Image Courtesy of Green Chameleon @ Unsplash

Image Courtesy of Green Chameleon @ Unsplash

Oh yes that’s right, there are different types of Imposters!  We may all share the commonalities where we doubt ourselves and our capabilities, however there can be differences to how it shows up for you. 

 In Valerie Young’s The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women she talks about there being 5 different competency types that relate to an Imposter and I want to share them here with you, so you can figure out which ones show up for you.  So what causes these types? 

The definition of competency is “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently” and this is where the problem lies.  The Imposter has a distorted view of competence, so they have trouble seeing themselves as competent.

 So understanding your competency types is key to getting to grips with your Inner Imposter.  Then once you have that awareness it is about making some changes to help you change your distorted view of what competence means.

 So what is your competency type?  Know that you can be a blend of all 5, however you are likely to have a more dominant type. 

1.      The Perfectionist

You have high standards for yourself but you can also judge others by these high standards too (at work and at home).  Only perfect is good enough so rarely your expectations are met.  So this can result in you being  frequently disappointed by the quality of your work and the work of others.  You can spend too much time reviewing, tweaking where others will have moved onto the next thing.  You can also fall into the trap of thinking if you want something doing right, they may as well do it themselves.  You may even refer to yourself as a control freak!

Due to your high standards you very rarely feel like you are succeeding, so this exasperates your feelings of Imposterism.  In fact you may hold back from starting something as you don’t want to get it wrong or fail at it, so you avoid it all together.  Know the difference between a healthy drive to excel and perfectionism.  You can seek excellence without demanding perfection.

The Perfectionists Fix

·      Be ok with good enough.  Did you know to get a first class degree in the UK you only need to achieve 70%.  That means that 7 out of 10 is good enough

·      Make a list of things that you can relax your extremely high standards on, so you free up some mental space and time (not everything needs to be done to such a high standard)

·      Recognise and importantly celebrate your achievements

2.      The Natural Genius

 You believe that success should be effortless.  You are similar to the Perfectionist in that you have unhealthy high standards but in this case you judge yourself based on the speed and ease to which you learn something new.  When you start to learn something new and you find it difficult, this sets off your internal Imposter alarm.  You don’t realise that it normally takes time, effort, practice and tenacity to become the best at anything. 

You compare yourself to people who have been doing this for a long time, so have a unhealthy expectation on yourself.  Instead of realising this is the normal process when learning something new, you think it must be me.  So you label yourself as “useless or stupid” instead of “I don’t know it all but I am willing to learn, grow and develop”


The Natural Genius Fix

·      Know that accomplishments usually comes from lifelong learning and skill building.  See yourself as work in progress

·      Look for role models that show how they repeatedly practice their skills, ie Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Sara Blakeley

·      Remember that is takes time, effort and patience with mastering knowledge or skills


3.      The Superwoman/Man

 So if you are this type of Imposter, then chances are you are trying to juggle so many things right now.  If you are not competent at juggling all the different areas of your life, then you are very likely to judge yourself on the ability to do this well.  If you do manage to deliver things (sometimes by the skin of your teeth) or you forget something or can’t do something then you are likely to be disappointed with yourself for rushing things and feel guilty for not being capable to doing it all.

Your success is not down to the amount of things you can juggle.  Remember you can do everything, however you can’t do it all at once


The Superwoman/Man Fix

·      Learn the power of saying no

·      Look at where you can delegate or what can you let go of?

·      Drop the guilt and false expectations – no-one can do it all in every area of their life


4.      The Expert

So if you fall into this type of Imposter then you think you need to know it all, literally!   You hold yourself back as you think in order to succeed you need to be more qualified or know more, so you are constantly learning and perhaps chasing qualifications and certificates to validate your ability.  You are afraid to speak up in case you get it wrong and people will judge you for not knowing it all.  There are people out there who are doing what you want to do and they know less than you.  They are not afraid to get going and recognise that an expert isn’t someone who knows everything and everything.  They recognise that you keep evolving and learning.


The Expert Fix

·      Be ok with saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure, I will need to look into that”

·      Find role models who have succeeded without qualifications or lack of training

·      Go for the opportunity you don’t think you are ready for

·      Stop chasing qualifications and certificates – get going and get doing


5.      The Rugged Individual

You need to be able to do it all … by yourself!  You measure your competency by how much you can manage without any external help, yet we all know that this is not sustainable.  You may also feel like you need to come up with ground breaking new ideas otherwise your work isn’t good enough.

 Your success is not defined by doing it all yourself.  Asking for help and allowing people to support you is not a weakness and doesn’t make you less able.

The Rugged Individual Fix

·      Ask yourself, what can you delegate or where can you get some support?

·      The best copycat wins – know it’s okay to build on the work of other competent people

·      Your work does not need to be ground-breaking to be great

So it’s your type of Imposter is holding you back or affecting your health and wellbeing, then it’s time to redefine what success means for you. Start small. What ONE thing can you change to start to re-define what success means to you?

If you have yet to complete the Imposter 5 Types Assessment, then click here to download the free assessment.