Imposter Syndrome and Personality Types: Breaking the Introvert Myth [Episode 031]

Is Imposter Syndrome worse for introverts? If that applies to you - or you've got members of your team who you think are running an introvert preference, today is a must-listen episode. What does my research say? And how do introverts and extroverts handle Imposter Syndrome difference? 

What You'll Discover Today

  • Is Imposter Syndrome really worse for introverts? What does my research study say?
  • How introverts & extroverts handle Imposter Syndrome differently
  • The self-mentoring question that helps you spot if you're secretly self-sabotaging on this
  • What you can do to set yourself free from Imposter Syndrome, once and for all, whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in-between
  • And how you can start making progress even before you go to bed tonight!

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Note: this is an AI-generated transcript, so please forgive typos.

Welcome to Episode 31 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa. And today we're talking about Imposter Syndrome and personality types: breaking the introvert myth. I was doing a Masterclass yesterday as I'm recording this for my tribe for International Women's Day. And it's one of the questions that came up. It's a really common question. Is Imposter Syndrome worse for introverts? If that applies to you or you've got members of your team who think of running an introvert preference, today is a must listen episode. So what we'll cover today: is Imposter Syndrome really worse for introverts? What does my research study say? It's been running five years, believe me, I've got the data now. What is an introvert anyway? And why are most people getting this back to front? How introverts and extroverts handle Imposter Syndrome differently? The self mentoring question that helps you to spot if you're secretly self sabotaging on this, and what you can do to set yourself free from Imposter Syndrome once and for all, whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, and how you can start making progress even before you go to bed tonight.

So let's dive in. I know I said is Imposter Syndrome really worse for introverts was going to be top of the list, but first I actually want to talk about what is an introvert anyway. I want to make sure we're all on the same page with this. God, don't you love jargon management speak? I want to make sure we've all got the same understanding because then the rest of this episode will be so much more useful for you. What is an introvert? And how do people decide or get told that they're introvert? And why are most people getting this completely wrong back to front? Many moons ago, the famous psychologist and everything else he did, Carl Jung, was looking at personality types. And one of the types of personality he looked at is whether somebody was an introvert or an extrovert. Now, in modern day usage for people who haven't studied psychology or psychotherapy, most people think an introvert is a wallflower, somebody who is shy, who hides from people who isn't confident, and this isn't the case at all. In this context, introversion and extroversion is actually about where you get your energy from.

So imagine, at the end of a long day of a conference, are you silently hiding under the table with your coat, hoping everybody else goes to the bar without you? Or are you the one grabbing your coat, dragging people along with you? Where do you top up your batteries? Do you feel more creative when you're on your own and have the space to contemplate and think, or do you need to be in the middle of a great big group of people gaining energy from bouncing ideas? So this is really what Jung meant with introversion and extroversion. Where do you get your energy from? So for me, I love being on stage. I love inspiring and co-creating events with large groups of people. But at the end of it, if you asked me to go to the pub or a restaurant afterwards, I'm like, please, I'm empty. It's like I have a certain amount of people energy I can spend each day. And every meeting I have, every talk I do, takes up some of that pot of people energy. And the way I restore that pot of people energy is quiet time on my own without being winged up by children, without noise in the background, just being able to decompress and refill my batteries.

For other people, that's their idea of hell. They have their people energy pot, and the way they top it up is by having people contact. This is the introversion and the extroversion. It's also a sliding scale. You're not either at the introvert end or at the extrovert end. Most of us have a bit of both. We have a stronger preference, but we can do both. It's a sliding scale and it's context dependent. So in different situations, you might feel more extroverted or introverted than in others. Now, most people get their introversion, extroversion label with things like Myers–Briggs personality tests. But in order to simplify Jung's enormous body of work into a 16-category system that you could apply to millions of people, the Myers–Briggs process ignores the sliding scale aspect, and it ignores the fact that these personality preferences are context dependent. Is Imposter Syndrome really worse for introverts? What does my research study say? One of the reasons people think it's worse for introverts is they think this whole introversion is actually about shyness and lack of confidence. But you can be really confident and great at connecting with people and still run an introvert preference.

