Forget Focusing On Mindset If You Want To Overcome Imposter Syndrome [Episode 036]

Today we're talking about why you need to forget focusing on mindset, if you want to overcome Imposter Syndrome, despite mindset being the single most-commonly recommended strategy on the internet to clear it... And it can even make it worse.

What You'll Discover Today

  • What is 'mindset'
  • Where does mindset come from?
  • Why focusing on mindset for IS makes it worse
  • Where is Imposter Syndrome 'stored'?
  • What's really drive your self-sabotage behaviour
  • How working at the 'mindset' level creates an inner conflict
  • The science-backed, 5-step strategy to set yourself free from this, once and for all

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

Hello and welcome to Episode 36 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa. And today we are talking about why you need to forget focusing on mindset if you want to overcome imposter syndrome, despite mindset being the single most common recommended strategy on the internet to clear it. So this is a super common question that I get asked by people when I do keynotes or when they fill in my imposter syndrome scorecard. How can I use my mindset to cope with imposter syndrome? Now, there are two really big problems with this statement. Firstly, the mindset, which is the purpose of today's episode. Second is the cope. Coping with imposter syndrome, implying it's incurable. If that's one of the myths you've picked up, you are not to blame. You are in great company. There is a podcast episode in the show notes exactly covering this. Go and listen to it after this episode. It's Episode 24, but surely imposter syndrome is incurable. Then the rest of this episode today is all about why mindset can actually make imposter syndrome worse and why it is time to ditch the myth that we can think our way out of imposter syndrome, and of course, as always, what to do instead.

Here's what we're going to cover today. What is mindset? Where does mindset come from? Why focusing on mindset for imposter syndrome risks making it worse? Where imposter syndrome is actually stored and it's not where most people think? What's really driving your self sabotage behaviours? How working with the mindset level creates in a conflict and the science-backed five step strategy to truly set yourself free from this once and for all. So I've been running a research study, an international research study for the last five years on imposter syndrome and combining it with looking at burnout. One of the things that we found in our interviews and our quantitative studies is people beat themselves up because they tried to work at the mindset level with imposter syndrome. Maybe it's what their coach told them to do, or they read it from some guru on the internet and it didn't work. They carried on self sabotaging. They increased their awareness of when imposter syndrome was striking, but they didn't know how to prevent it. It's a really big deal. 25% of our respondents have considered quitting their job due to imposter syndrome in the past week alone.

Back in 2001, I was one of them. I quit a career I loved to run away from something I later discovered was imposter syndrome that I could have cleared out and stayed in engineering. To help you see whether this episode today is potentially important to you, either for yourself or for a team member, I want to share the story of Sarah. Sarah is a project manager who struggled with imposter syndrome. She believed that she wasn't good enough and that everyone would discover she didn't deserve her position. Sound familiar? Do you recognise this in yourself or with colleagues or loved ones? To cope with her anxiety, she put on a confident and outgoing persona at work. She tried to project an image of someone who was confident and capable, but inside she felt like a fraud. So she turned to the internet and books, tried to fix her imposter syndrome by focusing on her mindset. After all, the symptom she was seeing for imposter syndrome was those thoughts at three o'clock in the morning telling her that today might be the day her luck would run out and she would be found out. She read books, listened to podcasts, paid money for coaching, practise positive affirmations.

But the more she tried to change her thoughts and feelings, the more she felt like she was wearing a mask. She was ignoring the hidden fears that were driving her self sabotage. And she was trying to paper over the cracks, playing constant catch up with the self talk that was causing her pain and not knowing how to stop it from coming up in the first place. And Sarah's approach is really common. It's brilliant that she got out there and started taking action. But here's the thing. What we found in the research studies is people will say things like, I've tried using mindset techniques and they're not working. It must be my fault. Actually, we hear the same thing from coaches. Yeah, it's a big shhh, don't tell anyone. But a lot of coaches come to me to join my Master Coach program because they know that classic coaching techniques are not touching the sides when it comes to imposter syndrome, other than helping people to cope better. It's not really clearing it out. So what is mindset? You could describe it as our beliefs and attitudes and how this influences how we perceive ourselves, others, how the world works, and the actions that we then take.

