5 Imposter Syndrome Types: Which Are You?

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Although it’s not an official diagnosis, imposter syndrome is a relatively common problem some of us encounter in our professional or academic lives.

The feeling that your accomplishments are the result of pure luck coupled with the idea that you’re somehow fooling everyone makes you feel like you’re not the bright or capable person everyone believes you are.

Imposter syndrome comes in several shapes and sizes.

Five, to be more precise.

Depending on how you perceive yourself and how you relate to work or school, each type has its blend of self-sabotaging attitudes and behaviors.  

Long story short, today we’re going to look at five imposter syndrome types, plus a couple of tests to help you figure out if you meet the signs and symptoms.

5 Imposter Syndrome Types: Which Are You?

1. The Superman/Superwoman

Those who experience this type of imposter syndrome are convinced they’re not as good or efficient as their peers.

As a result of this perception they hold about their abilities, they often force themselves to work or study much harder than their colleagues hoping they will one day rise to their level.

Unfortunately, this is only a false impression caused by their insecurities.

In time, this faulty mindset can push them beyond their limits, resulting in health problems due to exhaustion and even relationship issues.

When you’re the ‘Superman/Superwoman,’ you tend to:

  • Feel stressed when you’re not working because you think you’re wasting time.
  • Be the last who leaves the office, even though you’ve finished what you had to do for the day.
  • Give up on your hobbies and passions to dedicate more time and energy to your professional life.

Tip: The ‘Superman/Superwoman’ type of imposter syndrome is often associated with workaholism. It’s important to remember that workaholics are not addicted to work itself, but to the validation they get from being praised as productive.

No one should have the power to make you feel proud (or bad) about yourself based on your school or work performance. Of course, some people will offer constructive criticism, and that’s ok as long as you don’t consider it a personal attack.

2. The Perfectionist

Imposter syndrome and perfectionism often go hand in hand.

Perfectionists set extraordinarily high and rigid goals for themselves, and when they don’t reach them, all hell breaks loose.

In other words, they doubt their abilities and qualities, struggle with self-confidence issues, and constantly worry that they’re not good enough.

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The ‘Superman/Superwoman’ type of imposter syndrome is often associated with workaholism.

And what do they do to cope with these problems?

Set even higher standards hoping that once they reach them, everything will be ok and they will finally feel good about themselves.

But even if they do reach their impossible goals, the first thing that pops into their head is, “How can I do it better/faster/smarter?”

Long story short, the Perfectionist is obsessed with control and thinks that if he wants something to turn out well, he has to do everything himself.

All this struggle and pain are driven by an intense fear of not being enough and disappointing others.

When you’re the ‘Perfectionist,’ you tend to:

  • Find it difficult to delegate tasks.
  • Do everything by yourself.
  • Feel like you’re not good enough every time you miss a deadline or forget about a task.
  • Get frustrated when you have to do a team project.

Tip: Acknowledging and celebrating your achievements is essential for self-confidence. Learn to accept your mistakes and consider them part of learning and growing as a professional. It doesn’t help to judge yourself harshly every time you make one.

3. The Born Genius

This type tends to view personal success solely through the lens of innate abilities as opposed to efforts.

In other words, if they have to work hard for something, they immediately assume they’re not made for that activity.

They tend to feel inadequate there and think others will soon discover how ‘incapable’ they really are.

Like perfectionists, born geniuses set extremely high standards for themselves. Furthermore, they expect to succeed in everything they set out to do on the first attempt.

As soon as they fail or encounter an obstacle, they panic and often give up.

Unfortunately, this perception makes them feel like imposters and prevents them from achieving results like most of us do – through trial and error.

When you’re the ‘Born Genius,’ you tend to:

  • Seek performance without putting in much effort.
  • Hate the idea of having a mentor.
  • Feel like a complete failure every time you make a mistake.
  • Avoid new challenges or activities because trying something you’re not the best at bothers you.

Tip: Adults who develop this type of imposter syndrome are the children who were constantly praised as “the smart one in the family.” Getting past the ‘born genius’ mentality means learning to see yourself as a work in progress. To achieve great things, you must learn all your life, grow, evolve, make mistakes, and do better next time.

4. The Individualist

People affected by this type of imposter syndrome believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

They tend to see people who seek guidance and support as undeserving of success.

Because he romanticizes the idea of being a ‘lone wolf,’ the ‘Individualist’ is often unaware of the emotional damage that this lifestyle inflicts upon his personal and professional growth.

