Have you ever had the feeling of inadequacy, not deserving your achievements, of being a fraud and worry you’ll get found out? This is called Imposter Syndrome. It is a common experience, whether you’re a new leader, solopreneur, senior manager, or a C-suite business leader. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or a seasoned professional, Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate.

In this podcast episode, Kate talks about Imposter Syndrome and the five different types that people can experience. She explains how Imposter Syndrome can manifest in one’s career, including avoiding participation in meetings, overanalyzing actions, taking constructive feedback personally, and self-sabotaging.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Have you ever had the feeling of inadequacy, not deserving your achievements, of being a fraud and worry you’ll get found out? This is called Imposter Syndrome.

It is a common experience, whether you’re a new leader, solopreneur, senior manager, or a C-suite business leader. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or a seasoned professional, Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate.

Something else you might not have realized there are actually five different types of Imposter Syndrome. Unfortunately there’s one for every one of us, or maybe a couple.

It might surprise you to know that it’s usually the people who are the most competent, that actually feel Imposter Syndrome the strongest, which is crazy. So to help people to recognize and overcome their Imposter Syndrome, I’m facilitating a free webinar on the 23rd or the 24th of May, depending on what time zone you’re in. And it’s all about how to recognize Imposter Syndrome, how to overcome it, and navigating your [00:01:00] career with confidence. It’s for new leaders, seasoned leaders, business owners, frankly, Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate and neither does this webinar. So you can go to the show notes to sign up, or you can go to tinyurl.com/zenithwebinar. So to prove that everyone has a little bit of Imposter Syndrome, let me tell you about mine. Hi, my name is Kate and I am guilty of experiencing the “superhuman” Imposter Syndrome. No, it doesn’t mean that my type of Imposter Syndrome is extra strong and beefy or wears a cape. No. This type of Imposter Syndrome happens for people who measure their worth about how well they can juggle many, sometimes too many different roles.

When people like us fall short of wearing these many different hats, we can feel shame for not being all-around perfect. But more about that later in the episode. Today’s episode, as you may have guessed is all about Imposter Syndrome. And next week’s [00:02:00] episode is all about how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

Now don’t be tempted to go straight to the next episode. It’s really important to understand Imposter Syndrome before you can overcome it. So before I share my own experiences with Imposter Syndrome, let’s have a look at what Imposter Syndrome can look like in your career.

Your Imposter Syndrome could manifest itself in your work, through the following actions or chronic inaction in most cases. It could look like this: you don’t step up to opportunities that you’re qualified for. You avoid participation in meetings, even if you have something to share. You don’t ask questions. You over analyze every move you make, every conversation you have. Or you take constructive feedback too personally, you might procrastinate on tasks regardless of how big or how small. You self-sabotage. You don’t do something you can’t guarantee perfection on. [00:03:00] Perhaps you avoid hiring a team, even when you know it’s time. You stress, you over-prepare and overwork.

So you might be starting to feel a little unwell after hearing those statements about Imposter Syndrome, because they’re feeling a little too close to reality.

So, what do we do about it? The first step is awareness. There are five different types of Imposter Syndrome. Remember how I mentioned mine doesn’t wear a cape? Well, have a listen to see what feels familiar with you. And I encourage you to listen with curiosity. Not self judgment.

So the first type of Imposter Syndrome is the Perfectionist. These people set extremely high standards for themselves and feel like they have to achieve them, all of the time. Even if they succeed, they still feel like they could have done better. Close enough is not good enough. You know, those people who get an A on a test and are still disappointed because they missed one question. Yeah. That’s the Perfectionist. So, [00:04:00] what does it look like in a work situation? Let’s say you’re a writer who’s published their first novel. You’ve received great reviews and even won an award, but you can’t stop thinking about that one negative review you got. You feel like a failure because you didn’t please everybody. That is the Perfectionist in action. I know personally as a Facilitator, I remember early on in my career, I would focus on that one feedback form that was not five stars. Even if the rest were glowing. There’s a way you can learn from negative feedback, but sometimes when you have this Perfectionist style, that one negative review takes over everything else.

The second type of Imposter Syndrome is called the Expert.

These people feel like they have to know everything about a subject. They’re afraid of being exposed as a fraud if they don’t have all the answers. They might even avoid situations where they feel like they don’t know enough in case they get found out.

Now, how does it show up? Let’s say [00:05:00] you’re a marketing professional who’s just been asked to give a presentation on a new product. You feel like you don’t know enough about the product, even though you’ve done your research. You spend hours going down a rabbit hole of information. And even then, you’re not sure you know enough, because it is never enough. This is the Expert in action. The challenge here is you will never know everything about a topic. And if you strive to know all the answers. You will never take a step forward.

