Impostor Syndrome: What It Means + Surefire Ways To Manage Them

by Vivian Bens
6 min read


t is popular knowledge that an impostor is someone who pretends to be someone else to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain. Does this sound like what you call yourself in your head, even while the world cheers you on? You feel like your achievements found you by a string of luck, and when people realize you are not as efficient as you appear, they’ll kick you to the curb.

Also, note that results don’t lie. The results of your hard work surround you, but it seems the voice in your head isn’t impressed and strongly believes you’re a fraud. The worst part? You’re starting to believe it too. If this is the case, it sounds like Impostor Syndrome.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. This could affect any part of an individual’s life, from career to relationships, and is a typical example of a fallacy disguised as truth. Perception might not always be accurate, but can be stronger than reality. In the sense that it’s hard to make rational choices when emotions cloud the state of reasoning.

Check out the different types of impostor syndrome and how to deal with it…

Although impostor syndrome isn’t an official mental illness, psychologists acknowledge this high display of self-doubt is a real phenomenon and often partners with anxiety and depression to worsen the situation. Hence, its various types and manifestations should be spotlighted and tackled accordingly.

Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on the topic, categorized the impostor syndrome into 5 types in her book: “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It”.

1. The perfectionist


It’s not surprising that an idealist is prone to slipping into this mental trap, giving their “all or nothing” personalities. The perfectionist often sets high goals, and when unmet, could lead to a mental breakdown, self-doubt, anxiety, and/or depression. The perfectionist believes that no matter the achievement, they could have done better, and doubt erupts from this mindset.

Quick Tip:
● Expressing gratitude and celebrating each win and conquered milestone can help soothe this problem. As impracticable as it sounds for a perfectionist, it’s feasible when you make conscious efforts to identify progress and believe that no one can be perfect no matter how much they try.

2. The superwoman/man


These sets are the workaholics who tap a sense of relevance from how hard they work. They feel the need to work harder to prove their worth. An employee of the year, but still feels it’s not enough. Multiple degrees bagged, but it still doesn’t suffice. It seems like a little fairy creature sits on their shoulders whispering the words “work harder”. The superwoman/man lives off the validation and works even harder to set a new heroic standard.

Quick Tip:

Shift your focus to your inward cheerleader and away from the praises of others. The latter might feel good initially, but eventually becomes addictive and could drive a person towards the rough path called burnout. Once you realize no one should wield the key to your relevance and dangle it at will, you’ve found the answer to a delightful paradigm shift.

3. The natural genius


Although similar to the perfectionist, they are pretty different. These individuals are used to getting it right: the whizkid is always first in class, the highest performing and creative employee. While this is an awesome trait, persons like this might not be inclined to sharpen their skills and would rather shy away from the few things they aren’t good at. They believe the first time is the charm, and not getting anything right on the first try shatters their ego/expectations.

Quick Tip:
Understand that sustainable success isn’t void of skill sharpening, and any skill can be mastered with dedication and the right tools. After which, you avail yourself of the necessary training. This way, success is predictable.

4. The soloist


In the words of the iconic Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti, this individual is “suffering and smiling”. Simply put, a soloist is putting up a runway show even when the shoes threaten to knock off the toes from alignment. These individuals attribute asking for help as a weakness and feel a sense of importance when they achieve tasks alone.

Quick Tip:

Dr. Young advises to “Keep in mind that you could take longer to complete something by insisting in your head that you have to figure it out yourself,” and two good heads are better than one. Lastly, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, team up with the right people.

5. The expert


One would assume a person of this caliber would be over the heavens with their nose stuck in the clouds, but the reverse is often the case. This person constantly accumulates knowledge and yearns to be better. This is a worthy trait, but if overdone could lead to impostor syndrome. How? No matter how much expertise has been amassed, this individual still feels like a fraud and won’t attempt any form of change if not convinced they are 100 percent fit for the task. They won’t apply for their dream job, even with their resumes bursting with over-qualification, because they don’t feel worthy or ready.

Quick Tip:

Rather than gathering skills that might not directly improve your life, be more specific and timely with training. Also, commit to passing on the knowledge to proteges. This move will awaken you to the vast amount of knowledge you’ve been sitting on, and is a natural confidence booster.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

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