Befriend Your Inner Naysayer: It May Be Trying to Tell You Something Worthwhile

Young beautiful woman standing over yellow isolated background hand on mouth telling secret rumor, whispering malicious talk conversation


It can happen at any the time. To any of us.

We try to change our lives or create something important to us, whether it’s greater leadership or a deeper sense of calm.

And boom. We talk ourselves out of it.

It’s too….

  • Hard
  • Expensive
  • Long
  • Boring
  • Intense
  • Unrealistic
  • Unwanted
  • Different

Whatever the reason(s), we get in our own way. The internal naysayer takes the lead, and we convince ourselves that it’s easier to stick with what we have.

Except that it’s not easier. You feel the call to change because there’s a fundamental imbalance in your life. Something that’s not working anymore. A job, a relationship or even a deeply held belief that needs to change.

After all, if it were truly easier, you wouldn’t be called to change. You wouldn’t have the nagging feeling that keeps you up at night or the emotional turmoil that haunts you during the day. You would have a sense of purpose. A sense of calm.

Even if the change is not within your power, and you are adjusting to a change that you didn’t want, there will be an emotional gap – and possibly other gaps – between clinging to the past and embracing the change. This gap will take a toll that is ultimately harder to  bear than taking the necessary steps to adjust to and actively redirect your life or situation.

Would you like an example?

Say you were laid off from a job. Your instinct could be to close off from the world, lick your wounds, protect yourself and mourn the loss. Yet what you likely need most, after a few days to regroup, is to get out and find another opportunity.

Your internal naysayer (a.k.a. worry brain) says:

“You should have seen this coming.”

“You don’t have the time for this.”

“Why did you have to screw this up?”

“You are getting older. No one is going to want to hire you.”

Or any of many other negative messages that people feed themselves.

The crux of the problem is this: your naysayer can’t simply be silenced. It needs to be heard, because it’s telling you something important. It houses the deep-seated fears that developed over the course of a lifetime. 

While your naysayer can’t be silenced, it can be befriended and turned into an ally. To do that, you need to make a mindset change before the intended change.

Are you ready?

First, take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale. Maybe a few breaths….

Then venture into the forest of your fears. Visit as an invited guest. Stay a while and see what lies there and what you can learn.

Beautiful, foggy, autumn, mysterious forest with pathway forward. Footpath among high trees with yellow leaves.

If your worry brain is whispering (or yelling) at you, take time to explore it.

A message like “this is all your fault” or “this change is beyond your grasp” has a deeper meaning behind it, and if you can grasp the meaning, you can find value in the fear.

This is all your fault.

Rarely is anything ALL your fault. But assume for a moment that your naysayer brain is squarely assessing you with a great deal of blame.

Remember, the naysayer can’t be silenced. Nor should it. It’s there to warn you of danger, and you can trust its intuition. The problem is, while the naysayer is good at identifying possible danger, it is not as good at quantifying it. That’s the job of another part of you: your ability to problem-solve and reason, which you can only do if you are not emotionally charged.

So try an experiment. Befriend the naysayer and thank it for its insight. Then tell it:

“Rather than focusing on blame, let’s see what we can learn from this situation. There are certainly ways I can develop greater foresight and resilience.”

Or simply:

“Thanks for the warning. I’m good.”

The naysayer (worry brain) part of yourself can then calm down, because you have changed the way you talk to yourself.

This change is beyond your grasp.

If your internal naysayer is raising a stink that a change is too much for you, take a walk into the forest of your fears. What can you learn?

  • Is it a good change for you?
  • Are there hidden consequences you should explore?
  • Is there an easier way to get where you want to go?
  • Could you break a larger change into stages?
  • Are important people in your life going to be disturbed by this change?
  • Do you have mixed emotions yourself that are worth exploring?

Explore these questions and any others that arise. Write down what occurs to you as you meditate on the change. You can use either stream-of-consciousness writing or a tighter, more structured exploration on a whiteboard or the equivalent. Whatever you do, get it down on the page so you can sort, quantify and evaluate what you are thinking and feeling about the change.

Engaging in this mindset work to acknowledge – rather than try to supersede or hide – your fears will strengthen your resolve and give you greater ease in the change management process. Befriending your inner naysayer will help you create a fruitful internal dialogue about your goals, appropriate risks and the best way to navigate both the changes you elect to make and the ones that appear in your life.

Feel free to make a comment, post a question or “like” this post below. Thanks!

Anne Marie Segal Post Banner

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development. 

Coming in early 2020:

The 28-Day Career Mindset Journey at Segal Online 24/7

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ABOUT ANNE MARIE SEGAL Anne Marie Segal, founder of Segal Coaching LLC, is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer who guides attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs through career transitions, advancement, job interview preparation, leadership development and personal branding. A former finance and hedge fund attorney, Anne Marie has presented to the United Nations (ICTY/MICT), University of Chicago, United Way, Association of Corporate Counsel and National Resume Writers Association, among other organizations. She has published two career-related books: Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Value Proposition Workbook, written on career and resume topics as a Forbes Coaches Council member at and been quoted on, and other media outlets. You can learn more at or visit her LinkedIn profile at

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