Impostors come in different shapes and sizes. The universal theme amongst all self identified impostors out there is the feeling that you are walking around waiting to be “found out” or “exposed” as a phony, a fake, and a fraud. Although you may feel as if you are the only person walking around with these fears, a whopping 70% of people struggle with feelings of impostor syndrome. The irony of impostor syndrome is that it elicits such shame that no one talks about it!
The way that your impostor manifests may look different depending on the individual. Figuring out what behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are driving your impostor syndrome can help you identify, challenge and debunk the myths you’ve been telling yourself that keep you from taking a bold step, experiencing confidence that is on par with your gifts and abilities, and putting yourself out there in the world unapologetically. Valerie Young explores the various traits of each type in her book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.”
So…Which type of impostor are you?
1) The Perfectionist
You expect not just excellence from yourself but absolute perfection 100% of the time.
Even when you accomplish a major life goal, you still feel unfulfilled, thinking “If only I did (blank) better”
You invest an excessive amount of time and energy into tasks, with the hopes of producing something flawless and therefore you never delegate responsibility to others, not wanting to risk imperfect results.
2) The Expert
Despite investing extensive time, money, energy, hard work and training into your education you do not feel like you know enough. You have a disgusted reaction to being referred to as an expert. You are constantly seeking out trainings, certifications and supervision in the hopes that filling up your intellectual bucket will one day allow you to embrace the title you’ve already earned.
3) The Soloist
You embrace your independence, seeing it as a strength. You refuse the need to ask for help, not wanting to expose the fact that there are things you don’t know.
You disguise your own needs under the demands of a project so as not to appear incompetent.
4) The Superwoman/Man
You find “down time” agonizing and equate this with being “a lazy bum.”
When’s the last time you engaged in a hobby?...sorry, marketing and workout regimens do not = hobbies…..Because you feel undeserving of the title you have rightfully earned, you bust your ass to work longer harder faster to prove yourself to yourself.
5) The Natural Genius
Not only do you set your personal bar for success exceedingly high, but you ALSO expect that you will be successful on the first attempt. You are used to getting what you want, whether that’s been straight A’s, compliments, or being seen as the “good child” in the family. When you encounter set backs (aka things not working out the way you hoped on the first try) you want to run and hide because it feels so humiliating. You avoid trying something new because the fear of not being successful on the first attempt is so threatening.
Stop making yourself so darn small
For the Perfectionist
Recognize the self-reinforcing cycle you place yourself in when you expect nothing short of absolute perfection. Perfection is an unattainable goal, and therefore you are certain to feel inadequate by comparison. Why would you want to walk around feeling like a failure 24/7? What if…bear with me…you expected a solid performance over a perfect one? The reality of it is that none of the exemplar people in this world got to where they are without bumps in the road, falling down and picking themselves back up and perseverance to keep moving forward. Patt Flynn only became the wildly successful entrepreneur he is known to be today because he was laid off from his day job as an architect. He could have easily been paralyzed by this failure, instead he picked himself back up, thought about what he could offer the world based on his experiences and this turned into the start of his multimillion dollar road to being an entrepreneur. Often times it's the imperfections, the flaws and the challenges that allow us to stand out from the status quo, to speak to people with similar pain points and to gain recognition. These flaws are things to be embraced, celebrated and treasured.
For the Expert
When is enough enough? The truth of the matter is that none of us know everything. The second truth is that there will always be somebody who knows more than you, big deal. Just because you are not the “most knowledgeable” about everything in your field does not mean you don’t already know enough to do your job and to crush it! Sure, it is good to always remain curious, humble, and open to learning more, but this does not give you an excuse to call yourself inadequate, unequipped, or phony. Recognize that because no one in life knows everything, others don’t expect you to know everything, they only expect you to know enough to help them.
For the Soloist
Independence is something we pride in Western culture, but maybe to a fault. I’d be willing to bet that if one of your coworkers or family members asked you for help with something you would not think to yourself “Wow they asked for my help? They must be so incompetent.” No, you would probably, think “I’m glad they reached out, let me see if there’s anything I can do to help.” So you probably know where I;m going with this next point, why are you holding yourself to a different standard?! Let’s face it, have you gotten to your current level of success entirely on your own, without the help of a single human being? Of course not! There’s a reason we go to school, get taught concepts by people who know more than us, and ask questions in a classroom of other people. Learning is a collective process. Once you make the leap into a professional setting, things are NO different! There is always more to learn and no you cannot “go it alone.” Somehow along the way, you have come to equate asking for help with “admitting you don’t know shit” stop doing that because it is a complete lie. Asking for help simply means you recognize that someone else may have information to make your job easier and you could benefit from knowing that, and likely they will benefit from getting to share it with you.
For the Superwoman/Man
You are enough! This is a belief that you constantly struggle to accept about yourself. We are human beings not human doings, it is perfectly acceptable, okay and even important to pick your feet up and do nothing from time to time. Of course your mind will immediately be drawn to think “what should I be doing right now to advance my career, help my kids, support my spouse” the tricky part is keeping that voice in check and giving yourself permission to simply be. Try leaving work at 6:00 on the dot for a week straight. At first it will feel agonizing, you may feel guilty or stressed about not getting enough done, but by the end of the week, you may come to realize that you quite like being home to prepare dinner, go for a long walk with the dog, and hear about your kid’s day. You may also find that you still magically got everything done without running yourself into the ground….
For the Natural Genius
Although you may believe that you have always gotten lucky and succeeded without trying, you are overlooking the fact that getting “lucky” is the result of hard work, effort, and life circumstance. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example. A supervisor of mine told me he and his brother went out to dinner at a stake house to celebrate his brother’s 70th birthday. They got to talking to the waitress, turns out, his brother speaks mandarin, sign language and some Italian. The waitress also had a passion for language and was elated to receive a brief tutorial. At the end of the night, the waitress informed my supervisor's brother that the manager had taken 50% off the bill. The brother gave the waitress an incredibly generous tip. So…who was the lucky one here? Was the waitress lucky? Maybe, but there’s more to the story. Both people had a passion for learning, took an interest in culture and were willing to sacrifice something (conversation with a dinner companion or waiting on additional tables) to get to know one another and connect. The reason I am telling you this whole long story is to help you see how even good luck does not plop into your lap effortlessly. That is to say, if you want to continue with your streak of “knocking it out of the park” you will want to come to terms with the fact that the only way to get there is to take imperfect action. Who knows you could get "lucky" (;