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

SELF-SABOTAGE can happen at any the time. We try to create something important to us, whether it’s greater leadership or a deeper sense of calm, and 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.

So how can you change the way you talk to yourself?

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

You may also like:

Old Dog, New Tricks: What Can You Change Before Year End?

The Ultimate Holiday Dilemma: Donut v. Orange (Or, Practical Strategies for Better Decisionmaking)

For a list of articles by topic on, click here.

Five Ways to Recover from Anxiety

Stress, pressure and anxiety

Stress, panic, anxiety, sadness, fear….

Once in a while, we can become so overwhelmed by our thoughts, feelings and emotions that we can’t even think straight.

Sometimes these emotions creep up over time.
At other times, they pop up in reaction to an event, with no warning whatsoever. 

There is no quick fix, but here are some ways to cope:

  1. Identify what you are feeling. Let yourself acknowledge and experience all of your emotions. The range may be larger than you realize. Journaling, drawing, recording yourself speaking or having a conversation with a trusted person can help you pinpoint the triggers and unearth layers of triggering thoughts.
  2. Create a “bigger space” for your feelings. This may be psychological or physical space or both (such as a yoga class). If you are in a cramped room, like an office or bedroom, try spending some time in an expansive museum or other building with high ceilings or the great outdoors. Even a walk up a staircase and some deep breathing can open things up for you.
  3. Be with people who can help you through it. Sometimes commiseration is helpful, and at other times a new topic can give you a mental break. 
  4. Give yourself room to have fun, even if it is a quick 15-minute break. Make sure to choose something that recharges you. Physical activity that charges up your endorphins is a good break. 
  5. Channel your negative energy into something positive. How can you create what you want to see in the world?

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer who works with executives, attorneys and entrepreneurs on change management, career transitions, personal branding and professional development. 

Above: Shutterstock image.

Breaking Out of a Suffocating Job Search


Halloween friendly ghost costumes aside, let’s talk about facing some very real fears.

Prospective clients sometimes ask if I can help them break out of a suffocating job search. They tell me that “everything they try” is not working.

Nothing is working.

I can’t think. I can’t breathe.

How can I move forward?

When we talk a bit more, I often hear the following:

  1. They have not settled on a target audience for their job search (or even a small set of audiences) but are sending out applications all over the place.
  2. They are not tailoring their applications to specific opportunities.
  3. They are relying mainly on sending their resumes into the “black hole” of online applications rather than leveraging networking contacts who may have or know about opportunities.
  4. They are relying on work experience rather than seeking out additional outlets to grow their skills.

These and other limits on their job search have been holding them in their tracks. 

The problem with such limits is two-fold. First, while you can get lucky and get a “hit” on a great job – if you are a convincing candidate during the interview process – it rarely works to have a scattershot approach to your job search. Second, it wears you out, so you feel suffocated by the job search rather than energized by it.

Here is the better approach:

  1. Get very clear on your long-term and short-term goals. Figure out which audiences you are targeting, so you can refine your pitch and make each application count.
  2. Tailor your cover letter and resume to the field and type of role, with specific tweaks that relate to the specific job to which you are applying.
  3. Build and work your network. Keep online applications to a minimum, e.g., 10% of your overall job search. Get out there and create a pipeline of contacts through calls and face-to-face meetings, including informational interviews.
  4. Find coursework, individualized study or volunteer opportunities, or look for ways to grow or supplement your current job, to increase your relevant skills and get you closer to your end goals. 

No one wants to hire a candidate who is visibly floundering or suffocating from an ineffective job search, and it often shows when you are stretched thin.

Break out of the cycle and make the best use of your precious time invested in your search. Not only will you have more interest from employers – which can raise your confidence level and fuel your energy – but you will perform better in the vetting process to achieve greater career-search success.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach, author and resume writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. Her book on job interviews, Master the Interview, includes a chapter devoted to building one’s job search network.

Image above from Shutterstock.




Successful Career Transition, Stage 2: Vet Your Options

shutterstock_229967803 (three doors of decisionmaking)

Kristina has always secretly dreamed of owning a vineyard in France.

She has other dreams, too. But this one just won’t go away.

How can Kristina, from her windowless desk at a bank in New York City, figure out how to bring more of her dream life into her actual life?

Exploration is the first stage of a successful career transition, as I covered in my prior post. Stage 2 is a decision-making process that involves vetting the ideas that have been uncovered through brainstorming, research, informational interviews, networking and other means of discovery. We vet against a set of factors that we have enumerated, such as our values, talents, interests, skills, financial needs and the market.

