Have you ever beaten yourself up about beating yourself up? Ever told yourself the mantra that there's no such thing as can't? Do you find that forcing yourself into have a 'growth mindset' can make you feel worse?
In today's Ditching Imposter Syndrome episode we will cover:
There's no such thing as can't, but that doesn't mean you can.
When 'growth mindset' triggers toxic positivity, what can you do differently?
Welcome to episode 23 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast. And today, we are looking at why there's no such thing as can't, but that doesn't mean you can. This episode is for you if you have ever beaten yourself up about beating yourself up, and maybe if you've played with stuff like growth mindset, and you want to discover how to actually make it work rather than risk it turning into toxic positivity, which makes us feel even worse.
So when we look at why we say we can't do something, there are four core reasons for this. The first one, genuine. Skills, experience. Yeah, I can't, for example, become a champion show jumper because one, I'm allergic to horses. Two, I'm completely scared of them. Yeah, it's just not happening. Somebody might not yet have developed the skills or done the studying or done the work and got the experience to be able to achieve something. Sometimes our can't is genuine. When that happens, a brilliant thing to add to the word, to add to the sentence, is the word yet. So I can't do that yet. Put a plan in place, get the skills, the experience, if you really want to do it, and the can't becomes a can.
A second reason might be network and role models. I don't have the network to give me those opportunities or I don't have the role models inside my network to be able to imagine what that would be like. A third reason might be time. We might genuinely not have enough time to do justice to something. And the fourth reason is a secret one that drives a huge amount of the can't. I don't really want to. So we say we can't and we tell ourselves these stories. But sometimes the I can't, we do have the skills and experience, that might well be people in our network or role models we can look up to, we could choose to make the time and we do really want to, but we still say I can't because we doubt ourselves. Self-doubt, lack of confidence, imposter syndrome. And I think it was Jim Rohn who used to talk a lot about, if you want to do something, you really want to do it, you'll find a way.
But what happens if you're scared, genuinely scared? So what happens in the growth mindset, positive thinking type world is people are encouraged to go from saying, I can't do that to saying, well, yes, I can. Creating an inner conflict. We talked about this last week in episode 22. So if you've not caught that one yet, which is all about the reasons why positive thinking sucks, why it's not your fault and what you want to be doing instead, please check out episode 22 on the podcast. And then we might be tempted to push on through that fear. And if that's happened to you, you go on episode 19 of the podcast, all about forget, feel the fear. How we need to clear the fear and do it anyway.
So when we look at the can versus can't debate, it's kind of a seesaw. Oh, I definitely can't do that. Oh yes, I can. Oh, I can't pitch to a client. Oh yes, I can. If we're not lined up inside with the can, we will self sabotage. We will feel scared. We will hold back in order to feel safe. We will not thrive. We need to do the deeper work.
So here's one of the things that I'm seeing happening with growth mindset, especially when it's being taught to children, for example, by people who are super well intentioned but maybe haven't understood this risk. It often teaches us toxic positivity. I feel terrible, but I'm going to pretend this is a great learning opportunity. I've just completely fallen flat on my face, but now I get to pick myself up and try again.
So what this kind of thing is doing, if this is how we're talking to ourselves and encouraging others to talk to themselves, it's denying our experience of life. I am not saying you should stay on your face in the puddle being laughed at because something horrific happened. What I'm saying is when we pick ourselves up, we also need to spend that moment honouring that wasn't nice, I didn't enjoy that, and then move on. So what we're doing often with this growth mindset approach that I've just described is trying to pretend that the pain didn't happen, trying to pretend that we are feeling okay, even if we're not. And what this actually means is we're rejecting ourselves. So this can actually damage confidence and it can make imposter syndrome worse.
What can you do instead? Acknowledge how you're feeling and then use a technique like the ABC technique I teach, accept, breathe, choose. Accept, whoa, that was tough. Breathe to set the nervous system. C, choose a more positive and empowering thought. Or you could ask yourself my magic question. What do I want instead? That thing just went really wrong. What do I want instead? What is the first step towards that? But we have to sometimes process those difficult emotions. Do you want to work with me on this? It's all there in Ditching Imposter Syndrome, the book, and I guide you through it on the Inner Critic Bootcamp.
