The 5 Imposter Syndrome Types and How to Combat Them in the Workplace

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 30, 2022

Do you ever feel out of place at work or like you’re not good enough to be there? 

This is known as imposter syndrome - a sense of extreme self-doubt that can make you feel like a failure or a fraud.

Dr. Valerie Young developed 5 imposter syndrome types to explain how people experience imposter syndrome differently. Each of these imposter syndrome types come with their own self-imposed barriers that can stop you from succeeding in the workplace.

But there are ways you can combat them.

Read on to find out the different imposter syndrome types and how to overcome them.

1. The Perfectionist

For Perfectionists, it can often feel like your best isn't good enough. You hold yourself to impossibly high standards, which means you’re never able to feel like you’re succeeding or working to the level you should be.

The Perfectionist imposter syndrome type can be especially damaging as it can quickly lead to burnout at work. Your need for perfection can drive you to work longer hours and stress over even the tiniest details, which is not sustainable long-term.

Here’s how to combat the Perfectionist imposter syndrome type:

  • Get an outside perspective - To tackle this imposter syndrome type, try asking a colleague whose work you admire or respect for their opinion on your work. They’ll be able to give you a reality check and keep your perfectionism from getting out of hand.
  • Don’t take on more than you can handle - If you know you’re a perfectionist, then try not to accept extra work that will leave you overstretched to avoid burnout and excess stress.
  • Set a time limit for tasks - To save you from spending far longer on each task than you should, set yourself a strict time limit. Tell yourself you’re not allowed to go over that time limit, so you have to be happy with whatever you’re able to do in that time.

2. The Superperson

If you feel like you have to be all things to all people, you’re the Superperson imposter syndrome type. Like a superhero, you think you need to be saving the company, supporting your colleagues and rescuing the office cat from a tree all at the same time.

The Superperson always has their plate full and they’re constantly taking on more work than they can realistically do. The result? They never feel like they’re doing anything well because they’re always rushing on to the next task and the next person to help.

How to combat the Superperson imposter syndrome type:

  • Practice saying no: A big part of the Superperson imposter syndrome type is a ‘yes’ mentality. You feel like you have to take on every possible responsibility to prove your worth. To get over this, you need to get used to saying no to people.
  • Plan your time: There are only so many hours in the day. To combat your imposter syndrome type, plan out your time hour-by-hour to see whether or not you actually have time to take on another project or task.
  • Take regular breaks: For this imposter syndrome type, it’s essential to take breaks. That means scheduling your lunch break and a short break in the morning and afternoon to force yourself to stop - otherwise you risk burnout.

3. The Expert

The Expert imposter syndrome type is characterized by the need to be an expert at everything you do. Even with tasks that fall outside your field or your job description, you feel as though you need to be proficient. 

The Expert type is often afraid to ask for help, and failure to do one thing can make you feel like a failure across the board. You can’t rewire your computer so you must be bad at your job, right? 

The Expert imposter syndrome type can be especially hard to handle because any failure can seriously set back your confidence and even make you feel like giving up or quitting.

Here’s how to combat the Expert imposter syndrome type: 

  • Get comfortable asking for help: Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. To combat your imposter syndrome type, you have to force yourself to hold your hand up and say you can’t do something. People won’t think any less of you. You might even end up doing a better job…
  • Use affirmations: Try writing out positive affirmations and stick them somewhere you can see them, such as the top of your computer screen. Include phrases to help your self-esteem like “I’m capable” and “I’m in control.”
  • Talk to your coworkers: Chances are, there’ll be other people in your role or your team who have the same feelings and confusion as you. Talk to them about your imposter syndrome - a problem shared is a problem halved.

4. The Natural Genius

One imposter syndrome type that’s probably familiar to anyone who did well at school is the Natural Genius type. For the Natural Genius, imposter syndrome is experienced as a feeling that you have to be naturally good at something or you’re a failure.

The Natural Genius imposter syndrome type belongs to anyone who’s not comfortable if they have to work hard to acquire a new skill. They expect themselves to grasp concepts instantly and acquire new capabilities from nowhere. The Natural Genius’ confidence takes a serious knock when they can’t.

