Imposter syndrome is an extreme case of self-doubt that impacts your performance and success—which, in turn, can hinder your earning potential. You feel like a fraud that’s minutes away from being caught. You may be thinking your tasks are too big to deliver, or that your boss’s constructive criticism is reassuring you’re the imposter you think you are. If you’re finding yourself nodding your head up and down saying “yes,” you may be experiencing this well-known occurrence: imposter syndrome.
Recent studies show that 70 percent of millennials deal with the effects of imposter syndrome. Industry leaders, actors, and athletes are also subject to these challenges. Serena Williams and Tom Hanks, for example, have admitted to frequently experiencing imposter syndrome.
Reaching your career goals is one thing, but feeling like an expert in what you’ve achieved is another. Lack of sleep, overworking, and constantly thinking about work are a few silent symptoms of this syndrome. Jump to our infographic to discover your imposter tendencies, if any, or keep reading for a more detailed description.
The Five Types of Imposter Syndrome
In a 2017 TED Talk, Dr. Valerie Young spoke up about unrealistic and unsustainable notions about what it means to be competent as the core sources of imposter syndrome. As Young put it, “The only way to stop feeling like an imposter, is to stop thinking like an imposter.” Once you figure out which of Young’s Five Competence Types you fall into and how to push past it to reach your financial goals.
1. The Perfectionist
Who you are:
You may hold yourself to impossibly high standards in your work, You expect a flawless performance each and every time. If you only score 99 out of 100 or there’s a minor typo in your report, you feel you’ve failed. Unless you can do something perfectly, you may never even try. When you fall short of your exact standards, you may feel undeserving of any praise or success.
Keep your commitment to quality says Young, but ditch the unrealistic expectation that everything you do — or even needs to — be perfect. Separate what really does require perfection and when “ok” is good enough. Besides, the first time you do anything won’t be as good as your second or hundredth.
2. The Superwoman/Man
Who you are:
Young describes this type of imposter as the Perfectionist, Expert, Natural Genius, and Soloist on steroids. Instead of merely demanding effortless perfectionism in your work, you judge yourself based on the number of roles you can juggle with ease. In addition to excelling at work you may also have to be the perfect partner, daughter/son, volunteer — and make it look easy. When you fall short in any of these roles you feel inadequate.
Despite what you see on social media, no one is able to handle it all perfectly. Give yourself permission to say no. By cutting out unnecessary tasks, you can focus on the ones that really matter. Young’s advice: “If you live with anyone over the age of five, delegate.”
3. The Natural Genius
Who you are:
You measure your worth based on ease and speed. You believe if you were “really” smart, qualified and talented “this wouldn’t be so hard.” You expect to magically excel at leading a team, manage finances or when delivering a talk. If something takes more time to master than you think it should, you may give up. The fact that you sometimes have to struggle to succeed means you must be an imposter.
Start by switching your mindset. Understand that some things you do will come naturally while others will require more effort. Expect a learning curve. “The more you do anything,” says Young, “the better you get.” Real success always takes time.
4. The Soloist
Who you are:
You think asking for help shows you’re not capable. After all, if you were “really” smart you wouldn’t need any help. You may never seek out advice or mentoring, which leads you to take longer to complete things than necessary. Because you see success as a solo endeavor, you may minimize any accomplishments requiring a team effort. You think your work or idea has to be totally groundbreaking and original to be of consequence. When it’s not, you feel like an imposter.
Figure out what you need to achieve your goal. It could be information, advice or additional training. Then ask for it! By seeking advice and mentoring from people with more knowledge or experience shows you’re wise enough to know what you don’t know. “The key,” says Young, “is to not know with confidence.”
Who you are:
Unlike the perfectionist who judges themselves on the quality of their work, you measure yourself based on the amount of knowledge you have. And you never think you know enough. The belief that you need to know 150% prevents you from pursuing positions and opportunities. When you do go for it, you constantly worry they’ll find out how much you don’t know.
Nobody knows everything and that’s okay. Remind yourself that skill gaps are normal and that it’s okay to figure things out as you go. Besides, there are many paths to expertise. Open the door for new opportunities to try new things, even if it’s just for fun! As Young says, “You don’t need to know everything, you just need to be smart enough to figure it out — or find someone who does.”
How Imposter Syndrome Affects Your Finances
Sometimes, the feeling of defeat damages your positivity when striving for your goals. Failure can hurt your mood, productivity, and motivation to drive results. When positivity lacks, you lose touch with the “why” of what you’re doing. You may avoid taking on more projects or believe you don’t deserve a salary increase when you’re more than worthy. Here are some a few ways imposter syndrome can affect your finances:
- Burnout and stress from being spread too thin costs the average working American $988 a year.
- Tension from unrealistic goals and schedules costs, on average, $2,244 per person each year.
- When putting your health on the backburner, your performance follows. Lack of sleep in the US costs $2,569 per person each year.
- Decreases in productivity and mood costs businesses $3,400 per employee each year.
- Just by avoiding your salary talk and not negotiating your worth can cost you $7,528 each year.
- On average, Americans spend over $18,000 annually on unnecessary purchases. This income could be saved or put towards a side hustle.
How to Overcome It
- Be vulnerable: The more you talk about your imposter tendencies, the more you realize the normality of it. Turns out, even your manager may be dealing with the same issue!
- Leave your feelings out of it: You may be overly optimistic about new projects after celebrating a big win for your team. Or after experiencing failure, you may avoid new career opportunities. Track and reference your results when making big decisions to ensure your choices are based on proven statistics, not feelings.
- Focus on your strengths: You are worthy of your goals, and it’s likely that your classmates, peers, and even strangers on the street have pointed out your skills. Revisit all these compliments when you may be feeling discouraged.
- Fake it ‘til you make it: The key to overcoming imposter syndrome is believing you’re confident and worthy. Don’t feed into an imposter mindset; instead, repeat a positive mantra when facing your fears.
- You’re not the only one: Even though you feel like you’re the only one that doesn’t know anything, 70 percent of millennials in the workplace also deal with imposter syndrome. Step out of the box and talk to your peers to reassure your value.
- Celebrate your achievements: It’s okay to brag about yourself sometimes! Whether that celebratory activity is putting a deposit on a big ticket item you’ve always wanted or scheduling a relaxing spa day, you should give yourself time to feel proud of your accomplishments.
- Fail fast and fail often: Think of failure as a natural part of the process—learn what doesn’t work and focus more on what does. Pick yourself up and work harder to reach your career and financial goals.
Imposter syndrome robs even the highest achievers of their motivation each year. To overcome this burden and strive for your career and financial goals, you must act like a boss. Whether you want to buy your first house or earn a raise this year, kick your failure mindset to the curb.
The power of your mindset is key to staying confident with whatever life throws at you. See which imposter syndrome you may be struggling with and how it may be impacting your finances in the infographic below.