Can You Cure Imposter Syndrome? [Episode 24]

Can you cure Imposter Syndrome? Or is it something you simply have to learn to cope with? Is it an inevitable part of stretching comfort zones? Or something you could set yourself free from, without pretending, or worrying about it coming back?

The internet is full of people telling us that there's nothing we can do to cure Imposter Syndrome. But why is that such a big problem? And how might that keep you stuck, worrying about being 'found out' as not good enough or a fraud, no matter how hard you try to ditch it?

In this episode of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome Podcast we'll explore the secret addiction that keeps us stuck in the Imposter Syndrome rut, why Google and social media might not be the best place to go for advice, and what you could start doing today to kickstart your journey to turning Imposter Syndrome around.


Here's What We'll Cover About How You Can Cure Imposter Syndrome:

  • Is Imposter Syndrome incurable? And why do so many people think that?
  • What happens when you believe this?
  • The problem with Imposter Syndrome coping strategies
  • The secret addiction that keeps us stuck in the Imposter Syndrome rut
  • Why do so many people tell us that there's no cure for Imposter Syndrome?
  • What's the answer?
  • How could you get started today?

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Prefer to read, rather than listen? Here's the transcript for Can You Cure Imposter Syndrome?

Can you actually cure imposter syndrome? Or is it something you simply have to learn to cope with? Is it an inevitable part of stretching comfort zones? Or something you could say yourself free from without pretending or worrying about it coming back? In this episode of the ditching imposter syndrome podcast we're going to be tackling this and more.

The internet is full of people telling us there's nothing we can do to cure imposter syndrome. But why is that such a big problem? And how might that be keeping you stuck worrying about being found out is not good enough or fraud, no matter how hard you try to ditch it? So in today's episode of the ditching imposter syndrome podcast we're going to explore the secret addiction that keeps us stuck in the imposter syndrome rut, why Google and social media might not be the best place to go to for advice, and what you could start doing today to kickstart your journey to turning imposter syndrome around.

So, that big question: Surely it's incurable?

Can you cure imposter syndrome? Or is it just something that you have to either pretend has gone away or work really hard to ignore when it comes and bites you on the backside?

So this is a super common question that comes up when I've run a workshop or a keynote on imposter syndrome: somebody will sit through the whole session and find it really useful and then go "Yeah, but surely it's incurable?"

And I'll never forget once doing a podcast interview for a big name podcaster. We got to the end of the interview and the interviewer just said "But Clare, surely you've just been lying to us for the last half hour and there's not really anything we can do about this?" So why does so many people think this?

It's because they've fallen for the myth that imposter syndrome is incurable. And it's inevitable. That there's nothing we can do to get rid of it. Everybody has it.

Well, here's is a little bit of data for you from the 2022 research study that we've just published. And we had the 2019 research study. Both interviewed 2000 people on imposter syndrome. Back in 2019 52% of people were running imposter syndrome daily or regularly. In 2022, due to the pandemic and other things and burnout that figure's up at 62% experiencing this daily or regularly. But that's not everyone. And in both studies about 11 to 15% of people didn't experience it at all and never had.

And the work I've done over the last 20 years with thousands and thousands of people has shown that you can truly set yourself free from this. It is not incurable! You don't have to spend the rest of your life looking for bigger and better coping strategies. So where does that come from?

The thing is that the internet is full of people with wonderfully open hearts who want to make a difference, who are sharing the strategies that worked for them to cope with imposter syndrome.

And for those strategies to be valid Imposter syndrome has to be incurable. And there's another side to this. If what we've been doing hasn't worked and we've tried really hard and we've read the books and we've read the articles and we've watched the interviews and we've seen the celebrities giving us their top tips and we try that and it doesn't work, we've got two choices: we either blame ourselves or we decide it's incurable.

 So the vast majority of people don't know how to set themselves free from imposter syndrome and that's not their fault.

The other thing that's happening is most people think imposter syndrome is just about mindset. You know - if you give yourself a pep talk and channel your inner winner then imposter syndrome will go away.