How to combat the Natural Genius imposter syndrome type: 

  • Take a step back: For this imposter syndrome type, you need to take a step back and get realistic about what you’re trying to do. You don’t expect your colleagues to be experts at something as soon as they learn it, so why do you hold yourself to that standard? Get comfortable with being a student once in a while.
  • Ask for a concrete timeline:  If you need to learn a new skill at work, be it training, a mandatory course, or something for your career progression, ask your manager for a concrete timeline for how long you have to get your competency up. If you know you have 6 months to master this new skill, you can counteract your natural urge to be an instant genius and try to be more patient.
  • Practice makes perfect: You’re never going to learn something new unless you practice. So combat the Natural Genius imposter syndrome type by making practice a daily habit.

5. The Soloist

To understand the Soloist personality type, you have to imagine someone who’s been fiercely independent their whole lives. They’re used to looking out for themselves and they’ve learnt that to get something done they need to do it themselves. 

Then expand that out to imagine someone who is so self-sufficient that their self-worth is built into their ability to complete tasks alone. The Soloist imposter syndrome type struggles hugely in teams and collaborative environments. They need to work entirely alone or they question everything about themselves and their abilities.

If you’re a Soloist type, you probably feel like you’re not doing a good job unless you’re doing it yourself. As soon as someone else joins in, it undermines everything you’ve done. This can be a problem in many work environments, especially in teams.

How to combat the Soloist imposter syndrome type:

  • Remember independence isn’t everything: We all like to feel self-sufficient but part of working in a team means cooperating with other people. Remind yourself that your independence isn’t pushing you forward - it could actually be holding you back.
  • Look at your idols: If you think of anyone who’s achieved great things in their career, they’ve never done it alone. Everyone had a mentor, a friend, probably even a whole team helping them reach their goals. Be it Obama, Beyonce or Messi - everyone needs to lean on someone else to be good at their jobs.
  • Let go of control: When you’re the Soloist type, you want all the control all the time. The best way to combat this type is to get comfortable with letting go sometimes and letting other people in. It can be hard at first but you’ll get used to it.

Every imposter syndrome type has its challenges - but if you can recognize which type you are, you can work towards feeling more comfortable and confident at work. Which imposter syndrome type are you?

Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She’s an anthropologist at heart and loves using social theory to get deeper into the topics she writes about. Born in the UK, Elizabeth has lived in Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Dubai before moving most recently to Budapest, Hungary. She’s an ENTJ with ENFJ leanings. Find out more about her work at bethharris.com

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

Comments

Jena (not verified) says...

I am definitely the perfectionist . I don't have a job right now . But in other things like relationships with friends and when I was in school that one

Jena (not verified) says...

I can relate to that first one very much so . Too much so. It's crazy to think about 

tdoc (not verified) says...

Think I might be a perfectionist type but also a soloist?

boydmt76 (not verified) says...

Likewise. It's a love/hate relationship with myself :)

Natalie Mae (not verified) says...

All but superperson and expert apply to me.

Jackie Koski (not verified) says...

I see small parts of myself in each one. Not sure where I belong. I resist applying for a job because I doubt myself.  I often feel outside looking in

Suzie (not verified) says...

You had me until you spelled learned as learnt. 

Rolling eyes (not verified) says...

Please note where the author is from via the bio.

From Grammarly:

Learnt and learned are both used as the past participle and past tense of the verb to learn. Learned is the generally accepted spelling in the United States and Canada, while the rest of the English-speaking world seems to prefer learnt.

Halime (not verified) says...

Why is there a need to LABEL everyone? Reading this article made me laugh out loud. Imposter Syndrome lol. These people, that suffer from these newly manifested SYNDROMES/LABELS all seem to have come from households that had at least one narcissistic parent. Their parent(s) failed them. Period. They need to analyze this and understand how to heal. Understanding the CAUSE of behaviors gets people on the path to HEAL. Plus, all humans are different. Do not expect everyone to be a team player. Many people work better ALONE. Take Albert Einstein for instance and not some egotistical celebrity or politician!!  We are all unique. I am unsubscribing from these emails, because most of them are a joke. 

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