Have You Been Trying To Overcome Imposter Syndrome With Positive Affirmations? How To Avoid The Imposter Syndrome Pantomime (And Supercharge Your Success) [Episode 028]

Have you ever been given the advice to use positive affirmations to overcome Imposter Syndrome? Frustrated that it didn't work for you? It's not your fault! In today's episode you'll discover exactly why that happened, how to avoid the Imposter Syndrome pantomime, and the key elements that need to be in place for positive affirmations to actually work - and even supercharge your success. And when the do, they're amazing.

Here's What We'll Cover About Imposter Syndrome & Positive Affirmations

  • 4 reasons why they also don't!
  • Why 'can' is not the opposite of 'can't'
  • The keys to making positive affirmations work for you
  • My mega-ninja tip for using affirmations to fast-track change in ways that are fun and forever

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

Welcome to episode 28 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa. And this week, we're looking at using positive affirmations to overcome Imposter Syndrome. It is one of the most popular pieces of advice that I see on social media, even from experts, and how to avoid the Imposter Syndrome pantomime, which these lasts so often cause. And how to supercharge your success. And I am a super fan of affirmations.

So this is for you if you've tried positive affirmations to clear Imposter Syndrome, to boost your confidence, to change habits and change your life, and it simply hasn't worked for you, I'm going to give you the keys to success and the secret source for really making this work for you. So if you've hung around with me for a while, you'll know I'm a super fan of positive affirmations. But the problem is, when it comes to using them with Imposter Syndrome, most people and most advice is really messing this up. You see it all over social media.

Just think positive thoughts. Here are five affirmations I use to overcome Imposter Syndrome in under 60 seconds. It's just a mindset thing. It's time to snap yourself out of Imposter Syndrome with these positive thoughts. I'm seriously into affirmations.

I've even had a book published on how the power of gratitude can turn your inner critic into a genuine cheerleader. It's called 'A Year Full of Gratitude', by the way. But it really bugs me when I see experts on social media telling people all they need is a few affirmations to clear a truly deep identity level issue like Imposter Syndrome, with the self-sabotage that brings with it, with the way it destroys our confidence, with the way it makes us dream big but play small. So in today's episode of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast, we're going to cover how affirmations work, but three reasons why they also don't. Why can is not the opposite of can't.

Some ancient wisdom from my great Auntie Yo, specifically, how to avoid Imposter Syndrome pantomime, which is super common and it derails your efforts to clear this stuff out. And it's one of the big reasons why people think Imposter Syndrome is incurable. Exactly how to use positive affirmations to supercharge your success and your change in clearing Imposter Syndrome. And my mega ninja tip, a secret source, even a super source, a secret source to help make positive affirmations work for you so you can clear out Imposter Syndrome and step up to make the difference you were born to make in the world with courage, confidence and passion. So let's start right at the beginning today.

How do affirmations work? They work because they're trying to reprogramme our neural pathways in our brain. When we think a thought often enough, then sign ups in the brain fire off tiny reactions that connect. The more we think of thought, the more energy that goes into it, the more emotion that goes into it, the more easily these little connections become neural pathways, like shortcuts in the brain. And these become our autopilots for habits.

Speaker 1 (03:02)
It's why every time you get on a bike, you don't have to relearn how to ride it because your brain has stored the information in neural pathways to help you also know what to do. We also develop what I call and what the yoga world calls a muscle memory, a body memory for the actions that we're taking. So affirmations help to work with that. They bypass the rational thinking brain and they become clear instructions to the unconscious mind. So if we want to use affirmations to help us achieve something, it's like knowing the dish we want to cook and the affirmations become part of the recipe, helping the unconscious mind to know what it is that we want to achieve.

But there are some reasons why they don't work. There are actually four reasons. I said in the introduction I was going to give you three, but I've thought of an extra one I don't want to hold back on. So four reasons why affirmations also don't work, and this is particularly relevant in the context of clearing imposter syndrome. Number one, they can be too vague and general.

I am full of abundance. I am a confident being, I am a brilliant public speaker. But the unconscious mind needs clear, specific instructions like a recipe. So if you want to use an affirmation to create change, the unconscious mind needs to be able to instantly imagine what that means. So if you're saying an affirmation of like, I am happy, and the unconscious mind isn't used to delivering that state to you, it has to do some serious background thinking of what does happy mean in Clare's world?

And how do I do happy? And by that point, the energy of the affirmation is lost. Number two, we often phrase them negatively. We've talked about this in the last couple of episodes when we were looking at creating change and knew its resolutions. So this one is slightly less common, but I still see people doing it nearly every single day.

The unconscious mind cannot process a negative. If you tell it not to imagine something, it first has to imagine it. If you're shouting at children in a playground, don't fall over because you can see them doing something dangerous. They first have to imagine fall over. The knot gets lost as they scrape their knee.

