5 Types of Imposter Syndrome you may experience at work.
Imposter Syndrome is an internal experience that anyone can experience that is based on the idea of doubting an individual’s own abilities and/or feeling like a fraud. These feelings can be escalated during the workplace, with the high-pressure environments and many finding it difficult to accept accomplishments.
It can be difficult to support individuals with Imposter Syndrome, and the first step is identifying what feelings you have and which ‘type’ of imposter syndrome you best relate to. This will then enable you and your organisation to put support in place to enable a healthy working relationship and motivate you during the work place.
There are five types of Imposter Syndrome, all categorised by different emotions, feelings and thoughts you may experience during the workplace or whilst attempting an activity. Depending on the feelings and thoughts you experience, there are ways to manage these and encourage a healthy atmosphere at work.
So what are the five types of imposter syndrome and what are they categorised by?
1. The Perfectionist
Perfectionists are categorised by individuals who want everything to be perfect all the time, especially when completing a project for work. These types of individuals will get upset if they don’t score 100% on tests, or if they feel they have failed on a project regardless of how much positive feedback they receive.
This need for perfection can create major feelings of self-doubt, and these individuals may struggle to celebrate their own success and achievements, due to being unsatisfied with the results or feeling that they could have done better. They may make drastic decisions during these times of self-doubt and failure such as believing they are not cut out for the job.
If you identify with this mindset, it is important to recognise and acknowledge your achievements, whilst learning to accept mistakes as an important part of your journey. It is unrealistic to be perfect all the time, and this will increase feelings of anxiety, stress and burnout within the workplace so it is important to challenge these feelings wherever possible.
One of my favourite phrases is 'done is better than perfect' and by starting to let go of the perfectionism, we can learn to work through the imposter syndrome around it.
2. The Natural Genius
Natural Genius are often referred to as ‘straight A students’ growing up, and may have previously had success without excelling much effort into the work, and now feel pressure to get tasks correct in the same way. These individuals can feel that they should be great all the time, including during training or learning processes and can feel intense guilt and anxiety when this doesn’t go to plan.
For those who may refer to themselves as a Natural Genius, they may find the idea of having a ‘mentor’ or guide difficult especially within a new work environment, because they like the idea of being able to complete the tasks by themselves without help. They can also experience intense shame and embarrassment if they spend too long trying to get something right, due to their belief that they should automatically be able to get results without much effort.
For those who identify as a Natural Genius within the workplace, it would be important to consider that you are a work in progress and that nobody is expected to know everything without any guidance or effort, so doing the best you can do and learning from the experience is all that matters.
3. The Expert
Similarly to the Natural Genius’, Experts believe that they have to know everything but also believe that they will never know enough regarding the job, this at times makes them doubt if they are the correct person for the job.
Those who identify as experts may continuously seek out training and certificates in relevant subjects, as they believe that they constantly need to improve their skills and knowledge in order to feel confident and competent at their job. This can however cause a problem in the workplace, if an employee constantly enrols on training development opportunities and procrastinates the tasks that they need to complete.
These feelings persist regardless of how long an individual has been in their role, therefore you may find employees who have been in the team for years also experience this feeling of imposter syndrome, and may need to find suitable ways to overcome this. Overall, this can impact your productivity levels as you may be more likely to ask questions and complete training courses, so it is important to recognise when to stop signing up for training courses in advance, and learn the information as it is needed for your job as in most roles there will always be something that you do not know.
Some individuals may benefit from sharing the knowledge that they do know to others, to increase their confidence in understanding and knowing the content as well as helping others learn the content needed for their job.
4. The Individualist
Unlike the Experts, Individualists will not refuse assistance when offered, however they believe that it is okay to be independent and are convinced that asking for help is a weakness. They often believe that they will need to accomplish tasks on their own, or that they do not need any help on tasks when offered help.
Similarly to the Perfectionists, Individualists often try to figure out a problem first before asking colleagues, as they have difficulty asking for help as they believe this could reflect badly on themselves, and their ability to complete the task.
For those that are struggling with an individualistic mindset, it is important to recognise that asking for help is a sign of strength in recognising your limitations and does not mean you are weak for needing guidance. We all need help from time to time, and it’s important to ask when you may need some further support.
5. The Superman/Superwoman
Individuals who identify with the superman and superwoman often compare themselves to other colleagues, and convince themselves that they have to work extra hard to be at the same level as them.
For example, they may stay late in the office on a daily basis or struggle to have any hobbies and passions besides work due to the dedications that they put into their career. This added workload and insecurity can consequently impact their own mental health and wellbeing, as well as their relationship with others.
Some individuals who identify with this mindset at work, may feel that they do not deserve their position at work and therefore feel that they have to work harder to prove to themselves and to others that they deserve their job.
Frequently Asked Questions
What triggers Imposter Syndrome?
Whilst there is no exhaustive list for what may trigger Imposter Syndrome, many believe that individuals who have a perfectionist mindset, and that set expectations too high for themselves are at higher risk of experiencing feelings of Imposter Syndrome. They are more likely to set unrealistic goals, which make their expectations unattainable throughout their working day.
It can also be difficult going through transitional journeys within your life such as starting a new workplace or a new job role. Whilst it is normal to feel nervous about these steps, it is important to not let the anxiety and fear of being a fraud get in the way of the excitement that should also be present when taking this step. Many individuals who start a new workplace may experience some feelings that relate to Imposter Syndrome, so it is a good idea to be aware of this and put extra support in place to newcomers within your organisations.
What can managers do to tackle Imposter Syndrome during the workplace?
As managers in the workplace, it is important to put support measures in place for employees who may be struggling with feelings of imposter syndrome and allow them to develop and build confidence in their ability within their job role. For many workplaces volunteer positions such as Mental Health First Aiders or Wellbeing Champions can fill this support role and help identify a support route for those struggling.
It can also be a great idea to introduce group check-ins regularly, especially if you are remote working and not able to do casual conversations in the office. This allows for wellbeing conversations to start and will allow you the time to ask what your employees are doing for self-care at the weekend or encourage them to take breaks if they are failing to do so with their workload.
As Managers it can also be beneficial to identify what motivates your employees, and what will enable them to increase their confidence with their set tasks. For some individuals this may be about working alongside another colleague in a project as they gain confidence, whilst others may require some further training and skills development to increase their confidence. Listening to the needs of your employees can make a huge difference in creating a supportive work environment.
Is Imposter Syndrome a Mental Illness?
Whilst Imposter Syndrome is not a separate mental health diagnosis, it can be categorised by symptoms of anxiety and depression, and it holds a pattern of self-doubt which can lead to anxiety and stress if not supported or managed effectively.
If an individual has co-existing mental health conditions, they may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome and they may be more vulnerable to having these internal experiences and feelings.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with Imposter Syndrome and would like some further support, why not reach out to me or a therapist or coach to explore the support that we could offer you.
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