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.
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?
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.