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I’ve decided to ‘out’ myself. I’m an Imposter. I suffer from one of the most common issues that my clients bring to me. So I want to let you all know that I’m one too 🙂

In early September I attended a really useful learning day which was run by my local business forum. I even co-facilitated a workshop on why Work-Life Balance is Bu11sh1t. And yes, it is. One of the workshops I attended was all about Imposter Syndrome, and knowing myself to be one, I thought it would be good to attend and find out more.

I had a rudimentary knowledge already. But was unprepared for the depth and breadth of this particular challenge, or that there are so many Imposters out there. About 70% of us experience this, and the data now says that the split is roughly 50/50 male/female. What’s interesting though is there is less willingness amongst men to acknowledge it. In our workshop, there were 11 women and one man…..

I learned that there are five types of Imposter, and I’ve taken this data directly from the website of Valerie Young who has researched this in detail:

  • The Perfectionist’s primary focus is on “how” something is done. This includes how the work is conducted and how it turns out. One minor flaw in an otherwise stellar performance or 99 out of 100 equals failure and thus shame.
  • The Expert is the knowledge version of the Perfectionist. Here, the primary concern is on “what” and “how much” you know or can do. Because you expect to know everything, even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame.
  • The Soloist cares mostly about “who” completes the task. To make it on the achievement list, it has to be you and you alone. Because you think you need to do and figure out everything on your own, needing help is a sign of failure that evokes shame.
  • The Natural Genius also cares about “how” and “when” accomplishments happen. But for you, competence is measured in terms of ease and speed. The fact that you have to struggle to master a subject or skill or that you’re not able to bang out your masterpiece on the first try equals failure which evokes shame.
  • The Superwoman/Superman/Super Student measures competence based on “how many” roles they can both juggle and excel in. Falling short in any role — as a parent, partner, on the home-front, host/hostess, friend, volunteer — all evoke shame because they feel they should be able to handle it all — perfectly and easily.

Do any of these resonate with you?

I’m a natural genius (haha). Basically, I tell myself that if I can’t do it brilliantly, I must be a fraud. I’m good at all sorts of things. The modern expression is Neo-Generalist (formerely known as a Jack of All Trades). And because I can do lots of things well but don’t see anything I can do brilliantly, I don’t believe I’m particularly competent. 

I’ve done a fair amount of work on myself and am now in recovery. It does still sometimes bite me in the bum, but I know how to get out of the spiral soon after it begins. There are a few simple things you can do combat this condition. My favourite is a reframe. When I notice my Imposter feelings surface, I’m thankful. And that’s because they are letting me know that this is something that I value and that I’m good at.

If you feel like exploring your Imposter a little more and discovering how to beat it by stopping thinking like an Imposter, give me a shout. In the meantime, here’s a link to Valerie Young’s TED talk on Imposter Syndrome.