When friends and family ask me how I got to my current position, which is a relatively high-paying job in a leadership role, I usually blush and tell them I was lucky. I learned how to write a resume that would get past any robots, and learned how to use the STAR interview method to my advantage. What I usually don’t tell them is that I have no idea, I feel totally out of my league, and I’m definitely dealing with imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is basically the feeling that I just described. It’s having those lingering feelings of self–doubt despite everything that you have accomplished. It’s feeling like you don’t deserve to be in the position you are in, that you got there due to luck or a fluke rather than your own merit.
Different Types of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome manifests itself in different ways. Most people dealing with imposter syndrome will recognize themselves in one of these types.
Perfectionists, as the name implies, need everything to be perfect. If you are dealing with this type of imposter syndrome, you may not be able to delegate well. You might think that if someone else does it, it won’t be perfect and then you will be accused of not being perfect. This also may manifest itself in setting extremely high, unachievable goals, then being upset with yourself for failing to achieve them. In reality, you set yourself up for failure because you don’t think you are deserving of success.
The Natural Genius
The natural genius is the smart kid. They don’t have to try, everything comes naturally. That means if they do have to try for something, it’s terrifying and they don’t think they can do it. If you are dealing with this type of imposter syndrome, you might have been a straight A student. You might have been told that you can do everything and anything that you want. As a result, you might feel anxious if you face a small set back. This might lead you to avoid challenges because not being able to succeed at them could disrupt your world view.
Experts build their self-worth around how much they know. As a result, they may feel exposed or inadequate if they let the truth that they don’t know something slip out. People experiencing this type of imposter syndrome may seek continuous education at the detriment of on-the-job learning, and may not even apply for opportunities if they don’t think they meet 100% of the criteria, which is almost an impossible standard for most positions.
The Super Hero
The Super Hero doesn’t feel like they are as good as their colleagues so they will go above and beyond to prevent that “truth” from slipping out. People experiencing this type of imposter syndrome may stay at work later than everyone else, and may always be searching for something to do to fill their time. They may also sacrifice any time for hobbies or relaxing to focus on work tasks, which helps them keep up the narrative that they can do it all.
The soloist needs to prove that they can do anything by themselves. This type of imposter syndrome feels that asking for help is a failure. This goes beyond independence and a preference for working alone into a deep-seeded need to show the world that you are competent without anyone else’s help.
What Does Imposter Syndrome Feel Like?
Imposter syndrome feels different depending on what type you suffer from. But what is common to all is the feeling that you might not be good enough for what you are doing -that you are inadequate and don’t belong.
I’m the Natural Genius. Although I never got straight As, I was always told how smart and capable I am, and I felt like I was held to a higher standard than my siblings. I don’t put in for new jobs unless I’m fairly certain I can get them, and I get incredibly anxious at just the thought of having made a mistake at work. It feels like my entire world is crashing down because I made a small typo, or forgot to do something I should’ve done. It’s gotten so bad that I often freeze up and don’t do anything, because I’m terrified of making a mistake and being found out for the impostor that I am.
My imposter syndrome definitely bleeds over to my blogging life as well. I’ve been afraid to write certain posts, because what if I don’t have all of the correct information? What if I make a typo that everyone sees? (It’s happened, and most of the time, someone graciously sends me a DM on Twitter letting me know about it. So not the end of the world I guess).
It also affects my social media game. Some people have no problem posting whatever they want on whatever platform, but I can’t do it. I think long and hard about posting something, and often I don’t engage with others because I don’t feel like I have anything valuable to add. What if I respond and it’s stupid? Or someone argues with me? Will the entire Twitter universe see me for the fraud that I am?
How Do You Deal with Imposter Syndrome?
With the Blog
I really wish I knew the answer to this. I’ve dealt with my own imposter syndrome in numerous ways. For the blogging side of it, I try to tell myself that Partners in Fire is about my thoughts and ideas, and although I try to research all of my arguments fully, at the end of the day it’s an opinion piece. My opinion is that VTSAX is the best place to put money, but that might not be right for everyone. My opinion is that UBI would solve a ton of our problems, but many people disagree. In framing things this way, I don’t have to be as afraid of making a mistake. Opinions, especially those with some facts to back them up, can’t be completely wrong, right?
I still struggle with social media, but I try to remember the same thing. I’m only putting my opinion.
It’s much harder to deal with at work. I can’t base my work around my opinions. I have to make decisions for my team, and those decisions have consequences. It’s difficult to deal with these feelings. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is talk it out with someone. One of the best things that has helped me deal with imposter syndrome was a conversation with my cousin.
A few years ago, I was visiting her in Chicago. We got to talking about jobs, and how I got into the leadership role I was in. I told her my traditional story, that I just got lucky and applied and got it. But she didn’t let me get away with that nonsense. She called me on it. I didn’t just get lucky. She reminded me of my leadership experience with the military, and of all the accolades I had received throughout my career. Next, she reminded me that I went to school and studied for the type of job I have now, and worked really hard on improving my resume writing and interview skills. She went on to tell me about how much of a hard worker I am, and how everyone around me could see it.
I was blown away. Here was my younger cousin calling me out on my impostor system bullshit and reminding me that I am, in fact, incredibly qualified for the position I hold, and I’m damn good at my job.
On My Own
Unfortunately, my cousin isn’t always around to tell me that I’m deserving of my position, so I often have to deal with these feelings of inadequacy on my own. My imposter syndrome often manifests itself with anxiety, so going back to healthy ways to handle stress helps a lot. But, if that doesn’t do it for you, there’s nothing wrong with working through your feelings with a therapist.
Have You Dealt With Imposter Syndrome?
If you’ve dealt with imposter syndrome, I want to hear your stories! What type of imposter syndrome do you have? How have you dealt with it? Let me know in the comments!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.