What finding my keys in the fridge teaches us about Imposter Syndrome’s self-sabotage strategies! [Episode 038]

Do you have an equivalent to finding your keys in the fridge??? Discover in today's episode what this teaches us about Imposter Syndrome's self-sabotage strategies. This episode is for you if you know you secretly get in your own way - or a friend or someone in your team is doing this - and you don't know how to stop it.

What You'll Discover Today

  • Why my keys really ended up in the fridge
  • How my Imposter Syndrome Iceberg model explains why this happens
  • How burnout and toxic resilience make the keys-in-fridge thing worse
  • The secret truth about self-sabotaging
  • Surprisingly common ways we self-sabotage, without even realising
  • Three self-mentoring questions you can use today, to unpick what's secretly causing your self-sabotage runaway train, and how to stop it from leaving the station in the first place

Listen Here Now:

Resources From Today's Episode:

Prefer To Read?

Click here to read the transcript

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

Hello and welcome to Episode 38 of the Ditching Impostor Syndrome podcast, with me, your host, Clare Josa. And today we are talking about what finding my keys in the fridge teaches us about Impostor Syndrome self sabotage strategies. This episode is for you if you secretly know you are self sabotaging due to Impostor Syndrome, or someone in your team is and you don't know how to stop it. Yes, confession time. I do occasionally find my keys in the fridge.

To be honest, I'm pretty good at this. Now, I have a routine where I get in the front door, there's a drawer in our entrance hall. The keys go in there, I shut the drawer and it's become an autopilot habit. But before I had that habit, my keys used to turn up in the strangest of places. So in today's Ditching Impostor Syndrome episode, we're going to talk about why my keys really end up in the fridge.

And it's not because I need one of those special long armed white coats and a cell with mattresses for walls. What my Impostor Syndrome iceberg model teaches us about this and how you can then apply that to yourself. How burnout, toxic resilience and stress make the keys in the fridge thing worse. The secret about self sabotaging and Impostor Syndrome and why trying to deal with this consciously with mindset and positive thinking doesn't work. It doesn't matter how hard you try, it's not your fault.

And I want to share with you today a self mentoring question you can use right now to unpick what's secretly causing your runaway train of self sabotage and how to stop it from leaving the station in the first place. So, back in 2008, I spent a couple of years studying to certify as a meditation and mindfulness teacher. And one of the huge things we focused on was awareness. It's not all about hanging out with unicorns on your 29th chakra, it was about being really present here in the moment and how much of our life runs on autopilot without us even realising. To be honest, over those two years, it was quite a shock.

I hadn't really grasped, despite having two young children who really keep you in the moment. And I was a single mother at the time as well, so life was full on. I hadn't really grasped how little of it I was noticing, and that is because I was struggling with something that is incredibly common but rarely spoken about. I was spending most of my time stuck in my stress head. I was stuck in my thinking mind.

I was overthinking. I was worrying 'what if-ing', catastrophising, I talk about mind story drama when I work on this with clients or teach it on courses. I was definitely stuck in my inner critics drama world, and that meant I wasn't really present in my body most of the time. So this is why, for example, in my natural resilience method, which is a five step process I've developed over the last 20 years to deeply clear out impostor syndrome, burnout and toxic resilience. The very first step is about pressing pause.

It's about coming back here now, getting out of your stress head and into your body. Because when we're stuck in our stress head, making change in the physical world is pretty tough. So I had a newborn and a toddler on my own in a place I didn't really know anybody, and my keys would regularly end up in the fridge. The first few times it happened, I actually thought it was my toddler. Okay, so I apologise to him.

He's 18 now. I know it wasn't him, it was me. Because I was running on autopilot, I wasn't consciously present. I wasn't consciously aware of what was happening in my day to day world, other than the people screaming at me, bless their hearts for nappies and food and the stories that I was telling myself. And I'm seeing this kind of thing with clients and students all the time at the moment, after the pandemic, which has really dragged on, I'm seeing so many people stuck in overwhelm and burnout.

