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Don't Let Your Negative Nellie Keep You From Moving Forward

Don't Let Your Negative Nellie Keep You From Moving Forward

That nagging, critical voice in your head is your Negative Nellie. It tells you that you aren’t good enough, didn’t do something right, were wrong to do or say something, or that you don’t deserve what you want. We all have a Negative Nellie. Human biology put it there for a reason. But that reason is not to help achieve our goals. The voice exists to keep us secure, alive, and out of trouble. It exists to create habits that can be anticipated, and are therefore safe.

The good thing is: We don’t have to believe the voice.

[Related: Killer Confidence: A Driving Force for Fulfillment]

Whenever we are starting something new, undertaking something we aren’t familiar with or have the skills to do, or just doing something a different way, the voice sits up and starts in on us:

“Hey there! What do you think you’re doing?”

Ignore it.

Maybe you are in the process of starting an online business. Something outside of your comfort zone and not in your wheelhouse. Your Negative Nellie may say things like:

  • "You have no idea what you're doing."
  • "You should just pay someone else to do this."
  • "This isn’t going to work."
  • "People are going to think you're incompetent."
  • "This is going to look like such an amateur effort."

Your Negative Nellie peanut gallery is most likely offering plenty of other unhelpful commentary. The hard part is that some of it is likely to be true. You’re undertaking something new. By definition, there will be things you don’t know how to do or that you aren't very good at. That's the nature of taking on new things. It's normal to feel awkward stepping out of your wheelhouse.

[Related: Feeling Like a Fraud at Work? You're Not Alone.]

This is where you just ignore your Negative Nellie. Do it anyway. Remind yourself that you are learning and will make mistakes. That's okay. You're not perfect, because no one is. Focus on what you are accomplishing, not on what you don’t know and still have to learn.

Move forward in spite of the fact that you're unsure about what you’re doing, even though the voice seems to have some valid points. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. Why? Because you want to grow. You want to learn new things. You want to be challenged. You want to use your creativity in new ways. You want to be open to new experiences and be curious.

You don’t want to stagnate. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Here are a few simple steps to take when your Negative Nellie is acting up:

  • Remind yourself the voice is there to keep you safe, not to help you grow. It is not aligned with your goals.
  • Acknowledge and accept that you will make mistakes. Use those mistakes as learning opportunities, not fuel for your negative self-talk.
  • Focus on what you're learning and accomplishing. The glass is half-full.
  • Keep moving forward. One step at a time.

Whenever you feel stuck or lost, remember what Nike always says: "Just do it!"

[Related: Why You Should Put Your Fears Aside and Act on Your Own Business Ideas]


Yvette Costa is a certified Professional Coach with 25+ years in corporate America and 10+ years teaching yoga. She is a Happiness Advocate who specializes in helping women be "Happy in Place." Learn more at

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