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What Is impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is the belief that you are not deserving of an accomplishment, compliment, or role/position. Often, people experiencing impostor syndrome feel fraudulent, as if they do not measure up. There is an internalized fear that others will find out their success or status is unearned at any moment, and they will be exposed.

Psychologist June Shapiro, Ph.D., notes that impostor syndrome is thought to be a close relative of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).

While there is only one impostor syndrome, it can present itself in a variety of manners. Impostor syndrome typically presents itself in five major ways:

The Expert: This is an individual who judges their worth based upon how much knowledge they possess. There is a continual need to prove their value by highlighting how much information they know. Despite their intellect, there is an internal struggle to feel as though they are not smart enough, which makes them afraid others will expose them as unknowledgeable.

The Perfectionist: This is a person who feels the need to do everything perfectly. When we cannot accomplish this, feelings of failure permeate and severely damage self-confidence. An inability to achieve perfection in any given task creates overwhelming feelings of self-doubt that can then hinder their ability/desire to do anything at all.

The Natural Genius: The natural genius ascertains their worth based upon how easily something comes to them. When they can easily accomplish a task or remember a piece of information, it boosts their idea of self-worth. However, if they need to work to achieve/master any task, it leads to feelings of shame and self-doubt.

The Soloist: This is a person who feels the need to do everything by themselves. When they are in a position where they need to ask others for help, it leads to incompetent feelings.

The Superhero: The superhero feels fraudulent, in their relationships or at work (or both), and makes every effort to work extremely hard to hide this perceived inadequacy. This tends to lead to a person overworking themselves and creating extreme stress levels because of their fear of not measuring up, which weighs heavily on their mental health.