What If Your Biggest Naysayer Is You?

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Every now and then, you cross paths with someone who doesn’t support what you’re about. These toxic villains can quickly kill your dreams if you buy into their negative chatter. It’s easy to point the finger at naysayers if they’re your parents, friends, or colleagues, but there’s one critic who can linger constantly in your shadow, waiting for a chance to kill your ambitions.

You.

And you can be a gigantic a-hole to yourself sometimes.

We all have a little voice of criticism inside our heads that’s handy for keeping us in check, one that says: Hey, perhaps getting drunk at the work Christmas party and deciding impulsively to quit my job wasn’t all that professional. Yes, that sobering voice of reason is your friend. (Though, in retrospect, I could’ve used that friend before delivering my slurring resignation.)

But sometimes there’s an inner-dialogue taking place that isn’t so useful – a voice that will attempt to dissuade rather than support you. It may sound something like this:

I’m going to fail!
I don’t know what I’m doing!
I look like a douche when I do yoga!

If left unchecked, your inner-naysayer can be your worst enemy. Unlike other naysayers, you can’t simply defriend them on Facebook. You can change friends, jobs, and phone numbers, but your inner-naysayer will still be there. Even if you get on a plane and fly to the other side of the globe, your inner-naysayer will hunt you down.

You’re stuck with you.

And if you don’t check yourself before you wreck yourself, you’ll damage your own self-esteem, stand in the way of your own goals, and maybe even sabotage precious relationships. Right on.

How to recognize your inner-naysayer

Disguised as your voice of reason, your inner-naysayer is hard to recognize. It sneaks up on you when you’re contemplating something ambitious, and it’ll try to persuade you into sticking within the safe, predictable confines your comfort zone. It doesn’t like challenge or change, because your inner-naysayer is actually just plain, ugly fear.

Listen carefully for the negative voice. It’s quiet and unassuming, and it tells you things like:

  • I’m going to get it wrong.
  • I don’t deserve anything good.
  • I’ll never do any better than this.
  • I don’t have what it takes.
  • I can never finish anything.
  • I’ll never lose any weight.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • Nobody will love me if I change.
  • I’m being too self-indulgent.
  • I’m not that kind of person.
  • I’ll stuff it up.
  • I’m too old to do that.
  • That’s too hard for me.
  • Everything I try always fails.

Self-doubt may be the reason you’ve never taken up that hobby you’ve always wanted to do. It could be standing in between you and a life dream. Perhaps it’s preventing you from getting close to another person, or giving everything you’ve got to one big goal.

Slaying your inner naysayer

Step one: What is your naysayer saying? Write it down. Listen closely and note each time that statement pops into your head. What triggers it? Once you’ve worked that out, you’re taking control. Your naysayer is losing power.

Step two: Admit you’re being a real bitch to yourself.

Step three: If possible, try to figure out why your naysayer likes to tell you that. Have you failed epically before? Did a nasty ex, a controlling parent, or dragon teacher set off this broken record in your psyche? You’ll never make anything of yourself, Johnny! Maybe that time you peed your pants in primary school has left a deeply etched scar? (Oh wait, that was me.)

Step four: Consider this: what opportunities are you missing out on because of this negative self-talk? Fun? Friends? Success? New experiences? In reality, one crappy past experience is robbing your good times. And if you keep telling yourself over and over that you’re going to fail, guess what? Failure is all yours, baby. So leave the piddle pools of your past behind, and move forward.

Step five: Replace the negative statement with something positive and motivating. That way, when your inner-naysayer chimes in, you can put your hand up dismissively and say: “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH! You’re wrong! I’m not going to fail! I’m going to work really hard because I’m a tiger! A TIGER!” Then paw at the air in front of you, and get up on the table and growl. Go on, GROWL! (Or don’t. Whatever. I’ll leave that up to you.)

Then, get on with it.

What does your little voice of doubt love to tell you? Do you have any special ways to say ‘Stick it!’ to your inner-naysayer? 

Leave a Comment

  • Jennifer January 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm edit

    This came at just the right time. I am knee deep in planning/setting goals for the year and there is a choir of little voices telling me why all sorts of things can’t/won’t happen. They are heckled by an equally dangerous mob that wants to overcompensate and just might convince me to set my goals unachieveably high. I love the tiger image. It strongly defeats the naysayers and patiently calms the the overachievers. Grrr.

    Reply
  • Sarah January 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm edit

    This post is just what I needed to read today. I am terribly hard on myself, constantly bereting myself, thinking I’ll never be able to acheive my dreams. So far this thinking hasn’t worked out for me. This year, I hope to work on slaying my inner naysayer and sending her far far away, so I can reach my true and full potential.