You can be running an extrovert preference and be painfully shy. So you need contact with people to get your energy, but that scares you. So that's actually a really painful place to be. So one of the reasons people think introverts are more prone to Imposter Syndrome is because of this misunderstanding of the word to mean lack of confidence. But I get a lot of people running an introvert preference who tell me I'm sure I get it worse than my extrovert colleagues. Here's some of how introvert preference and extrovert preference people handle Imposter Syndrome differently. Some of it is down to stress coping mechanisms. Someone with a strong extroversion preference, their stress coping mechanism will probably go and find people to spend time with. An introvert stress coping mechanism will be to find a quiet place to be on their own. So if we look at the typical office, then for an introvert, particularly with open plan offices, which is what most people work in these days, it's their idea of living hell. It's noisy, there are distractions, there are too many people, there's nowhere to be on their own. So if they're running Imposter Syndrome and they're suddenly noticing it's come out to play big time, something's triggered it, it's very hard for them to find that space to decompress, to rebuild their energy, and it can make the Imposter Syndrome worse.

Stress makes Imposter Syndrome worse. Looking at another option, someone with an extravert preference, maybe remote working from home, Imposter Syndrome strikes, and their natural stress coping mechanism is to go and find people to spend time with, but they might be at home on their own. And we've created a culture where picking up the phone just to call a colleague isn't really what we do anymore. We have to book a meeting and that's all just too much work. Another difference between the two is people with a strong introversion preference tend to be better over thinkers than people who are running a strong extroversion preference. One of the big issues with Imposter Syndrome is overthinking. I've talked in other episodes and I talk in Ditching Imposter Syndrome the book about how our thoughts affect our body and affect our actions. The more we overthink Imposter Syndrome, the harder it is to deal with it. And that's why it's so important to clear it out. People running a strong introversion preference tend to be more reflective, but they might have a smaller support network, but those do tend to be deeper relationships, so they might find it easier to talk to somebody about this.

And what my research study has said over the past five years is actually introvert preference people and extrovert preference people experience Imposter Syndrome at similar rates. They just process it differently, as they do with most elements of life. But there's a problem with this whole discussion. The labels we give ourselves risk keeping us stuck. I see this so often. In the show notes for this episode, which if you're watching it on my website, if you're listening to it even on my website, scroll down and you'll see them. If you're in your favourite podcast app, look at the show notes. I'll give you a link to an article that I wrote about, are you falling into the leadership label trap? Here's what happens. I had somebody contact me about this just this week. She had been sent on a leadership development program, and one of the things people had to do to start off with was they had to get their personality profile done. She was really concerned because she didn't recognise herself in what came out from those answers. And she was told, you are a such and such. And depending on the model, it might be ENTJ, it might be, you are a blue, you are a manifester, you are an initiator, you are a generator.

All these labels that we're given that start with 'You Are', that we repeat with I am. Now, if you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, go to page 241 or track 49 in the audiobook for the 'Power of I am'. Anything that comes after the words 'I am' immediately sticks at the identity level. Which if you know my work on the Imposter Syndrome iceberg, I'll put a link to an episode that covers that if you're not familiar with it in the show notes, Imposter Syndrome is down there at the identity level. So anything that we say with I am, I am an introvert, I am an extrovert, becomes a label, like a box within which we end up living. With so many clients, I've watched these labels become self-fulfilling prophecy, where we change our behaviour and who we think we are and who we see ourselves as being to fit the external label that was given to us. When nobody warned us, that label might be a sliding scale and it might be context dependent. So I want to talk to you about Mary, who is a really talented software developer who was, when she came to work with me, she'd recently been promoted to lead a team of developers at her company.