It's almost like they are using everything they can to distract them as an avoidance strategy, getting out of their bodies, because being present here in the physical and dealing with what's happening around them feels unsafe. It feels scary. They're overwhelmed, they're exhausted, and a lot of them are stuck in hyper vigilance, which is where the fight flight freeze response gets stuck full on and you're constantly looking for threats. So over the past few years, when I've been researching impostor syndrome, we've been running an international research study. It's allowed us to develop a model that we call the Impostor Syndrome iceberg.

And this explains why my keys end up in the fridge. So at the very top of the iceberg, allegedly above the surface, we've got our actions just below the surface. Kind of on the surface, we've got our thoughts below that, our beliefs below that, what's important to us, and right at the bottom, our sense of self, who we think we are. Now, if you ask most people, are you consciously aware of their actions? They would say, yes, but how many times have you been driving, for example, on a motorway and suddenly looked up at a gantry and gone, I actually have no idea where I am, which bit of motorway I'm on for this journey, or how I got here.

So actually, although officially our actions are above the surface, when we're stressed, burning out, worrying 'what-ifing' catastrophising, we're spending so much energy and attention on those thoughts that we lose track of what's happening in the physical world around us. And this is how my keys were ending up in the fridge. My entire actions were running on autopilot as a stress coping mechanism. I wasn't consciously aware of what I was doing. I was really relying heavily on the unconscious part of my mind that knew how to keep my heart beating and my hair growing and make sure my kids got fed while my head, my conscious mind, did all of its worrying and catastrophising and burnout and toxic resilience make this keys in the fridge thing worse because they kick us out of our body when we're super stressed.

Being in the body is not a nice place to be. It's flooded with stress hormones. But also a lot of what's causing the stress is what I call the mind story fear. The mind story drama those stories that we're telling ourselves. The more we crank those up, which we often don't even realise that we're doing, or try to drown them out with things like multi-screening yeah.

And being busy and any other avoidance strategy, the more likely we are to become no longer consciously aware of our physical world actions. So what has this got to do with impostor syndrome and self sabotaging? Here's the thing. The more our actions get pushed into the unconscious mind, the less physically present we are, the less grounded we are, the more worried and stressed we are, the more stuck in our stress heads that we are, the less likely we are to be consciously aware of our actions. We lean more heavily on the unconscious mind and its faithful autopilot.

And those autopilots are really useful. It means you don't have to relearn how to ride a bike every time you sit on a saddle. But when it comes to impostor syndrome, they can be really destructive. With impostor syndrome, self sabotage can be anything from not speaking up with that brilliant idea through to not going for the promotion you've been secretly dreaming of and then resenting whoever gets it in your place to toning down your message, to over giving, having poor boundaries. There are so many ways we self sabotage because the unconscious mind prioritises keeping us safe.

And there is a secret truth about self sabotaging. Due to impostor syndrome, the self sabotaging behaviour is actually kicked off by the unconscious mind, and the conscious mind takes a while to catch up. So the unconscious mind and the body process information from the outside world slightly sooner than the thinking mind, because actually, you don't want to have to sit there and have a whole discussion with yourself about whether or not you're going to cross the road if there's a car coming that you maybe hadn't consciously noticed. So it's a really useful thing that keeps us safe and it's a biological mechanism we definitely want to keep. But when it comes to impostor syndrome, the unconscious mind and the body process the information of someone saying, hey, Clare, what do you think?

Yeah. Episode 33 you need to go and listen to this. If it happens to you, if your mind goes blank in meetings, it's about why that is and what you can do about it. And the more we're relying on the unconscious mind to look after our day to day actions because we're not fully present, the longer it takes for us to notice when it's got us doing things that maybe the conscious mind is saying. Come on, Clare, that's just silly.

Of course you can share your opinion. What's the big deal? So, self sabotage is run by the subconscious mind, and it takes the conscious thinking mind a while to catch up and realise what's going on. By the time it does that, you've probably turned down the opportunity, or maybe left it slightly too long to reply to that email, or you've volunteered a butt and self criticism when you were being praised, or you've even suggested someone else for a golden opportunity to shine instead of yourself. Trying to stop self sabotage when it's already been triggered by the unconscious mind is like trying to catch a runaway train.