This is simply how the unconscious mind works. So you need to make sure that your affirmation is a phrase talking about what you do want rather than what you don't want. Number three, with affirmations that are quite vague and maybe they've been given to us by somebody else, somebody said, this is a great affirmation. It doesn't really resonate with us. It's not attuned to us, it's not tailored to us and how we're wired in our life experience, then we don't have an emotional connection with it.

That emotional connection is an essential part of rewiring the neural pathways, reprogramming the body memory and actually allowing that affirmation to work. Having a strong emotion with a thought or a saying that we're saying to ourselves, like an affirmation actually fast tracks, rewiring the neural pathways so we don't have to say that affirmation 200,000 times a day. So that emotional connection, that really relevant affirmation is absolutely essential. And the fourth one I want to share with you today is a lot of affirmations are simply not believable to us.

A bit of an elephant in the room. There a lot of the time when we're saying an affirmation, we don't really believe it. We don't really believe it's true. It's not something that we can connect with as part of who we are, who we're being. If that is like a "woo!" to you, go and listen to episode 27, okay?

We talk about this in some detail. And episode 26, it will help you with that. But if you've heard those two episodes, that will be really starting to resonate with you right now. Affirmations need to be about who we're going to allow ourselves to become rather than what we're doing, because otherwise the two can end up in conflict. So this is the thing with point number four here.

If an affirmation is not believable for you, it will trigger what psychologists call the backfire effect, which I call the Impostor Syndrome pantomime. If you're using affirmations to deal with Imposter Syndrome. So when we're running Imposter Syndrome, we are beating ourselves up, we are finding all the ways to tell ourselves we're not good enough. We might be found out, they'll realise we're a fraud, we're faking it, we're winging it, our luck's going to run out. When I'm working with clients, particularly in things like my Imposter Syndrome bootcamp or stepping up to lead, we talk about Imposter Syndrome being the secret fear of others judging us the way we're judging ourselves.

You cannot paper over the cracks with that. You need to do that slightly deeper work. And it doesn't have to be massive navel gazing, but you need to go below the surface to clear, resolve and release what has been driving. That negative self talk. You cannot flip from negative to positive.

So here's what happens. Those of you who live in countries where you drive cars with a gear stick, a stick shift, I think you call it in the States, a manual car, you'll know that you have to go through neutral to be able to change gear. If you don't, you are going to make a car mechanic very, very happy. It's the same with our thoughts. If you are used to thinking a negative thought about yourself in a certain context, you will have neural pathways in your brain that are used to thinking that thought.

You will have filters in the part of your brain called the reticular activating system that are used to spotting evidence to back up that thought. You will have biochemical reaction addictions in the cells in your body that are used to thriving on the stress and adrenaline and all the hormones that come with that negative thought. If you try to flip a body and a mind that are primed for that negative thought into a positive one, it's just going to go, I don't think so. At best. At worst, if you put a lot of energy into that affirmation, it's going to really kick back.

The backfire effect means the unconscious mind and the way that you've programmed the neural pathways will provide you with countless evidence and examples of why the affirmation is wrong and it will undermine your efforts. Now, this doesn't mean that affirmations can't work, it just means you need to be doing them differently. And to understand this, I want to share something that my great Auntie Yo used to teach me. She was very well known in the family for being ever so slightly dotty, and she had a saying, I must have been 9/10, there's no such thing as can't. Whenever I said, I can't do something, there's no such thing as can't, Clare.

Now, this was actually quite useful in its own way at the time, because it helped me to realise how the stories I was telling myself were limiting what I could achieve and which version of me and myself I was going to allow myself to become. I wasn't quite that cognitive about it back then, but I have to admit that over the years that I've been specialising in the work I now do, helping business leaders to clear out their secret self imposed glass ceilings that they didn't even realise they put there, is that can is not the opposite of can't. You can't just flip. It becomes like a flip flop. It is like a pantomime.

Those of you who've ever experienced a pantomime (I think they're a pretty UK thing) you've got a pantomime kind of villain or horse or something on stage and somebody is saying, oh, no, you can't. And somebody else is saying, oh, yes, you can. Oh, no, you can't. Oh, yes, you can.

And suddenly he's behind you, pointing at the pantomime villain. It's kind of like that in your brain and in your body and in your energy system when you're trying to use affirmations that don't fit you, that are triggering the backfire effect to clear out imposter syndrome. Oh, I'm rubbish at such and such. Oh, no, you're brilliant. I'm brilliant at such and such.

No, you're rubbish. I'm brilliant. Oh, no, you're not. Oh, yes, I am. And you're creating this massive inner conflict that fires off the fight flight freeze response, which wants to keep us safe.

So you self sabotage to shut down the conversation. And if you want to see whether this is happening for you, try it all the size right now think about something that you regularly tell yourself you can't do. If you then tell yourself you can do it, notice if there's an area of tension in your body, if there is, it means that that flipflop is not going to work for you. There's something that you need to clear or release that was driving the icon narrative to be able to get that positive affirmation to work. Positive affirmations can be incredibly useful.