She'd always been praised for her work. Her technical skills were top notch. But since her promotion, she'd been really struggling with Imposter Syndrome. She felt like she didn't deserve the position, that she wasn't qualified to lead others. Everyone else on the team was smarter and more experienced than she was. Her nightly self talk was that 3 AM, what if they realised they made a mistake promoting me? What if they realised I don't know as much as I should? What if they find out I'm not good enough? Now, Mary, as often happens in software industries where people spend a lot of time just on their own and quiet with them and a computer, was running a very strong introversion preference in the context of work. She had convinced herself that her quiet demeanour and reserved personality and her ability to think things through was making her less effective as a leader. Somehow she had brought into the myth that to be a good leader, you have to be the loud one. You have to be outgoing, charismatic, and vocal to be taken seriously by team members and peers. Mary, bless her heart, had been trying to change who she was, trying to change how she was showing up to become what was almost a caricature of what in her head a leader needed to be.

She was trying to be outgoing, charismatic, vocal, speaking up with her ideas, and everybody was just completely confused by this massive personality change. It wasn't working. And even worse for Mary, it was making the Imposter Syndrome worse because Imposter Syndrome is the secret fear of being found out it's not good enough or a fraud or faking it, despite external world evidence that we're doing a great job. Mary knew that in order to cope with her Imposter Syndrome, she was actually faking it. She was behaving like a fraud. From my research studies, I know that another great way to define Imposter Syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. This is exactly what Mary was doing. She was judging herself for having this introversion preference personality type and deciding that meant she wasn't good enough. So this is one of the reasons why I really don't like coping strategies for Imposter Syndrome. I much prefer to work with people to clear out the hidden fears, blocks, even excuses, limiting beliefs that were triggering Imposter Syndrome. The surface level symptoms of our thoughts and actions simply disappear. You no longer need the coping strategies.

You've released that deeper stuff to allow yourself to become the version of you that achieves whatever it is that you're aiming for. Changing who you are and how you show up to cope with Imposter Syndrome will only make it worse. I've already talked about why this is, from the sense of you feel like you're going to be found out as a fraud and you're actually behaving like a fraud. But there's another whammy on top of this is because Imposter Syndrome is an identity level issue. It's about who I am, who I see myself as being, rather than my skills and capabilities, what I can and can't do, that self doubt and confidence. We're judging ourselves at an identity level, and that keeps us even more stuck in the Imposter Syndrome. So how did I help Mary? She was on my stepping up to lead programme, and you can find out more about that in the show notes, by the way, if you'd love to work with me or one of my master coaches on this because being promoted into a leadership role is a massive trigger for previously dormant Imposter Syndrome. So what we did is I helped Mary to look at what was real and what was mind story drama.

What was the stories, the 'what if'-ing, the catastrophising in her head versus what was true. By helping her to see that actually in her organisation and industry, you could be an incredibly effective leader by being exactly who Mary was as a person. Generally calm and quiet, slightly reserved, but a brilliant listener, a great strategic thinker, and somebody who had the ability to connect very deeply with people. She was then able to see that actually what the issue was was the stories she'd been telling herself about her leadership ability that had made her have this complete personality transplant that had utterly confused her team, who no longer understood or recognised the person they were working with. She realised she didn't need to change who she is to be a really effective leader, and that her quiet nature can actually be an asset when it comes to listening to and empathising with her team members. She also saw that what was really running the show here was Imposter Syndrome. She'd coped with it for years with lots of coping strategies. She'd done the handling and the dealing with it, and she knew it was time to actually let it go.

