work.


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