How To Spot The Imposter Syndrome Warning Signs – Before You Self-Sabotage [Episode 11]

Being able to spot the Imposter Syndrome warning signs is essential, if you want to avoid self-sabotaging - because most of the time that self-sabotage is subconscious: it runs on auto-pilot thought patterns in the brain.

So in this episode of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast, I'm going to guide you through how to spot the most common warning signs - both in yourself and in others, so you can take action to stop it in its tracks, fast! And, of course, I'll share with you what you can do once you spot the warning signs, to stop Imposter Syndrome in its tracks, in under sixty seconds.

Here's What We'll Cover About How To Spot Imposter Syndrome Warning Signs

  • Why being able to spot the early warning signs of Imposter Syndrome is so important
  • What some of the super-common ones are
  • What we can do, once we spot them!
  • How to spot your own Imposter Syndrome warning signs - they're different for each of us

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Prefer To Read? Here's The Transcript For How To Spot The Imposter Syndrome Warning Signs:

Please note this has not been fully edited (it takes forever and means I'd create fewer episodes!) So please forgive any AI errors.

x Clare

Welcome to Episode 11 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast, I'm your host Clare Josa, author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome, and today I want to talk to you about how to spot the Imposter Syndrome warning signs before you self sabotage. This is a must listen for you. If you ever find yourself getting in your own way or if you ever find yourself suddenly stuck in a bout of Imposter Syndrome and you have no idea how it got there. So being able to spot Imposter Syndrome warning signs is essential if you want to avoid self sabotage, because most of the time self sabotage is something we're not consciously doing.

We don't sit there and think, hey, that's Imposter Syndrome right? Right now I get to self sabotage is something we often don't realize we've even done until it's too late.

So in this episode, I'm going to guide you through how to spot the most common warning signs. We're also going to talk a bit more about why being able to spot those warning signs for Imposter Syndrome is so important what we can do once we spot them, because I'm not going to leave you having found the problem without a solution and how you can spot your own individual Imposter Syndrome warning signs. They're like poker tells and they are different for each of us.

So why bother spotting the Imposter Syndrome warning signs? Well, because the vast majority of what happens with Imposter Syndrome runs on autopilot. We are not consciously aware of the thought patterns that happen that maybe lead to about Imposter Syndrome.

Most of the time our actions are running just below the surface of our conscious awareness.

Most of the time, if I asked you, what are you thinking right now, you'd have to stop and actually pay attention to your thoughts, busyness, stress, if you're listening to this episode when it comes out, Lockdown's three in the UK with us HARIA. Everything that's going on for us means we don't pay attention to our thoughts and our body. And we only notice that something has gone wrong with Imposter Syndrome when it comes up and slaps us in the face with that proverbial wet kepa.

Now, because so much of Imposter Syndrome, although it's down at the identity-level as we talk about with the Imposter Syndrome Iceberg, and if that term is new to you, make sure you go to the show notes page because that is going to be there. Waiting for you is an article and a short video about the Imposter Syndrome Iceberg and why it's not just a mindset thing. Show notes on this page.

The Imposter Syndrome Iceberg shows us that Imposter Syndrome is an identity-level thing. Who am I to be doing this rather than a mindset thing about what we can and can't do? But a lot of the behaviours that go with Imposter Syndrome are driven by our thoughts and our thoughts tend to happen at an unconscious level. And as they talk about in the stress cycle model, which you can find in the book Ditching Imposter Syndrome, our thoughts affect our bodies, which affect our emotions, which drive more thoughts.

And all of this cycle goes round and round controlling the actions that we take until suddenly it's too late and we self sabotage. So what I want for you today is to be able to spot your personal Imposter Syndrome warning signs so you can take action as soon as you can in that cycle. Now, why does it matter where in the Imposter Syndrome process you take action to press pause and do something about it?

Well, many years ago, I used to live in a very, very old house. If you've ever seen if you're not in the UK and you don't know what a thatched cottage is. Yeah. If you've ever seen old fashioned boxes of chocolates, there's bound to have been one somewhere that's got a cute little house with a straw roof. And this house was so old that it was already an old house when Henry the eighth was born. Okay, there were bits of it that were 600 years old. And the problem with having a straw hat a roof on a house is you need to replace it regularly. And replacing that straw thatched roof is very, very scarily expensive.

So you really want to look after it once it's up there. And we were in the process of having the roof replaced because it had actually turned into a bathtub and we had running water coming in through the bedroom ceiling and the thatchers people replacing the roof. They accidentally broke the geriatric cable that went from the aerial on the chimney, you know, the olden days. But we had TV aerials instead of just all through the Internet, through to the television.

We didn't want to get that cable replaced because we had literally just spent life savings fixing the roof. And I didn't want an aerial guy sticking a ladder on it and doing who knows what damage.