They can be an incredibly powerful tool for personal development, for change, and for clearing Imposter Syndrome done in the right way. And I want to share with you now some of the strategy that I share in Ditching Imposter Syndrome. So if you've got the book Ditching Imposter Syndrome, it's on page 210. And if you've got the kindle version, you want to search for the exercise that is, how to create positive affirmations that work. So there's a process that we go through in Ditching Imposter Syndromes to create truly life changing, empowering affirmations.

The keys to this process are they need to be tailored to you. They need to be relevant, not something you picked out of a beautiful card deck. They need to be your affirmations, taking you on a journey step by step towards the version of you that you want to allow yourself to become. So that's the next bits, they need to be incremental. Those increments can be quite big, it doesn't need to take forever.

But instead of flipping, you need to be gently shifting who you feel yourself to be, how your body feels about that, and what your neural pathways are. So they need to be tailored to you and relevant. They need to be specific. The unconscious mind needs to immediately, subconsciously the whole point of it, be able to go, oh yeah, that's what she means. So it might be instead of I want to be happy or I am happy, is I'm as happy as I was on that particular day when I was with that particular person on a roller coaster.

And we got to the end of the ride and I felt so exhilarated. Finding a phrase that encapsulates that energy so that the unconscious mind immediately goes, ah, that's what happy means in this context. So we've got tailored, we've got specific. There's a next one which is really important for clearing out the backfire effect, this kind of like Imposter Syndrome pantomime. Your positive affirmations need to be believable at an unconscious level and body level.

Your brain and your body need to believe they are possible, don't need to yet believe they're true. They need to believe they're possible if they're not. Yeah, if you get a flinch on that, a bit of tensing your mind or your body, there's work we can do to clear that. It just means that there's a block, there a hidden fear excuse or limiting belief that is likely to sabotage that affirmation that can be cleared, but if your affirmation makes you tense and flinch, then there's part of you that either thinks it's not believable or thinks it's a bit too scary. So you do need to deal with that.

The next tip is you need to be able to emotionally connect with the affirmation. It skyrockets the speed at which it works. And once we've made the decision to change, I mean, frankly, who wants to hang around? Let's just crack on with this. Yeah, let's do it in ways that are safe but enjoyable.

There's no reason to slow it down. The emotion, that emotional connection, that positive emotional connection, fast tracks the speed at which the affirmation is going to rewire the neural pathways and philtres in your brain. And it helps declare the cellular level memory of whatever it is that you're releasing through the work with the affirmation. And if you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, pop along to page 214 right now. If you're on the Kindle version of the audiobook, the exercise you're looking for is the secret source for positive affirmations.

Once you've used the exercise on page 211 to create your really bespoke tailored, specific, believable, emotionally connecting with affirmation, it teaches you how to really integrate that at a deep level very very easily. And for those of you who don't have the book, I want to give you a ninja tip today to help you to fast track how the affirmations can help you to create change. And this is particularly important if you've got something like Impostor Syndrome running. So your ninja tip is in fact it's a mega ninja tip, okay? With affirmations, do not think them, feel them.

If your affirmations remain as a cognitive exercise, they will have limited effect if you really allow yourself to physically experience that affirmation and when you do it, this will make sense. If you're sitting there right now saying, oh God, what's Clare been on? Yeah, go and do the stuff in the book and this will make sense. But experience the affirmation. What you're doing there is changing and creating new body memories, new muscle memories.

You are doing a kinaesthetic experiencing of becoming the version of you in your body and in your mind for whom that affirmation is true. That unlocks the magic of your unconscious mind to be able to give you the how to. And it also helps to reprogram those philtres so you can spot the progress you're making. So don't think them, feel them for maximum impact. It supercharges you success because you're fast tracking those new neural pathways, creating really deep identity shifts, and releasing those old hidden blocks that would be keeping you stuck.

I hope you found that useful today. As a quick roundup, we've been through how affirmations work. Four reasons, not three. Why they don't, why can is not the opposite of can't. Thank you very much Auntie Yo.

My process for creating affirmations that really work and my mega ninja tip for fast tracking your success with them. You've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome as a resource. If you want support with this, come and get some coaching and mentoring with one of my certified Imposter Syndrome Master Coaches or First-Aiders on this. You can do that in the Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp. And remember, if you've not started yet on your Ditching Impostor Syndrome journey, take my free Imposter Syndrome scorecard.

You can find it at clarejosa.com/quiz. Links for everything else I've talked about in this episode is in the Show Notes. Wherever it is you're looking at podcast. Click on Show Notes and it will show you. Doing the quiz gives you a personalised action plan, meaning you can get started on your Ditching Imposter Syndrome journey today.

I hope you found that useful. I am going to be back next week with the next episode where we're going to be talking about unlocking your potential with the single most powerful belief for personal growth, and you can start implementing it even before the end of that 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.

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.

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