But the key is instead of rejecting what went wrong and instead of wallowing in it and allowing it to hold us back, it's accepting it in all of its special emotions, in all of what we had just been through. Okay. I just went through that. I need to honour that for a moment. Reset the nervous system with some belly breathing or one of the other techniques I teach and then choose to think thoughts that bring you relief and hope.
So when we're looking at there's no such thing as can't, but that doesn't mean you can, there's internal flip flop, this seesaw. I can, I can't. What is the difference? What is the solution? Turn it into a journey. Soften this. Don't do that flip. Firstly, I can't do that. Well, do I actually want to? Or am I doing this because I feel I have to? Is it actually something that somebody else wants me to be doing? This is called shoulditis. It's something I'm going to be talking about in an upcoming episode so hold that thought. Make sure you've subscribed to the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast to make sure you catch that one.
If you find you really do actually want to, okay. What if I could? What if I could actually do this? How would that feel? What might that look like? What kind of stories might I tell myself if I actually could do this? And then what would the very first step be? How soon could I take that? What support might I need? And then the next step and the next step and celebrating your micro wins. This is one of the most popular podcast episodes I've ever recorded is the one on micro wins. It's about how to connect with your inner cheerleader, rewiring your brain on that. The link to go and listen to that is on the show notes page for this episode, ImposterSyndromePodcast.fm/023.
So that journey from can't to can. Do I actually want to? What if I could? What would that feel like? What would that look like? Try this on for size right now. Pick something where you've been saying you can't, but you actually secretly want to. What if I could do that? How might that feel? What would that shift for me in the actions I'm taking? How might that shift my self talk? How does my body feel about that? What's the very first step. And what support do I need to take that in the next 24 hours? How does that feel? I'd love to hear from you. How does that process feel? Can you feel how different that is from that flip flop between can and can't? This actually starts to create shifts in your thinking. It starts to create shifts in your body. It opens up possibilities instead of obligation. And for me, this is the true growth expansion, opening possibilities rather than closing down options and constricting.
And there's another aspect running here. Often, we say we can't do something when we have the skills, the network, the role models, the time, the experience, everything else, and we want to. But it's because we don't see ourselves as being that kind of person yet. Classic, who am I to do that? Yeah. Imposter syndrome. One of my favourite topics. Remember, I talk about the imposter syndrome gap as being the gap between who we see ourselves as being and who we think we need to be to do or achieve something. And over that ravine, we build what I call the bridge of coping strategies, all the things we do to be able to get it done and despite how we're feeling and being scared of being found out. So if we don't see ourselves as being that kind of person yet, although we might take action, we'll self sabotage in order to stay safe.
So this is why when we want to grow, we want that growth mindset, we want to be expansive, we actually need to spend a lot of our energy focusing on which version of me do I want to allow myself to become? What do I need to let go of or resolve to allow myself to become that version of me? Because when you can see yourself and feel yourself and experience yourself as being the kind of person who thrives doing whatever that thing is, then everything inside and outside you starts to line up to support you. When you don't yet see yourself as being that version of you, you'll find so many roadblocks and stumbling points and even mountains that might get in your way.
So this is why the can/can't journey needs to actually move from being about doing to being about being. You want to be closing that imposter syndrome gap so that you allow yourself to become the version of you that does or achieves that goal. And I firmly believe the heart doesn't give us a dream that's unachievable. But pushing and forcing doesn't create break throughs. By becoming that version of you, you allow the miracles to happen. I'm totally, totally into growth, expansion, becoming that version of you. But if you found that the classic advice we're seeing on growth mindsets been causing what I showed you there is toxic positivity, it's time to try something different. Soften it. Make it a journey. Start doing the work inside that allows you to line up with the outside version of you that needs to take those actions, and watch the world change.