The conscious mind is like a Sigelman who sees the train coming and desperately pulls the lever to stop it. But the train is already moving at full speed and the brakes take time to engage, so it continues hurtling down the track. In the same way, our unconscious mind can trigger self sabotaging behaviours before we even realise what's happening, by the time our conscious mind catches up, it's often too late to stop that behaviour. So to truly stop the self sabotage, we need to address the underlying causes and clear the hidden fears that are driving it, rather than hoping we can spot it, catch it and stop it once it's already in progress. There's only so much you can self sabotage and still fulfil your potential.

Trying to control Impostor Syndrome by monitoring your thoughts and actions risks you feeling like you're constantly on high alert. That's exhausting. It pushes us further out of the body, more into the thinking mind, leaning more heavily even still on the unconscious mind, and actually, ironically, increasing the likelihood of keep you safe. Self sabotage behaviours. Instead of playing constant catch up with your unconscious mind, you need to do the beneath the surface work.

There's a self mentoring question I want to share with you today that can really help. And I do not recommend you do this in the middle of self sabotaging because you're in a drama. Gene will be controlling your self talk at that point. This is for something when you've calmed down afterwards, okay? And if you've got access to my Ditching Impostor Syndrome transformation toolkit that's link in the comments, this is the kind of thing that it really helps to do the exercises from step one.

First, that pressing pause getting out of your stress head, the techniques that it shares in the transformation toolkit for how to get grounded really fast, even if you feel like that runaway train is going full pelt in your head and in your body. So getting grounded thinking about the self sabotage. Pick a three or a four out of ten. Yeah. If you want to deal with the biggies, please get in touch and let us know and we'll connect you with one of my certified master coaches.

That self mentoring question, thinking about the self sabotage behaviour, what is this specific self sabotage doing for me? So what is that self sabotage doing for me? You might want to flip the question around. What do I get to avoid through that self sabotage? Let the answers bubble up without judgement, without analysis.

And then a bonus question how could I meet that need in a healthier way? So those self mentoring questions, they help you to spot what it is that might be driving that self sabotage. So either you can use the techniques that, for example, are in Ditching Impostor Syndrome or the Impostor Syndrome Bootcamp to clear them out. I've got techniques in there that work in just minutes, or, as I say, get yourself some support from a certified Impostor Syndrome First-Aider or a Master Coach. Get in touch and we'll connect you with one.

What is this self sabotage doing for me? What do I get to avoid? How could I meet that need in a healthier way? When you identify that hidden driver for the self sabotage and clear it out in ways that allow you to resolve it and release it, then you don't need the self sabotage behaviour anymore. It shrinks your stress levels, it cranks up your confidence.

And that is a whole wedge of Impostor Syndrome coping strategies you can send straight to the recycling. So that is what me hiding my cues in the fridge has to do with Impostor Syndrome self sabotage. And if you're listening to this episode, when it comes out in May 2023, you need to get a wiggle on if you want to join us to become an Impostor Syndrome First Aider to get certified in the foundation level for this work. And if you're an experienced coach or therapist, this is also the deadline for joining the 2024 Impostor Syndrome Master Coach programme. The First-Aider programme that starts in June is a prerequisite.

It does also run again in November. But then you're going to be cutting it really fine, because I think there's only then a week between the First-Aider programme and the start of the Master Coach. So cheque out the show notes for information. There's a link that you can book yourself onto the first aid of training right away, but you have to apply to join the Master Coach programme. Remember Episode 33, Why Impostor Syndrome makes your mind go blank in meetings and full how to on?

All of this is in the book. Ditching Impostor Syndrome and the Ditching Impostor Syndrome Transformation Toolkit. It brings the book to life. It's based on the audiobook, which is out now. Woohoo.

Only took four years and it gives you extra bonus trainings videos a virtual journal mentor in your pocket. It's all there to help make your transformation journey really easy, and I'd love to hear from you. There is a link in the show notes to where we're discussing this, both on LinkedIn and Instagram. Do you have an equivalent autopilot of leaving your keys in the fridge? And how might it feel for you to be able to cut your stress levels?

Clear out impostor syndrome so you never lose your keys again? I'll be back next week with more. I hope you have an amazing week, and remember subscribe. If you've enjoyed this subscribe and share it with your friends. Thank you so much.

Join The Conversation

Here's where we're talking about this on LinkedIn.

Loved This? Want More?

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?