What Is Imposter Syndrome

One common question most people tend to ask is “What is Imposter Syndrome?” Imposter syndrome is defined as the mental state of being overly self-conscious and feeling mediocre in achieving goals in internal, external, measurable ways, even though he/she is highly high-producing in all internal, visible ways. This condition tends to lead people to feel like “an impostor” or “a fake,” and doubt their capabilities.


Imposter syndrome can be taken in various forms such as in internalised thoughts and emotions or exhibit external signs that one may be able to recognise themselves or by others.

These are several imposter symptoms that a person may exhibit. Some of them include:

  • Feeling like success is impossible
  • Feeling incompetent despite demonstrating competency
  • Fear of not meeting another person’s expectations
  • Feeling like past successes and hard work was only due to luck
  • Feeling incapable of performing at the same level every time
  • Feeling uncomfortable with receiving praise or congratulations
  • Feeling disappointed over current accomplishments
  • Feeling doubtful of successes
  • Feeling constant pressure to achieve or be better than before
  • Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed from feelings of inadequacy

The persistent feeling of inadequacy and mediocre a person has will eventually lead to other mental health issues such as worsening anxiety and depression. The worst thing is that most people who experience this syndrome tend not to talk about it or share this feeling with anyone, they normally struggle in silence.

Types Of Imposter Syndrome

According to an expert on Imposter Syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young, there are several types of syndrome. She has categorised each subtype according to each unique individual that falls under the imposter syndrome. Based on the finding, people usually fall into the mix of these subtypes and they are:

The Perfectionist – Perfectionists are never satisfied and always feel as if their work needs to be better, somehow or rather, they feel that there will always be some flaws or mistakes that might have been overlooked. Perfectionists tend to set impossibly high standards for themselves, thus they often suffered from self-pressure and a high level of anxiety.

Superhuman – Due to the feeling of inadequacy and insecurity, these individuals feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard as possible and often struggle with work addiction, regardless of the consequences on mental, physical and emotional health. This can cause them to burn out hard and not enjoy their work or other aspects of their life.

The Natural Genius – The natural genius represents a person with imposter syndrome that not only struggles with perfectionism but also sets out to achieve lofty goals on their first try. These individuals feel unworthy, guilty and shameful if they cannot easily complete a task or achieve a goal on their first go. They are ashamed to take extra time or need to redo something.

The Soloist – These people tend to be very individualist and prefer to work alone. Self-worth often stems from their productivity, so they often do not ask for assistance. To them, asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence.

The Expert – He who never feels good enough despite being extremely knowledgeable. This person may feel like they are less experienced and worthy than their colleagues if they do not know the solutions or knowledge on certain topics. They feel like a failure if they have even a tiny lack of knowledge in something.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

How can a high achieving person overcome imposter syndrome or are you already one of them? Imposter syndrome can sometimes feel overwhelming especially when bombarded with anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. A helping hand might be needed to pull you through. That is why if things get too intense, it is advisable to seek psychotherapy or talk therapy. However, there are many other ways in which a person can deal with imposter syndrome on his own. Here are some helpful ways to overcome imposter syndrome you can try:

  • Practice setting realistic goals.
  • Recognize your expertise.
  • Define what success means to you without including the approval of others.
  • Stay away from toxic competitions.
  • Don’t rely exclusively on external validation.
  • Set limits and boundaries to avoid overworking.
  • Practice healthily responding to failure.
  • Praise yourself for successes and efforts.
  • Remember nobody is perfect.
  • Determine your support system and lean on them when needed.

Final Thoughts

Imposter syndrome is common and if you are feeling like one, it proves that you have attained some degree of success in your life that you might feel is purely based on luck. Take one step back and review the achievements that you have accomplished so far and turn that feeling into one of gratitude and be grateful.

As you progress and reach new milestones in life, all these signs and experiences will reappear again. Therefore, it is important and helpful to arm yourself with tools and tips to overcome them. If you have tried all these tips and done whatever you can, still having that imposter feeling dragging you down, you might need to speak to a mental health professional.

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