Understanding types of imposter syndrome, how to overcome it | The New Times

The first time Sylvie Rutunda, country sales manager of a regional organisation, heard someone saying that they were suffering from imposter syndrome, she felt judgmental in her heart. She thought it was one of the ‘modern caprices.’

It was only until she got an upgrade to her current job, when she started feeling absorbed by worry of how others perceive her. She constantly didn’t believe in herself and felt a need to prove her worth to others. She also felt like she didn’t know who she really was anymore. These are symptoms of imposter syndrome that she only discovered later.


By definition, impostor syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. In simple words, you perceive yourself, in a negative way, differently from how others perceive you.


The term was coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, defining it as “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”


According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 82 percent of people who face it struggle with a sense that they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved or a sense of worthlessness. 

Researchers believe that it affects minority groups more, as a lack of representation can make them feel like outsiders, and discrimination creates even more stress and anxiety when coupled with impostorism.

Types of Imposter Syndrome are; the perfectionist (often control freaks), the superwoman/man (cover up insecurities by extremely working hard), the nature genius (when they take long to master something, they feel shame), the soloist (never ask for help), and the expert (they feel like they will never know enough, fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable).

Tips to overcome it

Self-awareness: it is highly encouraged to know yourself and form your own (positive) opinion about yourself. Positive does not mean not acknowledging your mistakes and shortcomings, instead it is accepting that they do not mean absence of other good qualities. 

Document your accomplishments: In his study in The Journal of Counselling Psychology, Dr Kevin Cokley, says that it is important to keep a record of one’s accomplishments. Even if it may not be necessarily noted down on a paper or dairy, keeping a mental note of one’s potential can help them achieve the tendency to doubt themselves, to feel like fraud.

He says that it helps as a backup for the ‘I deserve to be here’ kind of mentality.

Choose your circle carefully: He also says that it is important to belong to groups with similar interests, so as to avoid feeling like you don’t belong. It is advisable to be surrounded by people who can relate to you and your view on the world. 

He also says that in other cases, belonging to a group of people who have traits/lifestyle/views you would like to develop is also okay. As long as one stays true to themselves. 

Take compliments: the biggest sign of imposter syndrome is failing to accept good things happening to you. Most of the time, you shove them aside as an accident or good luck. One way to recognise your merit is to believe people when they compliment you.

Change your mind: it is advised to change your mind-set about yourself. You are what you think. If you keep on thinking that you are a fraud, it eventually happens. Thinking happy thoughts leads to living a positive and fulfilling life.

Let go of perfectionism: when you don’t achieve your goal, resist the urge of seeing your failure as the end. Instead, one should cultivate self-compassion. 

Cokley’s study also underlines that what one needs is to trust their identity and ability to make the right choices, appreciate their strengths and seek to improve traits that they are not so proud of.


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