    Reply
  • yols January 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm edit

    Great post for the new year! Seems like an excellent time to shrug off all the negativity in the past year (yes, I had a lot of those too) and look forward to a positive 2012. Grrrr

    Oh and piddle poo is my new favorite phrase. haha

    Reply
  • Sailorgal January 6, 2012 at 8:22 pm edit

    yes, this is so perfect! I can’t tell which is worse, being constantly surrounded by “sand crabs” that try to take your dreams away, or listening to that negative ninny that I see when I look in the mirror. Sometimes the closest thing to getting better is actually seeing this in print. Thanks for sharing this insight, it makes me stronger somehow! Be well.

    Reply
  • Sarahsomewhere January 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm edit

    Thank you Torre! I thought I was the only one! My inner naysayer has me up at 446am thanks to its incessant, negative, fear-mongering chatter, and I am so grateful that I was greeted with this post, which has allowed me to see this stuff for what it is, and have a good laugh! I didn’t pee myself at primary school, but I did forget my knickers one day. What? You were just kidding? Oh, yeah, so was I. :) :)

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  • D.B. January 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm edit

    I have definitely been feeling the strain of self-doubt lately. It seems like when I don’t really care too much about something, I can attack it easily without hesitation. When it’s something that matters, like writing or dance, I make excuses and put things off because it’s easier than trying and failing.

    I love the image of putting my hand up in protest. “Wait, wait. Hold on. I forgot. I’m a tiger.”

    Roar.

    Reply
  • Wanda St.Hilaire January 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm edit

    I keep a “positive feedback” file and look at it when my inner bitch is getting out of control. I read comments people have sent me on my books and compliments I’ve received. It helps shut her down!

    P.S.
    I DO look like a total douche when I do yoga.

    Reply
    • Kulasaththian May 27, 2012 at 3:18 am edit

      Here is another math trick This will work only with 7 digit Phone No. 1. Grab a caatllucor. (You wont be able to do this in your head)2. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code)3. Mutiply by 804. Add 15. Mutiply by 2506. Add the last four numbers of your phone number7. Add the last four numbers of your phone number again8. Subtract 2509. Divide number by 2 Do you recognize the answer? IS’NT IT YOUR PHONE NO:?

      Reply
  • Lisa Duran January 7, 2012 at 12:30 am edit

    Thanks for such an insightful and timely post. The part that resonated most with me is the idea that your inner-naysayer disguises itself as the voice of reason. Exactly! I might need 2 tigers to deal with this. BTW, congratulations on making the list of “20 Bloggers to Watch in 2012″ on Problogger.net! (P.S. I thought the purpose of yoga was to look like a douche…?)

    Reply
  • Beware of Falling Coconuts January 7, 2012 at 10:52 am edit

    Did you write this about me? ;-)

    Reply
  • Kim January 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm edit

    Thanks for the great post Torre. I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring my inner naysayer… except in things that really matter. Then that little asshole roars! But it’s at least good to recognize it and know it for what it is- resistance.

    Reply
  • Anna Aberg January 8, 2012 at 9:59 am edit

    Great post! The internal naysayers are absolutely preventing us from doing what we most desire. I like your advice. I have gotten rid of everything I own to start living as a traveler, most of the work I have done to realized my dream is to manage my naysayers. Maybe it’s the most important thing we do!

    Reply
  • Gemma January 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm edit

    This is one of my biggest problems, I tend to think I’ve failed before I even start whatever it is I’m doing. Like my writing, I like you write a blog and even after it’s gone out, gotten good comments I still feel it could have been better!

    After reading this I think my New Years Resolution should be to try and dull out the nagging voice in the back of my head!

    Great post :)

    Reply
  • Sam January 9, 2012 at 4:47 am edit

    Great post. We can all get overwhelmed by negativity at times, its so much easier than constantly staying positive. You’ve got some great steps. I believe taking the objective step away from yourself is often the hardest part – once you can look at yourself and see that you’re being a ‘naysayer’ you’re much more able to turn negatives into positives.

    Reply
  • Meg January 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm edit

    I think changing the negative into positive is the key here. Don’t get stuck in those ruts of being negative Nancy’s or Nicks! Thanks for sharing this, I think it’s always good to read pieces like this that help us remember that we all can be hard on ourselves and sometimes all it takes is a bump in the right direction.

    Reply
  • Alex January 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm edit

    Someone once asked me if a friend of mine spoke to me the way I speak to myself if I would still be friends with them. It totally opened my eyes to the way I was treating myself. Somehow we’ve been taught to be self deprecating to avoid looking full of ourselves or egotistical. I say we all gotta learn to love ourselves a whole lot more. <3

    Reply
  • Kelli January 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm edit

    This is such a great post and it comes at such a perfect time, with the beginning of the year and all. I just (re)started a blog myself, somewhat similar to yours in content, and have no idea if I can go through with it. This reminds me I never will if I’m convinced I won’t. Thank you for the encouragement. It’s much appreciated.