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Perfectionists set extraordinarily high and rigid goals for themselves, and when they don’t reach them, all hell breaks loose.

Don’t get me wrong; cultivating a certain level of independence and autonomy is perfectly okay and healthy.

However, when your need for independence is so strong that you refuse any help because you want to prove to yourself (and everyone else) that you’re worthy of appreciation, you’re probably dealing with imposter syndrome.   

When you’re the ‘Individualist,’ you tend to:

  • Tell yourself constantly that you don’t need anyone’s help.
  • Feel like you have to do everything by yourself.
  • Feel like a failure when someone helps you reach a goal.
  • Get frustrated when someone tries to offer you any form of support.

Tip: To overcome this block, you must learn to let others help you achieve growth. People can help you see things from a different perspective, and accepting their help doesn’t make you less capable. It just makes you human.

5. The Expert

The fifth type of imposter syndrome is the ‘Expert.’

Those who fall into this category may feel like they’ve fooled everybody else into believing they’re intelligent and capable.

For instance, they may think they’ve somehow tricked their employer into hiring them, so they’re afraid that one day, someone will expose them as inexperienced and incapable.

As a result of this perception, they tend to do countless training programs, courses, and specializations.

But no matter how much they improve their CV and skillset, they still feel like something’s missing, and sooner or later, someone will figure out they’re not as skilled as everyone thinks.

When you’re the ‘Expert,’ you tend to:

  • Attend courses and training programs because you feel the urge to be exceptionally well prepared.
  • Avoid job postings if you don’t meet the requirements to the letter.
  • Feel like you’re not enough for a position, even if you’ve worked there for a long time.

Tip: The desire to sharpen your skillset can help you a lot in your professional growth. But when you take it to extremes, you might end up struggling with burnout and depression. Sometimes, it’s important to remind yourself that practice will teach you more than theory, and professional growth comes when you keep doing what you already do well.   

3 Imposter Syndrome Tests You Should Take Right Now:

As you can see, feeling like an impostor is a complicated issue that can manifest differently.

Sometimes, it’s challenging to figure out what you’re going through and if you are dealing with a type of imposter syndrome.

Here are three imposter syndrome tests to help you assess your symptoms and gain clarity.

But before you take them, keep in mind these quizzes are not diagnostic tools and should not replace the opinion of a licensed mental health professional.

1. Psycom.net

The 14-item quiz on psycom.net is a quick and easy way to assess your imposter syndrome tendencies.

Once you complete this quiz, you’ll get a brief description of your symptoms and current mental state.

Furthermore, the text you get once you complete the quiz contains some general recommendations based on how you responded to each item.

Overall, it doesn’t hurt to take it, especially if you have no clue about imposter syndrome and wish to learn more.

2. Wikihow.com

Another quick and easy quiz for assessing imposter syndrome is the one you’ll find on wikihow.com.

Like the one on psycom.net, this quiz doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes to complete.

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The Individualist believes that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Once you fill out all the items, you will receive a brief description highlighting the severity of your symptoms and providing recommendations on what to do next.

3. Positivepsychology.com   

When it comes to mental health and psychoeducation, positivepsychology.com is one of my favorite resources because they provide in-depth articles on a wide variety of topics.

Fortunately, I found a detailed piece on imposter syndrome that covers the basics and provides two scientifically accurate scales for assessing this problem.

You can check it out by clicking here.

I recommend the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale, a 20-item quiz that will help you assess how imposter syndrome interferes with your day-to-day life.

As I stated before, take the results with a grain of salt, as these tests are not designed to replace a detailed evaluation conducted by a mental health professional.

Final Thoughts on Imposter Syndrome

Even though imposter syndrome is not recognized as an official diagnosis, this phenomenon can have devastating consequences on your personal and professional growth.

Depending on how you relate to your abilities and how you approach your personal life, there are five types of imposter syndrome.

More specifically:

  • The Superman/Superwoman
  • The Perfectionist
  • The Born Genius
  • The Individualist
  • The Expert

Take a few moments to complete the quizzes; if you are dealing with imposter syndrome, think about the five types I described earlier.

Do you see yourself in any of them?  And if you’d like a quick way to see if you have imposter syndrome, then read these articles and see if any of these 10 signs sound familiar.

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

Alexander Draghici is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT practitioner, and content writer for various mental health websites. His work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common emotional problems – anxiety and depression.

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