So we ended up finding another solution. But actually the cable had been a real problem. Anyway, the TV signal in the house was appalling.

Every show we watched looked like people were in the middle of a snowstorm and we could barely hear what they were saying. Now, here's the thing. When I was a kid, it was really common for the TV signal to be bad because the aerial masts were a long way apart. And, you know, we're talking back in the 70s and 80s now - I'm feeling old - and it was really common to have an aerial booster box in the plug socket next to the television in the living room.

There's a problem with this, though, that works great for boosting the signal. What it doesn't work so well for is when the cable is dodgy, which is the problem that we had in the chocolate box house. So if you put this amplifier, this boost box at the end of the cable next to the TV, sure, it will boost the TV signal, but it will also boost all of what's called in control theory because I used to be an engineer, the noise that's happening in the background.

So it will boost the signal, but it will also boost the snowstorm. It will also make it sound like somebody rattling tin foil even more loudly in the background every scene you watch. So what you actually want to do, if you can't replace the cable, if you want to put that booster box up next to the aerial so that you're boosting the signal and not the problem, does that make sense here? And this is what we're doing when we look for the early warning signs of Imposter Syndrome, the earlier in the process, you can spot the warning signs and do something.

The less damage has been done, the less impact Imposter Syndrome will have had. And this is why spotting those early warning signs, those autopilots, thoughts and behaviours as soon as you can is really important.

And I talk about this a lot.

If you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, it's page 118 on words or search for Imposter Syndrome warning signs.

If you've got the eBook version and I call them EWS, which I pronounce 'eughs' because they are a bit yucky. So the other reason you want to spot your EWS as early as you can, these warning signs, is because if Imposter Syndrome is coming on, you need to check. If you haven't cleared it out by using processes like Ditching Imposter Syndrome or Stepping Up To Lead, you want to check that your bridge of coping strategies is still going to work.

You want to be able to do something before those planks start falling down. And if the Imposter Syndrome Bridge of coping strategies is a new concept for you, go and listen to Episode nine on this podcast, the Imposter Syndrome Bridge of coping strategies. And all of that will make more sense. So one of the things that happens once Imposter Syndrome is on its way, something has triggered it. And I'll talk in a separate episode about what can trigger Imposter Syndrome once we're there and it's happening.

It has already triggered the fight-flight-freeze stress response, which makes it harder to concentrate, harder to think clearly, harder to come up with great ideas. So I want to with guide you through here some of the common warning signs. You might notice behavioural warning signs and then self-talk warning signs and then body warning signs and let you know how you can do an exercise to actually find your own unique Imposter Syndrome tells so you can sense when it's coming and do something about it before it becomes extreme and noisy as that stupid interference on my old TV aerial cable.

So one early warning sign is going quiet in meetings. Now, all of these warning signs you can apply to yourself and you can also apply them to colleagues. So if you're a leader or a manager or even a coach or a mentor, being able to watch for these warning signs in a client can be really useful for you, helping them to gain quite in meetings, just kind of switching off, but knowing that you're not doing it just because you're tired, you're doing it because you want to feel safe.

Next one is not sharing your opinions. You might disagree with somebody holding back. And that's self-talk being. What if they think I'm an idiot for sharing this or what if they have a go at me? Or what if I get kicked out, if I tell them what I really think another one is not processing or retaining information. This is a classic example of the stress response that can come from things on Imposter Syndrome. But when we're stressed, it affects how the blood flow runs in the brain.

I talk about this in a separate episode and it makes it physically harder to process, retain information and concentrate another warning sign, holding back with ideas, realizing you're in a meeting and you're just suddenly thinking, yeah, this would be a great idea.

Or maybe you've pitched an idea to a friendly colleague and then you get to the main meeting and you just keep quiet, not going for opportunities to shine, convincing yourself that you're too busy or it's not the right fit or it's not the right time and not owning your successes. Another classic Imposter Syndrome warning sign, for example, is if you're praised about a success and you immediately respond with the word but and point out what else you did wrong. So those are some of the behaviuoral warning signs are Imposter Syndrome.

Now, I want to talk to you about some self-talk warning signs, a case if you were to tune in to. How you're talking to yourself about a particular project, you might find yourself thinking, what if my luck runs out? Everyone else has got their act together. What if they realize I'm just pretending? What if they find out I'm not good enough? Who am I to be doing this? They must have made a mistake choosing me.

I feel like a fraud. What if they figure out I'm faking it? What if they find me out? What if they realize I don't belong here? All of these statements are I am statements now. It's important to be able to tell the difference between Imposter Syndrome self doubt because the tools to deal with it are quite different. So I have a separate podcast episode on that for you. Over at the show notes page, you can find that further up this page.

