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The 5 types of top performers and their hidden challenge

Super successful people hope that one day they’ll finally stop feeling like a fraud – like they don’t fit in. They often feel lazy – “I didn’t even work that hard…” Despite people’s admiration, they doubt their accomplishments. 

They often don’t feel they deserve what they’ve achieved. And they dream that their persistent secret fear of being exposed as a “fraud” will one day go away, for ever. 

Sound familiar? 

Research shows Imposter Syndrome to be common amongst high-achieving women and particularly prevalent in successful women of color. A recent study has found that feelings of being a fraud can be just as debilitating for men. 

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Valerie Young identified 5 types of top performers:

  1. The perfectionist – Do you set excessively high goals for yourself? Do you beat yourself up for failing to meet your own crazy high expectations? Do you want your work to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?
  2. The superwoman/superman – Do you work longer and harder than anyone you know? Do you find it hard to switch off and take time just for you?
  3. The natural genius – Do you have a track record of A grades? Maybe you were known as “the smart one”? Do you avoid challenges if there’s a chance you’ll fail?
  4. The soloist – “I don’t need help…” Is that your natural way of being? Is your instinctive response to offers of support, “I’ve got this.”?
  5. The expert – There’s always more to learn, right? Do you continually attend trainings and workshops? Do you constantly feel that you don’t know “enough”?

Which one are you? Or maybe you are like me and you have an element of all five?!

Basically, most of us will feel this at some point in life. And many of us will feel it throughout our life.  

The secret thoughts of highly successful people… 

I love to coach top performers. I know what drives them. I know what holds them back. I know their guilty secrets. I know what has them wake up at 3 in the morning, with tears running down the sides of their face. 

And I love to curate groups of top performers. I’ve been doing so for over 20 years. I know the challenges that top performers face when they get together. I know what they hide and what they pretend. And I know, all too well, the secret Imposter Syndrome that so many top performers hide from the world. 

But here’s the thing… 

Imposter syndrome is a feature, not a bug

I designed 4PC – my community of leaders and coaches – so that we’d each have a sense of Imposter Syndrome. Including me. 
I don’t try to hide it or “fix” it. I build it into the program.
In fact, the entrance requirement is that you should be a little in awe of us and we should be a little in awe of you. 

4PC is a community of leaders, not followers. I filter for members who feel like my peers.

My secret intention is that the caliber of members is so high, that if I was nominated for membership, I’d struggle to get in!

So, the most common secret our members share with me sounds like this;

“I get why everyone else is here. They’re extraordinary. But how did I sneak in, under the radar?!”

The Imposter Paradox

There’s a paradox to feeling like an imposter because the moment you no longer have that feeling, it actually means you’ve outgrown your community, or you’re no longer dreaming big enough… 

The Imposter Paradox means that your mission is to keep seeking out experiences and communities where you feel like an imposter. But only for the rest of your life! 🤣

The sound of being an imposter

The voices in our heads can be loud. We’re currently welcoming the new members of 4PC and I asked the current members to described their experience with Imposter Syndrome. 

Here are some of their responses:

  • “I have chronic impostor syndrome in 4PC. But the choice I made, when I joined, was to be messy and be honest about my messy.”
  • “My emotions when we get together are always all over the place. Feeling like an imposter is the only consistent feeling and has become somewhat comforting at this point.”
  • “My first 4PC gathering, I wondered WTF was I doing there? I could hide and make sure nobody found out but I decided to play full out, to be messy, to risk not having all the answers yet. It was super edgy AND it made me right at home in the group. I still regularly feel like an imposter AND I know I belong. It’s one of the best paradoxes to live into.”
  • “I have moments where I’m sure everyone can see that I’m not as powerful or accomplished as everyone else. And then in your presence I get grounded and giggle at my ego doing the comparison thing. And remember that I am love and power and being with you all reminds me of all that I am.”

The way I address Imposter Syndrome with my clients is to turn it into a feature. It’s not something to hide from. It’s something we shine a light on. And it’s our secret clue that we’re headed in the right direction – we’ve found our big mission, or we’ve found our perfect community.

Love. Rich 


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