Which 1 of the 5 Imposter Syndromes are you?

Do you ever feel like a fraud? Despite high achievements do you feel like your accomplishments are a result of ‘luck’? Imposter Syndrome reflects the belief that you are inadequate and incompetent despite the evidence that demonstrates you’re highly skilled and successful.

Imposter Syndrome can hold you back from taking on certain jobs and responsibilities, and it can also take various forms depending on your background.

“The ‘Imposter Phenomenon’ is the crippling feeling of self-doubt, intellectual inadequacy, and anticipated failure that haunts people who attribute their success to luck or help from others rather than their own abilities” (Jacqueline Nelson, 2011).

Where did the term Imposter Syndrome also known as Imposter Phenomenon

The term was developed by Clance & Imes (1978) to describe the internal experience of intellectual phoniness that seemed to be common amongst a sampled group of high-achieving women. 150 highly successful women were interviewed by Clance & Imes and despite their successes, they felt an internal lack of success.

Further research has found that men also experience Imposter Syndrome.

There are a number of tips on the world wide web when it comes to tackling imposter syndrome in general but there 5 subtypes. Discovering your sub-types will help you solve this problem strategically.   

What are the 5 subtypes?

Dr. Valerie Young the Author of ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, categorizes it in subgroups.


  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Superwoman/Man
  3. The Natural Genius
  4. The Rugged Individualist
  5. The Expert

I’m going to list the summaries of the 5 subtypes that Valerie Young provides along with someone questions that you can ask yourself.

The Perfectionist

Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionism literally go hand in hand.


Perfectionists tend to set unrealistically high goals and when they fail to achieve them they experience severe self-doubt. Perfectionists can be controlling and often results in doing things themselves if they want something done ‘right’.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do you have difficulty delegating tasks to others? Do you feel frustrated and disappointed with the results when you do delegate a task?
  • Have you been accused of being a micromanager?
  • Do you feel like your work has to 100% bang?

Perfectionists are rarely happy with their successes. I can 100% relate to being a perfectionist, even if I gain a high score on an assignment or I write a compelling blog post I don’t always feel satisfied. In fact, when I took my first driving test, despite being a competent driver I beat myself up wishing that my parking had been perfect.

Helpful Tips

Understand and learn that making mistakes is a part of the process in life. There’s never the ‘perfect time’ to get a project up and running, your work will never be 100% flawless, therefore find ways to take action.

The Superwoman/man

Superheros (I like to call them) feel like they are phonies amongst their colleagues in the workplace. These people work ridiculously hard to measure up, but working hard is often a false cover-up to mask their insecurities.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do you stay late at the office than the rest of your colleagues, even though the day’s work is done?
  • Have you sacrificed your hobbies in order to work more?
  • Do you find NOT working uncomfortable and down time completely wasteful?
  • Do you feel like you have earned your title (despite your achievements & numerous degrees) so you feel pressured to work harder and longer than those around you?

Imposter workaholics are addicted to the validation that comes from working and not working itself.

Helpful tips

Learn to veer away from external validation and also learn to take constructive criticism seriously, instead of personally.

The Natural Genius

Those who are natural “geniuses” judge their successes based on their abilities rather than their efforts.  In layman’s terms, if they have to work hard at it, they begin to believe that they are shit at it. Just like perfectionists, this subtype set their internal bar incredibly high. They also judge themselves based on getting things right the first try.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you an A*** student?
  • Where you constantly told that you’re the ‘smart’ one in the family or friends?
  • Do you avoid challenges because you don’t want to face the un-comfortability of trying something you’re not great at?
  • Does your confidence drop when faced with a setback?

Helpful Tips

Try to look at yourself as a work in progress. Identify specific and changeable behaviours that you can improve over time.

The Rugged Individualist

These people don’t like asking for help, instead, they go to certain lengths to prove their independence. They feel that asking for help reveals their phoniness. There’s nothing wrong with being independent, however, it does become a problem when you refuse help in order to prove your worth.

Questions to ask yourself

  • ‘I don’t need anyone’s help’ Do you find yourself saying this?
  • Do you feel the need to accomplish things on your own?

Helpful Tips

Understand that it’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help is something I have struggled with in the past and I still kind of struggle with it in the present day.

The Expert

These people often feel like they’ve tricked their employer into hiring them. They have a deep fear of being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

  • Do you only apply to jobs if you meet every single educational requirement?
  • Do you feel like you still don’t know enough despite being in your role for quite some time?

Helpful Tips

Bulking up your skill set can help you progress professionally and keep you in the competitive job market. On the other hand, endlessly seeking out more information can be a form of procrastination. Perhaps obtain a skill when you need it (for example if you take on new responsibilities) rather than hoarding knowledge for (false) comfort.    

If you’re struggling from one of these Imposter subtypes, you’re far from alone.

If you want to get more info on how to combat Imposter Syndrome check out  Therapy for Black Girls, The Podcast by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford a Licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia who provides great insight on how to tackle imposter syndrome.  

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