These two first stages (exploration and vetting) work in tandem but are distinct. In fact, we do them naturally every day, but not always intentionally.  More importantly, too often we rush to judgment about our ideas without fully opening ourselves to the brainstorming process, missing valuable information about ourselves and our true career goals as we try to vet while still exploring ideas. Often this rush is triggered by our own anxiety about transition, while at times it is the expediency of the situation.

In the best case scenario, we will explore and vet in a cycle, which will look a lot like the following image. We explore ideas, we vet them, and then we explore again. In other words, each time we make an interim decision about career transition that has not led us to a final conclusion, we go back to the proverbial drawing board with an open mind, returning to further vetting until we make a final decision (about one or more options to pursue in our career transition).

Here is what this might look like.

Exploration - Vetting

As we covered in the prior post, there are three aspects of the brainstorming phase:

Creative Mindset – Facts – Exploration

Kristina can generate ideas about her vineyard dream, conduct actual research into what it takes to own a vineyard and explore her questions with people who are already in her dream space.

As a coach, one of the points I would try to tease out from Kristina is what exactly appeals to her about this dream. Some of the appeal may be one or more of the following:

  • Living on the land; more in-tune with the seasons
  • Being involved with the wine community
  • Making money while drinking wine! 🙂
  • Doing something completely different than her current job – i.e., curing burnout
  • Feeling relaxed, the way she feels on vacation
  • Owning her own business; being her own boss
  • Living in France; speaking French
  • Feeling as though she has made an impact on the world
  • Leading a team of people committed to a quality product

For your own dream job, I would encourage you to do the same brainstorming about what exactly is appealing about that dream. Think through what is missing in your life that this dream job would offer. Imagine what you would be doing every day and how that would support your values and vision of yourself.

Notice that we haven’t yet vetted anything. We don’t know if Kristina has the money it takes to buy a vineyard (or could get financing), the talents to do it, the stomach for the risks or the true interest in doing the day-to-day work of running a vineyard. We also don’t know if she would be any good at it – would she be able to sell any wine? There are a hundred questions she would need to answer before actually moving forward, and each of those questions (and their answers) may open more ideas to explore as well as offer good feedback to Kristina about how a successful career transition would look.

The reason for separating exploration and vetting is that we often try to make decisions with too little information. Kristina will not know why this particular dream keeps coming up if she does not explore it, without the shoulds getting in the way. (You know the shoulds, I am sure. She should be practical. She should stop wasting time with something that will never happen…. And the rest of their should cousins.)

As part of her exploration, Kristina can explore vineyards from Long Island to Provence and beyond. She can talk to people in the business. She can sign up for Alliance Francaise, if her French is a little rusty. If she feels ambitious and tentatively committed to see if this could go anywhere  – or just for fun, to give it a whirl – she can create a business plan for the vineyard. In other words, Kristina can bring her dream world a bit more into her real world and recall the sensation of being carried away by an idea. 

In summary, the openness and creativity resulting from Kristina’s indulgence of her dream job idea may at some point lead to the actual result of opening her own vineyard – if it passes the vetting process – or it may throw off side ideas that are a better fit.

If you are ready to move to Stage 2, here are the main points to vet:

Values – Talents – Interests – Skills – Needs – The Market

Like Kristina, once you have some ideas on the table and have done your initial exploration with an open mind (whether these ideas represent dream jobs or simply “a bit better than what I have now” jobs), you are ready to subject these ideas to the vetting process. As an overview, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Your Values: Will the targeted role be meaningful to you? Will it meet your top values or will there by any values that need to be compromised (or left unmet) in this role?
  • Your Talents: Does it play to your strengths, and will it best utilize your greatest talents?

To insert an example here, in Kristina’s case, does she understand the how to market wine (or could she learn it) and would she enjoy doing that? What about how to run a farm? Run a business? Manage people? Manage cash flow?

What other talents will she need, and which of these play to her strengths?

  • Your Interests: Will the role be challenging and interesting on a daily basis? Are the problems that arise ones that you enjoy solving?
  • Your Skills: Do you have what is needed for the targeted role and if not, how can you acquire those skills? What commitment is needed to close the gap?
  • Your Needs: Will the role serve your financial needs? Will it meet other needs, such as the need for autonomy, the need to feel part of a team or the need to be recognized for good work?
  • Your Temperament: Will the minor annoyances in this job one day become major ones? Are you well suited to the day-to-day aspects of the role?
  • The Market: Does the marketplace need what you would like to do? How many of this type of role is available at the level that will meet your financial needs? Note: If it is a new idea or a niche market, you may need to conduct market research to know the answer to this point – don’t assume that just because you build it (and love it yourself), they will come.

