At some point or other in your life, there’s probably a good chance that you have had the thought that you “weren’t good enough.” Those feelings of inadequacy are so not fun and once they show up, they are usually pretty hard to kick to the curb. It turns out that these feelings have an oh-so-fancy name. Impostor syndrome.  

What is impostor syndrome? 

Impostor syndrome is this idea of feeling like you’re a fake or you’re not good enough despite having more than enough expertise, accomplishments and experience. So even if you’re crushing it at school or killing it at your new job, you will often feel like you’re inadequate or lacking, despite all the evidence that says otherwise.

How do you know if you’re dealing with impostor syndrome? 

As there are so many types of impostor syndrome, it can look different depending on the person. Some common feelings many people with impostor syndrome experience include: 

  • Doubting your successes
  • Feeling like success is impossible to reach
  • Being uncomfortable when receiving praise
  • Feeling like past successes only came from luck
  • Being disappointed over past/present accomplishments 
  • Feeling pressure to achieve and be better
  • Anxious or depressed from feeling like you’re not enough

Types of imposter syndrome:

According to Dr. Valrie Young (aka the impostor syndrome expert), there are five different types of impostor syndrome. You might find that you struggle with just one type or a combination of multiple types. Every person is different. These types of impostor syndrome include:  

1. The perfectionist 

This kind of impostor syndrome focuses on “how” something is done. People with this type set ridiculously high goals for themselves, and so when they fail to reach these impossible goals, they start to doubt themselves and become scared about measuring up or being enough.

Signs you’re dealing with this type: 

  • If you feel like you have to be 100% perfect, 100% all the time
  • If you have a hard time sharing the workload with people and if/when you do, you find you’re disappointed in their work 
  • When you miss the impossibly high bar, you feel like you’re “not cut out for this” or “not good enough for this” and dwell on it for a long time  

How to stop it:

While it’s great that you care so deeply about everything you do, it’s important to show yourself love, both with the good and the bad. When you get good feedback on a project, give yourself permission to celebrate your success. Sure, maybe there were spots where you could improve for next time, but don’t dismiss how hard you worked and what well. Good enough is just that, good enough.

On the flip side, when you make a mistake, show yourself some compassion and remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world and making mistakes is just part of the process. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, and while it’s hard, it’s important to cut yourself some slack.   

2. The genius 

This type of impostor syndrome focuses on “how” and “when” accomplishments happen. They believe that they need to be a natural “genius” at everything, even if they’re just starting it out. Whether it’s a new language or a new software program, if it takes them a long time to master something, they feel shame and judge themselves for not getting it right on the first try. 

Signs you’re dealing with this type: 

  • If you have a history of getting “straight As” in everything you do 
  • If you avoid challenges because it’s uncomfortable to try something you know you’re not great at
  • If you face an obstacle, your confidence falls to the floor because not doing well makes you feel ashamed

How to stop it: It’s important to not beat yourself up if you don’t pick things up right away. Mastering and accomplishing great things can sometimes take years, so it’s completely okay if you’re not a super genius at something right away. Rather than judging yourself when you don’t reach your ridiculously high standards, start seeing yourself as a work in progress where although you might not be good at something right off the bat, you will get better at it over time.   

3. The soloist

This type of impostor syndrome is all about the “who” in completing tasks. If they want to achieve something, it has to come from them and only them. If they can’t figure out everything by themselves and need to ask for help, they see it as a sign of failure and can get overwhelmed by disappointment and shame.

Signs you’re dealing with this type: 

  • If you strongly believe you need to do things by yourself 
  • If you often say things like “I don’t need any help”
  • If you don’t feel like your accomplishment is a real win if you had help

How to stop it: Be okay with the fact that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. We all need some help sometimes, but it doesn’t make you any less worthy or capable. If you need support, reach out and get help, whether it’s talking to a friend, a family member, or a counsellor.  

4. The expert 

This type of impostor syndrome is all about the “what” or “how much” you know or can do. While the genius believes they should naturally be good at everything right away, the expert believes they should just know everything all the time. Even the smallest lack of knowledge can make them feel like a failure.   

Signs you’re dealing with this type: 

  • If you don’t apply for a job posting unless you meet every single requirement
  • If you constantly try to learn more and build up your skills because you think you have to in order to succeed
  • If you’ve been in school or at a job for a long time, but still feel like you don’t know enough to deserve to be there 

How to stop it: While it’s always good to keep learning and working on yourself, the truth is you can’t know possibly know everything. You just can’t. The truth is, you really don’t need to know everything, you are smart, hardworking and qualified enough to be where you are.  

5. The superhuman

This type measures success by “how many” roles you can juggle. These roles could include anything from work to school to extracurricular activities. People with this type feel like they should be able to juggle everything perfectly and easily and so when they fall short in any of their roles, they feel ashamed as they believe they should have been able to handle it all.  

Signs you’re dealing with this type: 

  • If you push yourself to work harder and longer than the other people on your team, even after completing all the necessary tasks
  • If you feel stressed when you’re not working on these roles
  • If you feel like relaxation and downtime are a waste of time
  • If you have forgotten about hobbies and passions that you once loved, in exchange for working more on these other roles you have
  • If you feel like you haven’t your roles so you work harder to try and prove your worth

How to stop it: With people dealing with superhuman impostor syndrome, they usually love the external validation that comes from juggling all of these roles. This is why if you’re struggling with this type, it’s important to get away from this idea of external validation. The more you focus on internal validation and inner confidence, the easier it will be for you to let go of this type of impostor syndrome. From there, you can start setting some healthy boundaries and figuring out how many roles you can realistically tackle.  

Final thoughts on impostor syndrome:

While impostor syndrome isn’t a mental health disorder, it can lead to other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The good news though is you’re not alone here. Around 70% of people will experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lifetime. 

So if you feel like you’re struggling with one or more of these types of impostor syndrome, it might be worth talking to a counsellor to work through those feelings of self-doubt and self-sabotage. Because you are enough exactly as you are and it’s time for you to start believing it.