    Reply
  • Julie Hedlund January 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm edit

    Fantastic post, and so true. Although I have to say the drawings made it for me. :-)

    Reply
  • Noch Noch January 12, 2012 at 6:26 am edit

    THAT IS SO TRUE!!!! i always discount my own achievements, and never give myself any credit, even when I write, i think “oh they wont like what i write, i write like crap…” etc etc
    Thanks – just stumbled across here, i love your blog!
    Noch Noch

    Reply
  • Annie Andre January 14, 2012 at 9:10 am edit

    Thank you for this. Ive been dealing with my inner naysayer in a similar way. I write down all my goals i want to do. (I have a worksheet LOL). Then i write down 3 actions to take towards that goal and then i set a time line. I also have a back up plan. just in case i cheat or fail i have some wiggle room so that i don’t give up on my goal. i would rather cheat or fail a little and get back on the wagon rather than fail and then give up. I got this idea from using the S.MA.R.T. method to goal setting and i can say that it really does help achieve more goals because having a plan almost naturally squashed your inner nay Sayer.

    Reply
  • Kris January 16, 2012 at 12:45 am edit

    As for many people who have commented here, this has been a timely post for me. After 9 years in my current job I have decided it’s time to move on. I have an interview later this week, and my inner-naysayer is currently going nuts! I seem to cycle between extreme confidence (I know I can nail this interview and job) to complete despair (I don’t have the exact skills they need, I am going to stuff up the interview, they’ll hire me and I’ll blow it). This sort of thinking has been holding me back for years and I have vowed that this is the year I’ll change it.

    I actually read this when it was first posted, but decided to revisit it today because I’m having such a big attack of the negatives. I suspect I’ll read it a few more times before the week is out!

    Reply
  • Katee January 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm edit

    HAHAH!!! I’m laughing as I imagine myself calling myself a tiger and pawing at the air, go tiger! :) Next time I’m in front of a mirror I’m totally doing that! :) :)

    You’re awesome!!!

    So true that we can live off one bad experience or failure as the melody for our destiny, tragic. I’ve found so much hope and freedom to pursue those things that are intimidating through like you said vocalizing the fears and thoughts to myself, close friends and God because then they’re not hiding away in the dark places of my mind and heart but they are addressed by others and dismantled of their debilitating power. Good reminder to keep doing this… we can really miss out on a lot by not stepping out!

    Great article! Thanks!

    Reply
  • Karina January 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm edit

    I think the biggest naysayer is ‘I don’t deserve success,’ or ‘I have failed too many times for success to be possible.’ I know it isn’t true but that part of me is pretty soft spoken compared to the naysayer statements.

    My awareness, however, does not mean that I can abate the naysayers at all times. I have been trying to study for a medical certification in Spanish and yet these “naysayers” getting in the way for something that I should be mostly prepared for by now. All that’s stopping me from studying is myself and those pesky little naysayers, so why am I letting it get to me? I know that they’re wrong.

    So here’s to a week without letting the naysayers get to me and of being able to kick butt!

    Reply
  • Carolyn January 30, 2012 at 1:43 am edit

    Another insightful post that soo many of us I’m sure can relate to. You just pinpointed the reason for my “inner naysayer” – takes me back to a couple piano recitals back in the day:(( i shut it out for so long but I can count on my mother to always bring the memory painfully back! lol. Yep I need to deal with that because it’s preventing me from conquering my fear of public speaking. And with my recently published inspirational book…my alma mater has asked me to speak at their graduation ceremony and I’ve even been considering going to other schools and who knows where this will lead. I’ve spoken at a Career Day late last year and proved to myself that I can do it and do it well so I don’t know why I’m still fearful about the whole thing. Will use your techniques to overcome this and report back!! Thanks Torre:) xo
    Lyn (http://inspirationescape.blogspot.com/)

    Reply
  • Candice Daniel February 1, 2012 at 2:32 am edit

    Like your website……….will like to be place on your mailing list.

    Reply
  • sharna sammy February 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm edit

    Hi, really LOVE this blog. Love the drawings! Thank you for your words. It helped me at a time I need it most.

    Reply
  • Ee Xin October 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm edit

    I found your blog by chance and I am now in love with every post. :)

    Reply
  • Allegra November 11, 2012 at 3:42 am edit

    This post is so on point – I’m incredibly happy to have discovered you. As with everything, positive thinking is a new habit — we must make a conscious, focused effort at the beginning in order for it to stick — especially if that negative self-talk has been with us for a while.

    Reply