Imposter Syndrome explained

Woman sitting in restaurant booth, reading her phone with a book and coffee on the table

Does your track record show that you’re competent, well-liked, and successful, yet you believe it’s just coincidence? Have you ever felt like you’ve duped people into thinking you’re good at your job? Or, maybe, you feel like a fraud about to be exposed at any moment. 

If you identify with any of those statements, you might be dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome generally affects successful people who hold themselves to higher standards than most, and it can be a tough mindset to beat. Let’s discuss what Imposter Syndrome is, the various types, and tips for kicking it to the curb once and for all. 

Imposter Syndrome definition

You’ve probably heard of the term before, but what exactly is Imposter Syndrome? It’s a feeling of inadequacy and fraud tied to your successes – you believe you aren’t really as capable or intelligent as others see you to be. You believe that you’re successful because of good luck, not because you’re smart, hard-working, or well-prepared. Sounds a little silly when you put it that way, right? 

Imposter Syndrome, originally referred to as Imposter Phenomenon, was discovered by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. They first theorized that only women dealt with Imposter Syndrome, but it was later proved that both women and men can experience difficulty processing their success. 

Decades later, there are now many professionals who specialize in helping people overcome Imposter Syndrome. With more information available than ever before, five types of Imposter Syndrome have been uncovered, do you identify with any below?

What are the different types of Imposter Syndrome?

Below are the five types of “impostors” who can manifest as a result of Imposter Syndrome:

  • The Soloist: Do you feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness or confirms you’re a fraud? Would you rather do tasks on your own rather than seek the support of a coworker or manager? Remember, asking for help is perfectly normal and doesn’t discredit your abilities or worth - it actually shows you’re strong enough to know when you could use a hand. 

  • The Perfectionist: Think you’re the only one who can get the job done right? Do you also hold yourself to insanely high standards? If you experience shame if you miss the mark or need to overcome fear of failure, that’s okay! No one is perfect nor is expected to be in the first place – including you.

  • The Expert: Are you constantly thinking about what or how much you know? Do you feel like a failure if you lack knowledge in a certain area? Remember, no one knows everything about everything. It’s okay to admit when you don’t know something. Treat it as an opportunity to expand your knowledge.

  • The Natural Genius: Do you base your success on how quickly and effortlessly you accomplish something and feel shame if it doesn’t come to you easily? When you don’t meet your own high expectations, you tend to feel let down. Remember, learning is a lifelong process, so give yourself some time to learn new things.

  • The Superwoman/man: Do you feel like you should excel in every role you play or feel like you have to work harder than everyone else to prove your value? If you’re constantly seeking external validation, it’s time to look inward. Start acknowledging all that you’ve accomplished and celebrate success each and every day. 

Tips for overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If any of this blog post resonates with you, we’re here to say you’re not alone. Many people deal with various types of Imposter Syndrome – there’s even celebrities with Imposter Syndrome! So, in an effort to help you banish those negative thoughts and focus on the positive, we’ve compiled 8 strategies to help identify what Imposter Syndrome is and how to overcome it. 

1. Be honest with yourself and others

If you’re dealing with Imposter Syndrome, be honest with yourself. Do you have a trusted confidant that you can reach out to for some guidance? Find a friend, family member, colleague, or manager you can connect with, so you feel less alone in navigating Imposter Syndrome. 

2. Give yourself a personal SWOT analysis

The thoughts that come from Imposter Syndrome often aren’t based in fact. Give yourself a realistic assessment with a personal SWOT analysis to examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We’ve outlined a step-by-step process for conducting a personal SWOT analysis to help you get started.

3. Celebrate your successes

Don’t forget to take a look at your track record and see all the ways you’ve been successful in the past. Track personal or business successes for when you need a reminder that you are as awesome as your accomplishments say you are. 

4. Change your narrative

To overcome Imposter Syndrome, you have to change your inner narrative. Practice converting some of your negative thoughts into positive ones like the examples below. 

  • I’m not good enough --> I can do anything I set my mind to
  • I’m not smart enough --> I’m learning new things everyday 
  • Why is this happening to me --> Why is this happening for me?

5. Prepare yourself for success

Practice visualization techniques to envision victory. By harnessing the power of positive visualization, you can break through negative thought patterns to reach new levels of success. 

6. Recognize the signs

Train yourself to recognize when Imposter Syndrome is about to attack and stop those feelings in their tracks. Try gentle self-talk, meditation, or mindfulness exercises to help you work through uncomfortable feelings and refocus on reality.

7. Embrace failure

Failing is not the end of the world, but actually a regular and necessary part of growth. A little bit of resilience goes a long way in helping you recover from a mishap. Embrace failure and try to find the lesson(s) learned. 

8. Find your tribe

You are the company you keep, so it could be time to level-up! Find like-minded people who are driven by success and lifelong learning. When you surround yourself with people who strive for greatness, it pushes you to do the same! 

Now that you understand what Imposter Syndrome is, you can start to recognize the signs and use the tips above to overcome it.