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5 types of imposters: which one are you?

Imposter syndrome is a mental pattern that leaves you feeling inadequate or feeling like a fraud. It's a hot mess that hinders many, especially high achievers, from their ultimate career success. Approximately 25%-30% of high achievers can resonate and no matter how well they are doing they will still attribute success to luck or help from others rather than their own skills and talents.


Dr. Valerie Young has identified 5 different types of imposters: the Perfectionist, the Superhero, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert.


  1. The perfectionist: the perfectionist usually focuses on areas they could have done better and rarely celebrate any achievements. They find it hard to accept praise and will usually brush it off. The perfectionist often experiences high levels of doubt and worry and anxiety, especially as they set extremely high standards for themselves and excessively high goals that they are unable to achieve. The perfectionist is terrified of making mistakes and will spend a lot of time and energy to go over and over their work to make sure it's perfect. They take constructive feedback very personal and are their own harshest critics. They can often become control freaks thinking that if they want to get something done right, they need to do it themselves.

  2. The superhero: superheroes usually describe themselves as workaholics. They tend to take on more and more work even though it means they work late or during their free time to measure up. Superheroes can actually become addicted to the validation that comes from working. They rarely say "No" to others and regularly seem to "save the day". This "workaholism" can lead to them burning out and feeling physically and emotionally empty and affecting their mental health and their relationships. Superheroes often feel they are inadequate compared to their peers and they push themselves more and more to cover up their insecurities.

  3. The natural genius: the natural geniuses are quick learners and they master new skills and tasks quickly and effortlessly. They judge their competence on speed and ease rather than effort. They feel naturally gifted and smart and often feel shame or guilt when faced with a goal that is too hard, when it takes them longer to master something or when something isn't as easily attained or learned as they are used to. Like perfectionists, the natural genius set unattainably high standards and expectations for themselves and they expect themselves to get everything right on their first try. Natural geniuses need to learn that struggle is often a natural part of the learning process.

  4. The Soloist: the soloist prefers to work alone and usually struggles to ask for help as it could reveal incompetence. They usually turn down assistance and support in order to prove their self-worth. Soloists believe they need to accomplish everything on their own. They need to realise that there is no shame in asking for help or asking questions when they don't know the answer.

  5. The Expert: the expert won't feel satisfied when finishing a task until they know absolutely everything about a subject. They often spend loads of time researching and searching for information which can make it hard to actually complete the task and often leads them to procrastinate and move forward. Experts base their competence on what they know and how much they know. They believe that they will never know enough and fear being exposed as incompetent or inexperienced. Experts need to accept that there is always more to learn.