I recently discovered a new type of psychology called ‘Positive Psychology’, while doing some reading for my university course. It’s where they focus and build on your strengths and positive traits and elements of your life rather than trying to fix you. I found an article about the 5 types of imposter syndromes that researchers have uncovered, which sparked this post.
You’ve probably heard of the imposter syndrome, even if you haven’t suffered from it. Most people have, especially writer’s. It’s where you feel like a fraud, that all your achievements were because of luck rather than talent, and you’re terrified that if anyone digs deeper, they’ll find out. Self-doubt and a lack of self-belief are an issue.
The 5 Imposter Syndromes
I wasn’t aware there were different imposter syndromes and wanted to share them with you. Valerie Young, Ed.D. developed these in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It:
- The Perfectionist – Accolades and compliments mean little unless everything is 100% perfect. The slightest mistake means you’ve failed, no matter how long and hard you’ve worked, or what you had to sacrifice to get there. You fear people will find out you’re not good enough.
- The Superhero – People’s approval is of the utmost importance to you. Doing multiple things at once, all successfully, means you can prove everyone wrong, otherwise you feel like you’ve failed. You fear people will discover you don’t do enough. Laziness is your nemesis.
- The Expert – You must know it all, yet feel no matter how much information you have, it’s never enough. This stops you from sharing, questioning, or going after opportunities, and can show up as paralysis analysis from having too many choices or the need to constantly research your book before you write it. You fear people will realise you don’t know everything.
- The Genius – You believe you’re naturally gifted at everything, and can succeed easily in anything you try on the first go with little effort. You feel like you’ve failed if you have to work hard at something. Your fear is people finding out you don’t know enough or aren’t smart enough.
- The Soloist – You have to do everything yourself. If you’ve had help, which you see as a weakness, it feels like you’ve failed. You fear people will find out you’re not enough as yourself.
I’m usually a soloist, but sometimes suffer from being a superhero or expert. I’ve also been a perfectionist and genius. Which imposters do you see yourself in? Share them in the comments below.
Imposter Syndrome Causes and Solutions
While each imposter syndrome is slightly different, they do share three common causes:
- Societal view and labels
- Family perceptions and environment
- Life-changing events
Research has linked the imposter syndrome with powerful feelings of depression and anxiety. This leads to inaction and becomes a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy; you act on an idea and write, your imposter kicks in and tells you it’s ‘not enough’, you feel like a failure, so don’t publish your book, and the cycle repeats.
If you happen to overcome your imposter long enough to publish your work, it then attacks you personally by reminding you you’re not enough. It does so by seeking negative reviews to support this, which starts the cycle again.
I believe shame closely links to the imposter syndrome because it’s ‘I’m not enough’, which is how Dr. Brene Brown describes shame. She has a wealth of information available on YouTube about how to deal with shame, which I feel will be beneficial in minimising your imposter syndrome. Dr. Brown’s work on vulnerability, which I discuss in a previous post, may also help.
If that’s too big a step for you, try having a conversation with your imposter. Give it a name to humanise it. Find out what triggers it to action and how it feels it’s trying to help or protect you. Once you have that information, imagine some worst-case scenarios together and then create your own workaround if they ever eventuate.
Comparisonitis also keeps you stuck feeling like an imposter. A strategy to beat this is to run your own race and stop comparing yourself to others. The image people present is rarely the complete version. You don’t know what they’ve done, gone through, or given up to get where they are. Their journey and solution are unlikely to be the same as yours. You’re a unique combination of lessons, experiences, insights, knowledge, talents, beliefs, passions, and purpose. Draw on those. They’re yours to own, and something no one can complete with you on.
Cheers to your writing success!