But all of these "I am" statements, these identity statements are a warning sign that it's Imposter Syndrome out to play. Then we've got the 4 Ps of Imposter Syndrome. I am going to be doing a whole series of podcast episodes on these, but if you're not familiar with these yet, I'm going to give you a whistle stop tour now. And there's also an article on them on the show notes on this page.

The 4 Ps are perfectionism, procrastination, project paralysis and people pleasing. If you suddenly find yourself increasing those, there are warning signs. It's worth looking at whether Imposter Syndrome might have come out to play. These came from the 2019 research study and you can download the white paper for that at where you'll understand more about the 4 Ps of Imposter Syndrome is early warning signs. And the final warning sign type I want to talk to you about today is the warning signs your body gives you something I call the Flinch factor.

If you're thinking about something that you've been putting off doing or that you think might be triggering Imposter Syndrome, often your body holds the key to making you stop in your tracks and say, whoa, might this be Imposter Syndrome?

So if you think about this thing and this is something I teach on Stepping Up To Lead in much more detail. And also if I'm running a keynote or a workshop for an organization on Imposter Syndrome, I can cover this in more detail there. In its essence, the flinch factor is the tension that comes into the body. When you think about something that's triggering Imposter Syndrome for you, it might be in the gut, the shoulders, the chest, the back, the throat, the jaw.

For me, one of my tells is it's actually tension in the muscles around my eyes, but it's that flinch factor is that sense of, oh, I'm not sure I want to do that.

Yeah, that's another early warning sign for Imposter Syndrome. So if you want to find out your personal Imposter Syndrome tells and early warning signs, there is an exercise in Ditching Imposter Syndrome as a whole section on this in the book, page one one eight onwards, that exercise guide you through exactly how to spot your personal Imposter Syndrome warning signs because you're likely to have some that I haven't included in the list yet. So make sure if you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, go and look for that.

If you haven't got the book yet, you can order it from Amazon. It's in a beautiful hardback. There's a paperback that's an e-book. Go and do the work on Imposter Syndrome warning signs and find out what yours are so you can use them as early red flags to know that you need to do something before Imposter Syndrome gets out of control and causes you to self sabotage.

So what can you do when you spot the warning signs? By far, the simplest thing is my ABQ technique.

If you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, you probably know it already.

It's in the book on page 127. If you've got the e-book version, search for tame your inner critic in under 60 seconds.

And I also have a free mini training on this free video training, which you can sign up for right now as my gift at, and that gives you instant access for my training on what you can do as an emergency stop button for Imposter Syndrome literally learning how to turn your inner critics negative self-talk around in a way that is positive and empowering rather than pretending. And the other thing that's waiting for you inside Ditching Imposter Syndrome after the little section there on how to spot the early warning signs is a really useful set of exercises on emergency stop buttons.

OK, on page 121, I take you through for emergency stop button so you can use and then there's an exercise on how to develop some of your own. So not only are you spotting the early warning signs, but you're knowing what you can do both on an emergency quick fix level and.

On a longer term, clearing out Imposter Syndrome level to set yourself free from this so you no longer have to even think about the Imposter Syndrome warning signs. So I really hope you're going to find that useful. And then I've got some more resources for you. It's a very busy couple of months on Imposter Syndrome at the moment. If you're listening to this episode live when it first comes out, firstly to celebrate International Women's Day 2021. I have had so many requests from women's networks to run workshops and keynotes for them for free.

And I simply don't have enough hours in the day, even if I didn't actually need to put food in the fridge. See, what I'm doing instead is running a free masterclass to celebrate International Women's Day on the 12th of March on how to stop your inner critic in its tracks, how to press pause on it in under 60 seconds. We're going to go through it in more detail. Some of the stuff I've talked about in the episode here, if you want that, that's going to be an amazing session on the 12th of March.

The other thing I'm doing that same week on the 8th of March is launching the Interactive Reader Experience, a six week program where you literally get me walking by your side nearly literally as you read Ditching Imposter Syndrome if you want to join us for that and for this life round, that is yours as my gift.

So if you want to read Ditching Imposter Syndrome, that is the most fantastic way to do it. I've also got a master class that's still available on instant access that I ran for coaches, mentors and managers on what you need to know about Imposter Syndrome and lock down. You can still get that at So that wraps is up for today. I really hope you found it useful. If you enjoyed this episode, you want to make sure you catch each one.

You can sign up for my newsletter that you'll find on this page and make sure you subscribe to the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast wherever you like to get your podcasts out Mondays. It's free of charge. My gift to you, your future and the difference you're here to make in the world. I hope you have a fantastic week. I'll be back soon with the next episode where we're going to be talking about the stress cycle and the impact of lockdown and why this has made Imposter Syndrome such a big deal for so many people.

I hope you have an amazing week.

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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