But when you talk to most people about what is mindset, they describe it as the thoughts they're thinking and the feelings that creates. There's been some fantastic work done on fixed versus growth mindset, and all of that thing can help to unlock your potential. But the problem is mindset is just the surface level symptom of a much deeper problem. If you're looking at cause and effect, the mindset is the effect of deeper underlying causes. Where does mindset come from? Our habitual thoughts, they create what's called neural pathways in the brain, like fast track highways, say that a certain prompt will create a certain thought process, often with the help of our inner drama gene, as I call it. This also programmes the filters in the brain, the reticular activating system, to notice examples of things that support those habitual thoughts. If our mindset, in air quotes, is all about beating ourselves up and we're worried, we'll be found out and we feel bad, we judge ourselves for even feeling that way because we shouldn't, we should have a positive mental attitude and positive affirmations should be working. Lots of 'shoulds' in here. Can you feel them?

Yeah, I need to do an episode on 'should it' soon. When all of this is hard wired into the brain, it's incredibly hard to change that wiring by using your thoughts because this hard wiring is just the surface level symptom of the underlying root cause. My engineering background, a large amount of it was in Six Sigma back in the early days. I was one of the first master black belts, and it was really drummed into us. Something that still is very special to me is don't fix the symptoms, fix the root cause, and then the symptoms disappear of their own accord. You don't have to put energy into preventing a problem if you've gone into looking at what it was that was truly causing it and made sure it simply can't happen anymore. So focusing on mindset for imposter syndrome can make it worse because it doesn't actually fix imposter syndrome. So you end up beating yourself up and judging yourself and, I'm not even good enough to manage to make these techniques work. The so and so on the internet should be brilliant and really worked for them. Big hint, a lot of the people who say certain affirmations and mindset shifts worked for them weren't actually struggling with imposter syndrome.

The other thing though is it creates an internal conflict. So you have your conscious mind where you're trying to rewrite the mindset rules and you have your unconscious mind that's got the programming in that's actually running the show. And you're trying to get the two of them to say different things and not fight. And imposter syndrome isn't really stored in your head. Yes, the thought habits that are created by it are, but it's actually stored in the body. And very few people do the work to clear out the body memory of imposter syndrome. It's something I cover in a lot of detail in my Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp Training Program and also my Imposter Syndrome First-Aid and Master Coach Programs. But in essence, your body feels every thought you think. And that's why mindset alone is not enough to clear imposter syndrome. In the stress cycle, you think a thought, the body has an automatic reaction to it, fires off bio chemical reactions to that particular thought, be it wonderful or horrible. These then create our experience of emotions. They feed more thoughts and suddenly we're on that inner drama gene roller coaster. All of this impacts the actions we take and how those actions feel to us.

So if we try to fix this at the thinking level, then we're using our thoughts to try and create a solution to a problem that our thoughts created. If you also clear this out at the body level, because every cell in the body gets used to those bio chemical reactions, we have an inner set point, an inner frequency for those reactions. Some people are naturally very happy, some people are naturally very stressed. But you can shift that when you work with the body as well as the mindset, and then you do the deeper work into, All right, what's really running this show? What are the unmet needs or the secret hidden fears and worries and dare I say excuses that mean those surface level thoughts are happening? When you clear things out at that level, what were these thoughts doing for me? What are they trying to protect me from? How can I resolve that in a healthy way? You don't need the mindset. It shifts of its own accord. When you work with the body, the emotions, the mind, and woo-woo alert here, energy, you can create lifelong shifts in ways that are fast, fun, and forever.

And yes, our mindset does play a role in imposter syndrome, but it's not the cause of the problem. And unless you get there and you actually niggle away and find those causes and you don't need causal events, it's like a causal emotion and a causal need. When you resolve those in ways that are safe and healthy, then you set yourself truly free from imposter syndrome. You get to show up as all of who you really are. Imposter syndrome is a subconscious fear-based response processed by the primal part of your brain before the mindset part even gets a look in. When you resolve what was causing the primal part of your brain to go 'no', then the mindset stuff resolves itself. But if you've got the primal part of your brain whose sole purpose is to protect you and keep you alive, screaming no, and you're trying to do mindset work, saying, oh no, but it'll be so lovely, guess which one is going to win? That's why we self sabotage and the self sabotage - the trigger for that, the momentum for that is subconscious. So you need to do the deeper than mindset work to move beyond just coping strategies with imposter syndrome.