Now the Perfectionist and the Expert can be good friends here. You might think you need to know everything, so you’ll be perfect and no one can criticize you. So just notice if that might be something that comes up for you.

Now the third type of Imposter Syndrome is the Natural Genius. These people feel like they have to be good at everything without even trying. They’re used to things coming easily to them, so when they encounter a challenge, they feel like they’re not as smart as they thought they were.

So let’s say you’re a Software [00:06:00] Engineer who’s been given a difficult project. You’re used to breezing through projects, but this one’s giving you a hard time. You start to doubt your abilities and wonder if you’re cut out for this job. That is a Natural Genius in action. I remember early in my career, I used to lie about how long a project took, so it seemed like I was more of a Natural Genius than I was. I was embarrassed to say that something took me a while to work out. Yeah, crazy huh? If that’s familiar for you, you might have a bit of Natural Genius Imposter Syndrome.

The fourth type is the Soloist. These people feel like they have to do everything on their own and asking for help is a sign of weakness. They don’t want to burden anyone with their problems. So they keep everything to themselves.

So let’s say you’re an entrepreneur who’s trying to launch a new business. I see this all the time. You’re struggling with the financials, but you don’t want to ask for help because you don’t want to seem incompetent, and found out that maybe you’re not cut out to run a business. [00:07:00] So what happens? You end up making mistakes that cost a lot of time and money that could have been avoided if you asked for help. That is the Soloist in action. The feeling you have to do everything by yourself and never ask for help.

And finally the fifth type is the Superhuman. These people feel like they need to be perfect work harder than everyone else and achieve extraordinary results to feel validated. Individuals with superhuman Imposter Syndrome set impossibly high standards for themselves, and often feel like they’re not doing enough, even when they’re achieving significant accomplishments.

An example could be a high achieving executive who has a track record of success, receives praise and recognition from colleagues and superiors. However, this executive feels like they need to work harder than everyone else to maintain their position and success, often sacrificing their personal life and wellbeing in the process.

So despite achievements and recognition, the executive feels like they’re not doing enough. Or they’ll be exposed as a [00:08:00] fraud if they do not continue to perform at an exceptionally high level. They also might feel like they’re not qualified or knowledgeable enough, despite evidence to the contrary and might downplay accomplishments or attribute them to luck or external factors.

The Superhuman is one Imposter Syndrome I personally have been working on. The idea of juggling everything and getting it all at a perfect level leading to stress and burnout is definitely something that has been a work in progress for me.

So, if you think about those five different types, Perfectionist Expert, Natural Genius, Soloist Superhuman – how can we take some steps out of this type of Imposter Syndrome? I wonder why is it that we’re making life harder for ourselves? Because the negative impacts of Imposter Syndrome are pretty bad. The biggest impact is slow or no growth for your career or business. Essentially you feel like a fraud, so to step outside that or be exposed is too scary. [00:09:00] The other negative impacts are stress, burn out, wasted time focusing on the wrong things, spending energy, worrying about what other people think. And basically your growth can go stagnant. So Imposter Syndrome can be paralyzing.

Now I think I’ve made a pretty good case in this podcast episode, that Imposter Syndrome is a challenging thing. It’s something that we all have and to different degrees, it is impacting our life. So, what do you do about it? Well, the first step, you’ve already taken. You’ve got to the end of this podcast episode.

And what I want you to focus on is curiosity about Imposter Syndrome, not criticism. So noticing over this next week or so, which type of Imposter Syndrome might pop up for you? Notice if perhaps you’re procrastinating starting something, because you don’t think you’ll be able to do it perfectly. That’s certainly something that I do. I leave things to the last [00:10:00] minute and it definitely impacts my work.

So once you notice your type of Imposter Syndrome, tune into next week’s episode to learn about how to overcome your Imposter Syndrome. The final thought to leave you on, you are not alone, everybody feels these, and it’s important if you’re ready to take the next step and you know what, even if you’re, not be brave, let’s see if we can try one or two new things, because frankly, the people that feel it the most are the ones that should not be feeling it. Imposter Syndrome seems to impact those that are the most competent. So if this episode made you feel uncomfortable, you are probably very competent in your job and we need to work on some mindset hacks.

Remember to sign up to the free Imposter Syndrome Webinar tinyurl.com/zenithwebinar or by clicking the link on the show notes. This webinar is great for understanding Imposter Syndrome, overcoming it, and helping you [00:11:00] navigate your career around Imposter Syndrome, because frankly the most competent people feel Imposter Syndrome, and I think we can all have a world where we feel a little bit more comfortable in our own skin. 

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