The research studies I've done show that it's actually much deeper at the identity level: Who am I to be doing this? What if they find me out? What if they realise they made a mistake hiring me?

It's about who we are, not what we can and can't do at that mindset level.

So if we apply mindset strategies to imposter syndrome they can work as a little bit of a sticking plaster (Bandaid for my American friends) But plasters eventually fall off.

And here the problem lies. So when we've put all this effort into clearing out imposter syndrome and it hasn't worked, the logical conclusion is there's nothing we can do about it. So we go and look for better ways to cope. If you ask Google what's been searched on imposter syndrome: how to handle imposter syndrome; how to deal with imposter syndrome; how to cope with imposter syndrome; how to succeed despite Imposter syndrome.

People are focusing on doing what I call building a better bridge of coping strategies. If we think about imposter syndrome, one of my definitions is "it's the gap between who we see ourselves as being and who we think we need to be, to achieve a goal or a dream."

And if we need to go over that ravine, we build a bridge that I call the bridge of coping strategies. But some of us that might be like the Forth Bridge in Scotland - really nice and strong and constantly under maintenance. Or it might be like an Amazonian rope bridge that we're frankly terrified to put a foot on.

When something happens in life that means that we're about to grow or stretch, then that bridge of coping strategies needs to get bigger because the gap has widened. So we need to keep constantly building a better bridge of coping strategies. If you want to know more about the bridge of coping strategies, that is all waiting for you in an earlier episode episode nine from the ditching imposter syndrome podcast.

So what happens when we believe imposter syndrome is incurable?

Well, if we believe something's impossible, then the unconscious mind takes that as an instruction.

If we believe it's incurable or inevitable or even a sign of potential or we need it to succeed, which is something I see people defending the right to have imposter syndrome in order to succeed daily on social media - the unconscious mind won't let us make a change it believes is impossible or dangerous.

So if you're running the "I need imposter syndrome to succeed" belief and you get rid of imposter syndrome: "Oh my God, how am I going to succeed now?!" Yeah or "it's incurable! There's nothing I can do about it!" Well then the unconscious mind is going to go "sure, Clare, I'll show you lots of evidence to back that up! But if some crazy lady on a podcast who's written a book and taught this stuff for 20 years says the opposite, I'm not going to believe her."

So this myth - believing it's incurable - becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. To totally steal from Henry Ford:

"Whether you believe imposter syndrome can be cured or you believe it can't, you're right."

So the secret addiction that keeps us stuck in imposter syndrome, in that rut, is the imposter syndrome myths.

"Without imposter syndrome I'd be unbearable, I'd be arrogant! Nobody would like me anymore!"

"Without imposter syndrome I wouldn't have succeeded to where I am."

The myths are a really important first step to clear out. When I work with people on imposter syndrome it's often one of the first things we do together. Remember: the unconscious mind won't let you make a change It believes is impossible or dangerous.

So let's clear out the whole 'impossible' stuff. Alice in Wonderland believing three impossible things before breakfast? Great, when you're writing a book; not so useful for clearing out imposter syndrome.

So on the resources show notes page for this episode, you'll see a link to my imposter syndrome myths training. It's a free five day training to help you spot which myths you're running, to clear out the most common, and to let you know what you can do to truly set yourself free for imposter syndrome. It's yours as my gift click on the link to go to the show notes page scroll down here at today's resources and go and get yourself that training as my gift to your future.

So what is the problem with coping strategies for imposter syndrome? What was wrong with them? Why shouldn't we just carry around suitcases of extra planks for that bridge of coping strategies, just in case somebody asks us a question in a meeting?

The problem comes when we're relying on the bridge of coping strategies approach, rather than clearing out what was driving imposter syndrome vs instead allowing ourselves to become the version of us that achieves something, closing the imposter syndrome gap, and clearing it out once and for all.

When we're focusing on the bridge of coping strategies, every single trigger point, every single opportunity to grow, to shine, to be visible, to get promoted, to become more of who we really are, widens the imposter syndrome gap. It risks the bridge tumbling into the ravine. So we do things to stop the gap widening. It's called self-sabotage:

We don't return that call.