So we did that deeper work to clear Imposter Syndrome, so she could feel that she no longer needed to self sabotage in order to be safe. Now Mary is leading her team with more confidence. She's able to communicate her ideas and vision more effectively. We did some work as well on some of the stuff that I teach in Stepping Up to Lead on influencing authentically how to handle difficult people and difficult conversations with grace and ease. She's leading really effectively now, communicating her ideas and her vision. Her team members are responding really positively to her leadership style, and they really appreciate her ability to listen and provide thoughtful feedback. Not everybody can do my Stepping Up to Lead programme, and I want to give you some tools that you can use right away today for self mentoring, if what we've covered in this episode has been resonating with you. I'm actually going to give you a bonus because I've already shared it and I think it's so useful. One of the things that really helped Mary was something we call a pattern interrupt, because we get stuck in this mind story drama, mind story fear cycle in our head, that what if thing, the worrying, the catastrophising, and we need to be able to press pause.

I teach lots of different ways of doing this, but a beautiful way to do it is that pattern interrupt to stop that conversation in its tracks. Is this really true? Or is it just Imposter Syndrome speaking? Is this really true or is it just Imposter Syndrome speaking? This can be enough to stop those mind story dramas in their tracks. Then there's a self-mentoring question that you can use if this has been happening to you. And I'm going to give it to you in two forms because sometimes this stuff can try and be a little bit pesky and avoid these questions because it's trying to protect us in its base form, the unconscious mind and then our conscious thoughts are trying to keep us safe, even if it really doesn't feel that way. So thinking about the thing that maybe you're avoiding or that's triggering Imposter Syndrome, ask yourself, what does avoiding that do for me? What does avoiding that do for me? Another way to ask yourself this self mentoring question, how is avoiding that protecting me? How is avoiding that protecting me? Allow the answers just to bubble up. Get yourself some professional support from a certified Imposter Syndrome, Master Coach, or a Natural Resilience Method Facilitator.

I'll put a link to the directory for those below this episode. And look at what's really driving those answers. What is this secret unmet need that the self-sabotage behaviour is delivering for you, or the secret fear it's protecting you from. The whole essence of the work I do with the Natural Resilience Method process is about how to identify that hidden need to either meet it in a healthier way or to actually resolve it so it disappears completely, and then you don't need Imposter Syndrome, self-sabotage, negative self talk, all of that becomes redundant. You become immune to it. This is why I don't teach coping strategies. So if this has resonated with you today and you want to start making progress and taking action even before you go to bed tonight, if you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, dive in. If you've not started it, dive back in. If you're part way through, make the most of the resources in the free reader vault that comes with the book. And if reading isn't your thing, it's now also available in an audiobook wherever you love to get your audiobooks from. If you'd actually like to go in a bit deeper, you could join us with my Ditching Imposter Syndrome Transformation Toolkit.

This brings the book to life. It's got what we call my Mentor In Your Pocket where I actually guide you through every exercise. You've got a virtual journal for keeping notes. You've got deep dive master classes, training videos, audios, cheat sheets, turning your Ditching Imposter Syndrome audiobook into a really potent, life changing tool. It's that vital difference between information and implementation. If you want to work with a coach, remember, you've got the Imposter Syndrome Boot Camp, my Stepping Up To Lead programme. And if you're a line manager, a leader, a coach, or a therapist, and you want to use this work with others, get in touch. Details in the show notes because I run certification programs that run up to Institute of Leadership and Management Level 7 on the qualifications. I hope that's helped you today. Whether you run an introvert or an extrovert preference, I hope you found it interesting and go and play with those self mentoring questions. The next time you notice Imposter Syndrome coming up. I'd love to hear from you. There'll be a link in the show notes for where we're discussing this topic and this episode, both on LinkedIn and Instagram.

I'll be back next week with your next episode. I hope you have an amazing week.

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About the author

Clare Josa

Clare is considered a global authority in the fields of Imposter Syndrome, burnout and toxic resilience, and has been an international keynote speaker for over 20 years.

The author of 8 books, a reformed engineer and the former Head of Market Research for one of the world's most disruptive brands, she blends research-backed practical inspiration with demystified ancient wisdom, to help you create breakthroughs in ways that are fast, fun and forever.

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