“I sometimes think I obtained my present position because I happened to be in the right place at the right time or knew the right people.”

“When people praise me for something I’ve accomplished, I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to their expectations of me in the future.”

“I often compare my ability to those around me. I’m disappointed in my present accomplishments and think I should have accomplished much more.”

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which high-achieving people feel a level of phoniness and believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement. According to Dr. Pauline Clance & Dr. Suzanne Imes, people with Impostor Syndrome tend to feel like frauds and experience intense feelings of unworthiness. About 70-80% of highly successful people experience this phenomenon regularly.

The 5 Archetypes of Imposter Syndrome

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Dr Valerie Young drills down further into Imposter Syndrome and describes behavior patterns as relatable archetypes.

Here are the 5 archetypes:

The Superwoman/Superman

They don’t believe they are as good as their colleagues, so they push themselves to work harder in order to prove their worth. They are constantly seeking external validation. They are the first ones in and the last ones out. They get stressed when they are not working and don’t have much of a life outside work.

The Perfectionist

They set impossible goals for themselves and when they fail, they feel like they are not good enough. They want to control everything and struggle to delegate. They tend to procrastinate waiting for the perfect time or the perfect competency. When they do the work, they are not satisfied because they feel they could have done better.

The Expert

They measure their worth based on what they can do or how much they know. They don’t like asking for help and worry about being exposed as inexperienced. They are constantly seeking out more training before they are willing to take action. They will not pursue opportunities unless they meet all requirements.

The Natural Genius

They have a history of outstanding academic and professional results. They don’t try things that they are not good at. They judge themselves based on their ability to do things easily rather than put in a lot of effort. If it takes time to learn something or if they fail, their confidence tumbles and they feel ashamed.

The Soloist

They do things on their own. They don’t like asking for help. They want to accomplish things independently to prove themselves. They worry that relying on others will expose them as frauds. They don’t leverage their networks or tap into valuable resources.

Imposter Syndrome In The Digital Age

Imposter Syndrome is not new and has been studied since 1978 when it was first defined. What’s new is its growing prevalence in the digital age. Social media allows us to present ourselves how we want to be seen rather than how we truly are. Hiding behind the veil of Instagram filters perpetuates the idea of perfection despite an underlying sense of unworthiness. Imposter Syndrome is affecting more people as they struggle to keep up with rising expectations, survive in a world where skills become obsolete in months instead of years, and cope with public scrutiny of actions and failures. One recent study discovered that about 58% of tech employees from companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft feel like frauds.

Imposter Syndrome & Intersectionality

People of every demographic suffer with these feelings of self doubt. However, minorities and women are the hardest-hit. Racial or gender stereotypes and micro-aggressions that dismiss achievement can induce doubt and reinforce feelings of inadequacy. Cultural and social norms of “working twice as hard” or “being grateful for having the job” lead to unconsciously overcompensating with perfectionism and overwork. The complexities of intersectionality coupled with the pressure of being “the only” present multifaceted challenges where people take on the burden of representation (“minority tax”) or opt out of opportunities completely. The lack of visible and relatable role models in the workplace affects a person’s sense of belonging and belief that there is a continued path to success.

Take Action Now

Identify the archetypes that you most relate to. Become more aware of your self-limiting beliefs that show up in the workplace. Assess your behavior patterns, as well as cultural and social context. Learn techniques that help you manage debilitating behaviors. And remember that most high-achieving people struggle with Imposter Syndrome – so you’re not alone!

“Doubt kills more dreams

than failure ever will”

Suzy Kassem

Tune in to this week’s episode of the Beyond Barriers Podcast and learn habits and hacks to overcome Imposter Syndrome.