We don't apply for that job.

We volunteer somebody else for that opportunity to shine...

... So that we still feel safe.

So yes, by all means go for the bridge of coping strategies approach, but you need to be aware of the deeper cost. Not only does it cost us energy to keep putting more planks or rivets in that bridge, but there's that true cost of getting to be less of who we really are, of not fulfilling our potential, of not making the difference we're really here to make.

So the reason why so many people tell us that there's no cure for imposter syndrome and we've just got to learn different and clever ways of handling it is because they don't have the answers themselves.

When you know how to do this, there's no reason to wait another day, feeding the bridge of coping strategies, rather than taking steps to genuinely set yourself free from this.

And what does it feel like when you set yourself free?

If a stretch opportunity comes up for me I might have that brief flinch: "Oh gosh, am I the kind of person that does that?"

And then instead of going into the whole mind-story drama or of imposter syndrome and doing everything I can to put one foot on the gas pedal - the accelerator - and one foot on the brake at the same time... Instead of that, there is no drama.

I just ask myself - I ask my body - "Do I actually want this or am I just a little bit scared because it's outside a comfort zone? Okay I do want this. Great. What do I need to let go off or allow myself to take on, to allow myself to become the version of me?"

And I put my energy and focus into that, so then doing whatever it is becomes exciting rather than frightening. I've closed any imposter syndrome gap. Its thoughts didn't need to get into the mind-story drama. And I just get on with doing what I've been asked to do. It becomes something that feels like an anticipation rather than anxiety.

So what's the answer?

 I've spent 20 years developing this stuff specialising in this. The bridge of coping strategies approach will only get you so far.

My Natural Resilience Method® is the five step process that I've created that helps people to truly set themselves free from imposter syndrome, once and for all. And it's really simple.

Step one:

You have to start by knowing how to press pause on stress, because it's impossible to change your life if you're burning out and you're stressed to the eyeballs. 

Step two: Taming your inner critic

Being able to turn off the mind-story drama without pretending; being able to calm the thoughts and then actually rewire your neural pathways to start physically turning your inner critic into a genuine cheerleader! And knowing how to choose which thoughts to feed.

Step three is rewiring the body

When you rewire the body to release its secret addiction to the mind-story drama thoughts and the beating ourselves up and everything else, it doesn't need to create situations to get the hit of the biochemicals that get fired off whenever we think negative thoughts.

Step four:

When you know how to choose which thoughts to feed and you've been doing that work so that your self-talk is changing, you're retuning that inner radio station to a place that's got more sunshine and smiles.

Then it's looking at resetting toxic boundaries and clearing out some of what was driving imposter syndrome. And there are so many levels you can do this at.

You can go from being able to learn how to say no and stop being a people pleaser straight right down to the bottom level identity level work. And depending how big a deal imposter syndrome is for you, most people only need to do the beginning steps of that process to experience lifelong breakthroughs.

And then step five is consciously creating your future.

Because when you decide who you want to be which version of you you want to show up in the world as, and you make choices from that empowered grounded comfortable-in-your-own-skin place, the decisions you make about the actions you take are vastly different.

And you get to make a bigger difference in the world with your ideas and dreams having the impact they deserve.


So that is why it's so important not to fall for the myth that imposter syndrome is incurable, because otherwise you're missing out on all of that.

And you're committing yourself to potentially decades of having to feed that bridge of coping strategies, self-sabotaging and holding back on fulfilling your potential making the difference you're dreaming of making.

I'm here to help you!

You've got the book - Ditching Imposter Syndrome - you can change your life forever, starting today, for less than the price for pizza. 

And if you want to work with me, you've got the Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp and my Soultuitive® leadership development program, so you can do that deeper dive work with support from me, to be able to set yourself free from this once and for all.

I hope you found that useful! Your #DoOneThing for this episode is:

Let go of the belief that imposter syndrome is incurable and start allowing yourself to imagine how life is going to feel once you're free from this once and for all!

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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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