Out-of-control inner critic? Here’s why it’s not your fault you can’t ditch Imposter Syndrome! [Episode 21]

Got an out-of-control inner critic?

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to wave goodbye to Imposter Syndrome, but it hasn’t worked?

You’ve taken advice from everyone from Google to gurus and the secret fear of being ‘found out’ still gets you holding back from showing up as all of who you really are? Do you have an over-active inner critic that loves to come out to play, right when you need it the least?

Then this episode is for you!

Here's What We'll Cover About Your Out-Of-Control Inner Critic

  • Three ways that negative self-talk keeps us stuck in Imposter Syndrome
  • The problem with positive thinking
  • My five-step process for ditching Imposter Syndrome
  • How negative self-talk turns our limiting beliefs into dandelions
  • Why learning how to choose which thoughts to feed lays foundations for setting yourself free from Imposter Syndrome

Listen Here Now:

Tweetables On Your Out-Of-Control Inner Critic

Loved This? Want More?

Prefer to read? Here's the transcript for dealing with your out-of-control inner critic:

Do you ever feel like you've tried everything to wave goodbye to imposter syndrome, but it hasn't worked? You've taken advice from everyone from Google to gurus, and the secret fear of being found out still gets you holding back from showing up as all of who you really are. Do you have an overactive inner critic that loves to come out to play right when you need it least? Then this episode is for you. We're going to be looking at why it's impossible to ditch imposter syndrome if you've got an out of control inner critic, and what you can do to turn this around.

So welcome to episode 21 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast. You can find show notes with the resources and additional materials from this episode at impostersyndromepodcast.fm/021. And today, we're going to talk about what I discovered from turning down my best job offer ever. The role my inner critic played in that. Three ways that negative self talk keeps us stuck in imposter syndrome. The problem with positive thinking. My five step process for ditching imposter syndrome and where your inner critic work fits on that. How negative self-talk will stop us from going through that process. And why taming your inner critic, learning how to choose which thoughts to feed, lays the foundations for making it so much easier to set yourself free from imposter syndrome, once and for all.

So I remember I was in my mid twenties. I was in engineering. I had got an extremely good degree. I was finishing up on my second job. Same company on the graduate rotation scheme. And I got head hunted back to the organisation I'd worked for in the summer holidays during my degree. And it was an okay job actually. And I was enjoying what I was doing in Germany. But when the chief engineer found out that I was thinking of leaving, he offered me a job that should have been irresistible. He wanted me to be his technical assistant.

I would personally be responsible for reviewing each and every project that the engineers wanted to work on before it was submitted to him for budget approval. And I would travel the world with him, sitting in those technical meetings. I'd also been studying Italian through the company on day release, and I would get to move to Italy. A dream come true. And I turned it down. I turned it down because of my self talk. I turned it down because of this thing that I had no idea back at the time was called imposter syndrome. Three o'clock in the morning, every single day after he made that job offer, he must be an idiot. How can he not spot what a complete fraud I am? How can he not realise that I'm just not up to this? I'm not good enough. He'll make a mistake hiring me. If I take this job, then each and every day, I'm going to live in fear of that being the day that they find me out and realise I do not belong there.

But I drowned out that self talk the way we do. I convinced myself it wasn't the right time, or it wasn't an opportunity I wanted and moving back to the UK needed to be my priority. Even though prior to the job offer it hadn't been. And I turned it down. It's one of my biggest job regrets. And it happened because I had an out of control inner critic that I believed more than the chief engineer. So nowadays, a bit of water is passed under that bridge and I've spent nearly 20 years now, specialising in imposter syndrome and supporting people to set themselves free from it. And when I chat with people, I find one of the biggest blocks to truly setting themselves free from imposter syndrome is an out of control inner critic.

There is three main ways that negative self-talk keeps us stuck with imposter syndrome. The first one is every time we have that conversation in our head, particularly if it's tied in with a strong emotion, it creates new neural pathways in the brain and reinforces the ones about beating us up. And it creates a physiological addiction to the adrenaline and cortisol that's fired off by that mind story drama. So the more we think a thought, the more it becomes a habit. The more it becomes our go-to. And unless you use the power of neuroplasticity, totally painless, I promise, to rewire those neural pathways, it is like a dandelion. You can pull off the green on top, but that root is going to find somewhere else to come up in cracks between the paving slabs.

The second way is our inner critic loves drama. That cycle, the thoughts fire off the biochemical reactions in the body, that stress response that feed our emotions, that feed more thoughts, that crank up until are inner drama queen or inner a drama king is really kicking off. This means that we've got buttons and fast tracks running in our brain. There is a little button that somebody can press that will fire off a cascade of negative self-talk that if we're being really objective, might seem a little bit extreme compared to what the input stimulus was. That constant repetition of these thoughts and these worries, the what-iffing and catastrophising, means this becomes our go-to. It is a fast track. It's hardwired in the brain. And unless we clear that out, those buttons are still going to be there no matter how much mindset work you do.

Then there's another aspect. One of the ways I define imposter syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we're judging ourselves. So if we catch ourselves having a thought, beating ourselves up, judging ourselves, we risk judging ourselves for having a thought about judging ourselves, about being scared about other people judging us. And so it reinforces the imposter syndrome. It quickly becomes a spiral.

Now there's a problem with positive thinking, and there's going to be more on that in next week's episode, which is three reasons why positive thinking sucks and what you could be doing instead. So I don't want to spoil the surprise on that. But in its simplest form, if we just try and paper over the cracks with some positive affirmations and a bit of mindset work, but all of that neural pathway stuff is still running and we've got the body being addicted to the adrenaline, the cortisol that it creates. And we got the emotional set point habits running that feed more of those thoughts. Then it's like scattering vegetable seeds on weedy land. They don't stand a chance.

So how negative self-talk gets in the way. Well, I've got my five step process for ditching imposter syndrome, which is what I teach in the Ditching Imposter Syndrome book and on my Stepping Up To Lead program. The first step is clearing out the imposter syndrome myths, which is really important because if we think it's incurable or we need it to perform and all those other myths, then we are going to self sabotage clearing it out. If you think the myths might be getting in your way, by the way, I have a training that you can do. A five part training to discover what your myths are, which you can find at clarejosa.com/myths. So that is the first step of my five step process.

The second step is taming your inner critic. This is not about going to war. You cannot fight away a negative thought. If you go in there and try to get rid of a negative thought, you're giving it your attention, your focus, your energy. All that's going to happen is a conversation where it tries to win. Because at its simplest essence, negative self-talk is trying to keep us safe. Even if it feels like a pretty screwy way of doing it. So taming your inner critic is about learning how to press pause and choose which thoughts to feed. So that very quickly in 60 second chunks, you can start to train your inner critic to become an inner cheerleader without whitewashing, without pretending it, without faking it.

Taming your inner critic is absolutely essential because step three is clearing out our hidden limiting beliefs, fears, and excuses. Step four is actually getting in there at that root cause level. What was driving, what was underpinning, those fears, blocks, beliefs and excuses, and releasing and resolving that so we can take off the secret masks. And then step five is consciously creating your future from that truly expanded place of being more of who you really are.

So if you haven't done step two, which a lot of people when we did the research studies in 2019 and 2022, found that classic coaching had not worked for them for imposter syndrome. It's because they'd been looking at doing the mindset work and looking at doing some limiting belief work, but they hadn't truly tamed that self talk. And that meant that the deeper work wasn't going to last. So they felt it was their fault, but actually it's just they weren't using the right techniques. Because if you've not cleared the negative self talk, then we can get stuck on a see-saw where your thinking mind is trying to say yes, but your unconscious mind, which is running the show, is yelling no. And it wins. And our limiting beliefs, our fears, our excuses, dare I call them that, they feed our thoughts. But similarly, our thought habits can recreate those beliefs, fears, and excuses if we try to clear them out. It works in both directions.

So when you're taming your inner critic, you are literally learning how to choose which thoughts to feed. Being able to create that pause long enough to bring a thought into your conscious awareness. Using signs from the body, for example, and your emotions, to be able to then choose whether or not you want to feed that mind story drama. And in my Inner Critic Bootcamp program, which is all about taming that inner critic and clearing up the negative self talk, we work on it at two levels. The first aid level with the, oh my goodness. I don't have time for navel-gazing. I've got to go into that meeting right now. What can I do in under 60 seconds while everybody is watching? And at the preventative level. What can I do three or four times a day for a minute to mean that I no longer hit that drama point anymore?

And it's so much more than mindset. You need to clear out the thought habits from the body as well. So if you've got an overactive inner critic, obviously I've got a book, Ditching Imposter Syndrome, and a course, Inner Critic Bootcamp, to support you with rewiring those neural pathways and reprogramming the body.

And I've also got something I want to gift you right now, which can help you with learning how to start pressing pause, which gives you the opportunity to choose to feed a different thought. It's a short MP3 process. I'm not including it here in the podcast episode in case you're driving or operating machinery or cooking dinner, because you're going to need to close your eyes. You can get it right away at clarejosa.com/pause.

I know as a certified yoga meditation teacher, the power of the breath to create change. There's so much more than just a bit of mindful belly breathing. And this technique is a way to help you calm your thoughts, to calm the body, to soften the emotions and be able to start choosing which thoughts to feed at a super simple, use it any time, any place level. It's one of those first aid techniques I mentioned earlier in this episode. So go and play with that now. Let me know how you get on. What does it feel like to press pause on your thoughts? What shifts when you do this process? And then make sure you're subscribed wherever you love to get your podcast. Because the next episode, which will be number 22, is all about three reasons why positive thinking sucks and what you could be doing instead. 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.

Want to find out your Imposter Syndrome Score? Take Clare's free research-backed, quiz-style assessment and get your score plus a personalised action plan in the next 3 minutes.

Want to stay in the loop with the latest news and events? Get Clare's free occasional What's On newsletter:

What Do You Want To Do Next?