Through thoughtful exploration and careful vetting – which is not all work, it can be fun too! – you will find new ways to frame and “reframe” your ideas and decisions about career transition. Whether you are looking to make a major change like the one above or if you simply want to tweak your current role, putting structure and organization around the process helps you make better decisions. You also may, as part of the process, find a “bridge job” that will help you incorporate into your life some aspects that are missing, as you continue to explore and vet your longer vision for your career.

For example, say that Kristina decides that she does want to go for it and open a vineyard in France – not an immutable decision, but a concrete goal – and that she has or can find the means to do so. She may first move from her bank job in New York to a similar role in Paris – admittedly also a move that takes effort – as a way to get geographically closer to her goal, meet more people who can make it a reality and satisfy a number of points on her dream list that appeal to her. Alternatively, she may seek a role at a vineyard (or a service provider to vineyards) in some capacity that is closer to her current role and uses her current skills, learning the business as she goes.

Remember: neither is not a compromise, either is a bridge. As she takes smaller risks and gets closer to the life she desires, Kristina will increase her resilience, self-awareness and capacity for change. 

Hungry (or thirsty) for change? What will your next move be? 

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at


© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

First image above: Shutterstock.

Successful Career Transition, Stage 1: Start With a Creative Mindset

Marilyn hates her job. She has many ideas about where her next move and needs help sorting them out. Rob is stuck in a rut but he can hardly imagine doing anything else. Marilyn and Rob are in Stage 1 of the Career Transition Process and need to put some structure around their exploratory work.


shutterstock_201564593 (cropped woman jeans red light bulbs)

Marilyn hates her job. She has many ideas about where she would like to land next and needs help sorting them out.

Rob is stuck in a rut. He has spent so long at the same role that he can hardly imagine doing anything else. He wants to identify new possibilities and opportunities.

Jamie likes what she is doing and would like to stay in the same field, but she wants to find a way to advance within her company or, if necessary, outside of it. She is also open to changing to a new job altogether, if it does not require starting over.

Each of these career-transition questions inhabit Stage 1 of the Career Transition Process.

The Marilyns, Robs and Jamies of the world crave structure around their exploratory work. Otherwise, they live in their own heads, and they fail to make much real progress that will help them out of their current situations and into a better place. I know, because I was there myself once. I also know because I see it every day in my coaching practice.

  • Stage 1: Explore: Are you open to and ready for change at this time? What options are available? How and where can you explore further? Who can help?

A successful career transition begins with creative brainstorming, targeted research and empirical exploration.

Creative Mindset and Brainstorming

Having a creative mindset allows you to generate ideas and be open to a range of possibilities. Brainstorming isn’t about vetting, that comes later.

Stage 1 is the “what if” stage.

  • What if you changed industries, practice areas or careers?
  • What if you stayed in your current role? How could you improve it?
  • What if you decided to go for CEO, another C-level role or partnership?
  • What if you gave up one of those roles to pursue something new?
  • What if you took a risk and …?


While keeping an open mind, research facilitates brainstorming. I often suggest that clients search job descriptions (not to apply, as background material), and read through what they describe as the basic components of the job. Along with job descriptions, they can often pull up resumes of individuals who are already working in similar jobs from a simple internet search. These resumes can give key insights into what actually goes into a particular job, which may be much different than the job seeker had imagined before such research was conducted.

In addition, job seekers in the First Stage of their job search can research:

(1) industries, fields and companies,

(2) what skills they would need to acquire to achieve certain roles, and what that skill acquisition would entail,

(3) compensation in the desired field, and

(4) information about analogous roles that would help them widen their net of possible roles that could be a fit for their talents, skills and interests.

Remember: If you have gone through job descriptions in the past with a feeling of dread, kick that feeling to the curb. These words on a page have no hold over you. You are simply brainstorming to help yourself get on the right path.


In addition to analytical research, the third means to open your mind to the possibilities in your job search is to meet and spend time with individuals in your target fields.

“Hi Pam, it’s Marilyn. Confidentially, I am considering a career move that would put me in a role similar to yours. Would you have some time to meet me for coffee near your office sometime next week? I would like to ask you a few questions so I can better understand what your day-to-day workload is like before I make the leap.”

Take time to network and conduct what are called informational interviews (as opposed to job interviews – you are asking for information, not a job) as you continue to generate ideas and ask people what they know, and who else they may know, to help you explore possibilities.

It is worth noting that you should choose your networking contacts carefully at this fragile Stage 1 of your job search. The proverbial Debbie Downer (who sees everything negatively) will not be helpful for you as you are trying to keep an open mind. Keep Debbie for the vetting process, which is Stage 2 and will be covered in my next post.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above: Shutterstock.

%d bloggers like this: