A Note to my Fellow Soloists…

impostor syndrome soloist Feb 24, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

In last week’s column, we discussed methods that could counter the superwoman/superman archetype. That archetype is one of five, as defined by Dr. Valerie Young, in her book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.”  The list:

  • Superwoman/Superman

  • The Soloist (that’s me!)

  • The Perfectionist

  • The Natural Genius

  • The Expert

So, join me, a Soloist, as we unpack the soloist archetype.

Yep, that’s right, I sit squarely in that corner.  But, that means I have extra insight to share with you this week.


The soloist tries to solve problems on their own.  We don’t like to ask for help or ask questions in the moment and if we do let somebody else in, we feel like a failure.  We put the weight of the world on our shoulders and believe we should be able to handle things without assistance.

Here’s a glimpse into the archetype.

Imagine, you’re zoomed in to your weekly leadership meeting, someone spitballs an idea to pilot a podcast as a marketing tool for the company.  You love the idea because you listen to podcasts regularly and can see the possibilities.  In your enthusiasm, you raise your hand.  You actually know nothing about the mechanics of podcasting, so for the next six days, you lose yourself in the Google and YouTube rabbit hole, watching and learning everything you can.  Yes, your colleague has a degree in sound engineering, and Gary in finance is a co-host on his brother’s European car podcast, but you go it alone.

The pitch day is tomorrow. You’ve done your research.  All that’s left is building a dynamic PowerPoint presentation.  You need another two or three hours to knock it out but tonight is you son’s football banquet.  So you get as much done as you can and roll in to the banquet like a marshmallow on fire⁠—just in time to see him receive his award.  You’re secretly annoyed by how long the program is taking because you’re anxious to get back to your computer.  While a few parents go out for ice cream afterward, you take a quick selfie with your kiddo and ask your best friend to drive him home.

The next day you’re ready to go, exhausted but feeling accomplished.  Surely your effort will pay off… but at what cost? 


As a chronic soloist I could share many more examples and rattle off the damage caused. Because there is a cost.  Whether it’s unnecessarily wasting time, creating a stressful environment for those around you or missing out on life…the cost is real.

So what’s the soloist counterpunch? Instead of clamming up, hiding until you have the answer or researching on your own, try saying things like:

  • “I’d like to tackle this one as a team. Anybody have some ideas to get us started?”

  • “This is not my area of expertise. Does someone else want to take the lead?”

  • “This is out of my wheelhouse, but I’m sure I’ll get up to speed quickly. Can you give me the basics so I know where to start?”

If I’ve learned one thing from watching horror movies, it’s this⁠—don’t go it alone!  That same nugget of wisdom applies to all us soloists out there.

Feeling the heat? Open up. Let somebody in.


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