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 of 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 in order 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.

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