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5 Archetypes - Which Impostor are you?

Oh, sweet marmalade, everyone's talking about impostor syndrome these days?  It’s the phrase that’s being thrown around right and left; but…what the heck is it, exactly? 

Well, it’s a feeling. Bottom line.  A feeling of being a fraud, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and capable.  If not put in check, Impostor Syndrome can drive you to make decisions that hold you back.  You see, impostor syndrome is sneaky and persuasive.  It has ways of convincing you that you aren’t good enough.  This tricky mindset can put the kibosh on the pursuit of your dream job, the start of that blog for millennials, or going after that new role in your department.   Yep, Impostor Syndrome is a feeling that if gone unchecked can wreak havoc on your life and have you doubting even the most logical next step.

 “Impostor syndrome causes negative stress, fear, anxiety, and loss of confidence,” says co-author of Beating Impostor Syndrome Portia Mount. “It can knock careers off track and also harm team morale and organizational performance through micromanagement, slow decision-making, and perfectionism.”

Turns out 70% of Americans suffer from Impostor Syndrome.  Check out these 5 types of Impostors and a few quick tips to overcome this common feeling of intellectual self-doubt.

Dr. Valerie Young spent decades researching the fraudulent feelings amongst high achievers.  In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, she breaks down the 5 Impostor archetypes and the internal rules they follow due to lack of confidence.

  • THE PERFECTIONIST - She has High Exceptions for herself and even small mistakes make her feel like a failure.  Perfect is the Enemy of the Good in your world.
    • Do you chase 100% perfection?
    • Would people call you a micromanager?
    • Do you feel chronic pangs of panic lasting for hours/days/weeks when you fall short of your own expectations?
    • Do you tie your work product to your identity?  "If my work is perfect, I'm highly valuable."
  • THE SUPERWOMAN/SUPERMAN - He puts in long hours, never take days off, and must succeed in all aspects of life in order to prove that he’s the real deal.
    • Do you work late at the office or at home without boundaries? 
    • Do you workdays and weekends blend without clear distinctions?
    • Would you say that you have an "off" button that you control? 
    • Do you judge others for not putting in extra hours or demonstrating commitment to their work in the same way you do?
    • Do you tie your work product to your identity?  "If my work goes above and beyond, I'm highly valuable." 
  • THE NATURAL GENIUS - He is used to things coming easily, so when something is too hard or he doesn’t master it on the first try, he feels shame and self-doubt.
    • Did you excel in school and get straight A's with no to little effort?
    • Are you known as the 'smart' one?
    • Do you get anxiety entering situations that you are unfamiliar with or have no knowledge of?
    • Do you tie your work product to your identity?  If my work is excellent, I'm excellent?
    • Do you tie your work product to your identity?  If my work is comes easy, I'm an invaluable resource."
  • THE SOLOIST – She doesn’t like to ask for help, so when she does, she feels like a failure or a fraud.
    • Have you said "I got it, I'll ask if I need help"...and then you don't.
    • Do you get edgy when you have to share the outcomes of a project with another person or a team?
    • Do you tie your work product to your identity?  "If I alone am able to deliver an excellent work product, then I'm invaluable."
  • THE EXPERT - She continuously seeks out additional certificates or training because she feels as though she will never know enough to be truly qualified.
    • Do you get a rush of excitement when another certification, course or training becomes available?
    • Do you get anxious or jealous if someone else has gone through a training or has earned a certification that you haven't?
    • Do you prevent yourself from being considered for new roles because you don't believe you have the qualifications? 


  1. GET HONEST – Tell your people.  Trusted colleagues, family and friends need to know which archetype you are and how you are working to overcome it.  They often have great advice and can offer feedback from the outside looking in.
  2. GET RID OF YOUR IF/THEN STATEMENTS - (thanks Jenna Kutcher for this one :-) Drop this faulty thinking.  Why hold yourself back UNTIL you reach an arbitrary benchmark.  Come on, it will always be push through and go for it!  
    • If I get named to a "40 under 40" list...then I can go after my dream job.
    • If I make 20K this year...then I can tell people I’m an entrepreneur.
    • If I get invited to speak more than 5 times this year...then I can add "Speaker" to my LinkedIn profile.
    • If you feel like an outsider, it may not be impostor syndrome, it may just be normal.
    • If you're new to your job and feeling like you don't belong, it's likely just your inexperience.  Give it a few weeks and you'll be rocking out the staff meetings and breezing through the lunch hour conversation in no time. 
    • If you've received special recognition or are being asked to take on special projects as "other duties as assigned", that's great!   While you may not be comfortable with this attention, this type of "outsider" shine is all a part of a Job well done! 
  4. KNOW YOUR HIGHLIGHT REEL Take the time to think through your past accomplishments. As an exercise, go back in time and write down all of your accomplishments (Big and Small).  
    • The time you aced your spelling test after staying up late practicing with your mom in 4th grade.
    • The time you hit a double after striking out the last 3 games.
    • The time you were chosen as Senior Class President.
    • The time you got into all of your chosen post-grad colleges
    • The time you were tasked with a high-profile company-wide event and you killed it.
    • and on and on and on....

      I guarantee you'll surprise yourself with all the events, projects, tasks, and life circumstances that you've been able to accomplish or overcome!  You are better at life than you give yourself credit for.  You are worthy and you have a proven track record.  Sometime we think about all the things we didn't do, haven't done and gave up on.  The truth is the things we did do, did accomplished and totally rocked FAR exceed the other.  Be gentle with yourself.  Your Highlight reel is your fuel to tackle what's in front of you! 


  5. FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT…Time and Experience cures Impostor Syndrome. I know it seems simple...but sometimes we have to press on, keep learning, remember the tips above until the road straightens and gets less bumpy. 

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