Imposter Syndrome Test: 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Whether you regularly experience imposter syndrome, or it’s something that only impacts your working life now and again, you’re sure to have been affected by it at some point. Studies have shown that around 85% of UK adults feel incompetent at work and experience imposter syndrome from time to time. But not every “imposter” is the same, with five types of imposter syndrome commonly recognised. 

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is typically defined as a feeling of failure or self-doubt, commonly experienced in someone’s work or professional career, and especially among high-achievers. When people have imposter syndrome, they usually doubt their abilities and have difficulty accepting their achievements.

When imposter syndrome attacks, it not only exposes a person’s self-doubt or feelings of failure but can also harm their professional life. Many people with imposter syndrome also experience anxiety, low motivation levels, burnout, worries that they are not as capable or intelligent as others, and a reluctance to take on more responsibility or further their development.

Imposter syndrome types

There are currently five recognised types of imposter syndrome, as categorised by Dr Valerie Young who has spent several years researching imposter syndrome among high achievers. 

The Perfectionist

Being a perfectionist and having imposter syndrome often go hand-in-hand with one another. Perfectionists strive to deliver over and beyond what is expected of them all the time, and when this isn’t achieved, imposter syndrome usually rears its ugly head. 

Perfectionist Imposter Syndrome Test

To determine whether you fall into the perfectionist category of imposter syndrome, a person should evaluate whether they have any of the following traits:

  1. Always hold themselves to the highest standards
  2. Can be accused of micromanagement
  3. Unless a gold standard is achieved, they deem a task/project a failure
  4. Difficulty delegating and feelings of disappointment when they do

Overcoming this type of imposter syndrome isn’t easy, especially if you are someone who is used to striving for the best. However, believing that you could have done better, even when successful, means you’re unlikely to feel productive or be able to combat feelings of failure. It’s essential to recognise that mistakes are a part of the learning process and setting realistic goals is a great way of ensuring you celebrate all achievements.

The Natural Genius

The second type of imposter syndrome is referred to as ‘the natural genius’ which is typically someone who believes they need to master a skill instantly, without considering the effort or learning required to reach ‘pro level’. Similarly to perfectionists, these ‘imposters’ will judge their achievements on getting things right the first time around. When they’re not able to do something quickly, imposter syndrome kicks in.

Natural Genius Imposter Syndrome Test

When it comes to imposter syndrome testing for the natural genius, here are the traits to look out for:

  1. Excelling with little to no effort
  2. Track record of high achievement
  3. Knocked confidence when setbacks occur
  4. Quick to feel frustrated, and quickly move from one hobby to another
  5. Always see others achieving success and appear to be the only ones failing

Fostering a ‘growth mindset’ is key to overcoming imposter syndrome as a natural genius. Instead of believing people are born with skills or a particular talent, you should aim to improve your abilities and skills by putting a concentrated effort into achieving your goals.

The Expert

In a similar way to perfectionists and natural geniuses, experts tend to believe that they don’t have enough. Whether they seek more knowledge, experience or awards, it’s never quite enough because they aim to consistently please others and be perfect.

Imposter syndrome strikes the expert when they feel like there is always someone better or if they have not prepared enough to know everything about a topic.

Expert Imposter Syndrome Test

If you suspect imposter syndrome and have an expert personality style, the key traits are usually as follows:

  1. Continuously looking for training or new certifications to improve skills for success
  2. Feeling like they never know “enough”
  3. Avoiding applying for jobs unless every requirement can be met
  4. Over-preparation in the form of books, courses and training before starting big projects 

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, but experts need to acknowledge that there is no finishing point when it comes to knowledge. To overcome imposter syndrome as an expert, diverting focus to a particular relevant subject or skill, instead of trying to master everything, is the best way to succeed.

The Soloist/Rugged Individualist

When it comes to the soloist, asking others for help is always a sign of weakness. These individuals believe they can do everything alone and do not need the help of others, even if realistically they could do with some support. These individuals feel imposter syndrome when they ask for help; they believe it exposes them as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. 

Soloist Imposter Syndrome Test

When testing for imposter syndrome, soloists, or rugged individualists, will typically have the following traits:

  1. Never ask for help, even when necessary
  2. Prefer to work alone than in a team or doing group work
  3. Always feel like they need more time to prepare
  4. Feel like they need to accomplish things by themself

Overcoming the feeling of not wanting to ask for help for fear of being exposed as a phoney is a tough mentality to change, but it is possible. Start by thinking about the people closest to you and consider asking them for help or learning from them in other areas. Finding the right people to ask for help is key.

The Superwoman/man

The final type of imposter syndrome is reserved for those who constantly feel the need to take on more responsibility, whether they have the capacity for it or not. They typically have difficulty saying ‘no’ and want to appear more hard-working than everyone else. However, working to the point of exhaustion just to show capability can do more damage than good.

Superhuman Imposter Syndrome Test

If you think you might fall into the superhuman category, here are the traits to keep an eye out for when testing whether you have imposter syndrome:

  1. Juggling multiple tasks
  2. Working overtime, far beyond what others do
  3. Possibility of neglecting friends and family to work more
  4. Sacrificing hobbies to work more
  5. Feeling of needing to work harder and more than others to prove worth

Superheroes constantly run on full power, but striving to be a people pleaser and impressing others by taking on extra responsibility can lead to burnout, which can be detrimental to your career. Instead of seeking external validation, try focusing on the validation you can give to yourself and nurture your inner confidence.

How to deal with imposter syndrome

The way you deal with imposter syndrome will be personal, especially with five different types of imposter syndrome. As well as the specific methods for combatting imposter syndrome outlined earlier, Rovva has previously explored a guide to overcoming work insecurities for those familiar with the feeling of imposter syndrome. 

RELATED: Workplace Anxiety - The Signs and How to Overcome It

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Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.