So let's go back to Sarah, who was working with one of our certified master coaches. So once Sarah realised that she needed to address her hidden fears and start working with us to do so, she quickly noticed her old coping strategies were no longer needed. She was rarely self sabotaging anymore. And when she did, it was now usually due to being tired and overwhelmed rather than a scared. She found herself speaking up in meetings, challenging things she felt were wrong without getting defensive and generally feeling much less stressed and much happier. She had cleared what was subconsciously driving her mindset rather than going to war with her conscious mind. So what can you do instead? Well, after 20 years of specialising this, including clearing my own imposter syndrome and decoding, it took me 10 years to figure out what had actually caused that to work, I created the Natural Resilience Method. So the Natural Resilience Method has five core steps, and it's a cycle that you repeat. So you do one round at a level that feels safe and comfortable for you. Once that's settled and you've made those changes, you do it again like layers of an onion until you get to that root cause stuff.

By that point, so much of the surface level stuff has disappeared that that actually feels easy and even fun. So we start in the natural resilience method by getting grounded, pressing pause. You need to be able to press pause on the fear and the fight-flight-freeze response and the stress that imposter syndrome triggers. Because if you're super stressed and totally wound up and ready to spring and explode and using all your coping strategies, you're really not in a space to be able to create highly effective, low effort, deeper acting change. So learning how to reset your stress response, even if that's 20 times a day, helps you get back in your body and out of your stress head. Step two is all about taming your inner critic and starting the work on rewiring the neural pathways. So this might be where you would see traditional coaching and mindset work. But then we move into step three. After you've rewired your brain, you rewire your body. Because if you rewire the brain and you haven't rewired the body, the body will sit there and it will be like a dandelion between paving slabs will come back up and say, I need my fix, these bio chemical reactions.

Here's a nice little bit of inner drama, mind story drama, to kick those thoughts off to give me the fix I need. You do that work with the body to clear the blocks and actually a lot of the limiting belief work I do with people and that my coaches and master coaches do is based on working with the body. And this is brilliant because then you don't have to get into the content because quite often the story, the content is pretty yuck. If you clear this stuff out in the body, it automatically starts to rewire the neural pathways and you haven't had to go through the middle of the sludge to get that sense of relief, resolving, letting go and moving on. The fourth step on the natural resilience method is all about reclaiming your personal power. This is where you would deal with things like the four P's of imposter syndrome, so perfectionism, procrastination, project paralysis, and people pleasing. It's about reclaiming your energy, dealing with energy vampires, be they people, situations, processes, and consciously choosing how you want to show up and how you want to interact with the world. Then step five is about consciously creating your future.

Remember this cycle, you can do it many times, multiple layers. The reason we do the, Well, what do I want at the end of each cycle, not at the beginning, is because when you make those decisions, having cleared out the stuff, the fears, the excuses, the blocks, the limiting belief, the body memory of all this, you know, fatably, it can feel like trauma, when you've cleared that and then you decide which version of you you want to be and what you want to achieve and the impact you want to have, you dream an awful lot bigger than you would have done on day one. Then you do the cycle again. Those five steps, clearing out the next layer, resolving, releasing, letting go, smiling more, having more energy, having more impact. And it's always done in a way that feels safe to give you that high impact, low effort change. And if you'd like to dive in more deep and find out more about how the Natural Resilience Method works, I've got a free five day training for you, which is all about how those five stages fit together. And you could start making progress on them already as my gift.

You can find that at And a direct link to that will be in the show notes. So I hope you found that useful today. If you've been trying to use mindset to burst your way out of imposter syndrome and it's not been working, it is not your fault. It's just a tiny part of the puzzle for the solution. If you want to work on this, make sure if you want one to one that you've come to find out about our Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp hybrid coaching program, work with one of my certified coaches. Link in the keynotes. And if you want to support other people with this, I've got two levels of certification program, both of which are certified by the UK's Institute of Leadership and Management. One is for line managers, HR professionals, coaches and therapists who just want to add this to their toolkit at a foundation level, mental health first-aiders. That is called the Imposter Syndrome First-Aider. Link is in the show notes. And if you're already an experienced coach and therapist, I've got a Master Coach level program that helps you to do the much deeper work to clear the sticky blocks that nothing else has touched, including things like complex PTSD, but without having to get people to go through the drama and the pain of telling the story.

This stuff is just mind-blowingly effective. The results I see my Master Coach is getting with clients make me happy cry. And I'd love to get to share that with you. It only runs once a year. The First-Aider program is a prerequisite and doors are now open for applications. We've already sold some of next year's places before we even started marketing. Again, link in the show notes. I'd love to hear from you. Click on the links to where we're discussing this over on social media. Have you been trying? Mindset for imposter syndrome? How does it feel to realise it's not your fault that stuff hasn't cleared it for you? What you could be doing instead? 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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