Negative self-talk damages performance and wellbeing
Negative self-talk damages performance and wellbeing

Looking for a new job in a new country can be challenging. It forces you to take risks and step out of your comfort zone, especially if you’re considering moving up into a higher position of school leadership. 

When your limbic brain believes you are in danger or there is a potential threat, messages are sent to tell you what to do next. If you’re faced with a real threat to your physical or mental safety then these messages should be acted upon but the reality is, most of the time the potential threats and dangers are not life-threatening. 

When you consider the possible dangers of applying for a new job, the threats are most likely to be failure or rejection. Admittedly, they’re not pleasant experiences but they aren’t generally life-threatening! However, your brain doesn’t register that and the messages to keep you safe kick in all the same and impact how you think, feel and behave. These negative messages, although designed to keep you ‘safe’, really just keep you small in most cases.

These negative, internal voices stop you from going after opportunities that you are well-qualified and well-suited for. They can be damaging in nature to your performance when writing applications or attending interviews. They can knock your confidence, have a negative impact on your wellbeing and performance or stop you altogether from taking the action that you are truly capable of.

The limiting impact on your job hunt

The application process is likely to bring up thoughts of past ‘failures’, fears around looking foolish or self-doubt around capability. These negative thoughts and memories will trigger your limbic brain and set off your internal self-talk chatter. It’s there to put you off from taking these risks so you avoid the pain of possible future failures and rejections.

“Your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy” Shirzad Chamine author of ‘Positive Intelligence

You may not experience self-doubt or anxiety about your capability in the role you’re applying for or your performance at interview but negative self-talk is not always as obvious as that!  It can show up in a lot of very sneaky ways and in a range of different situations in both your personal and professional life.

In challenging times, your limbic brain takes your greatest natural strengths and turns them into your greatest weakness by turning up the volume on them until they become so strong and difficult to overcome that they overpower your emotions and behaviour in unhelpful and often damaging ways. The good news is that you can learn to take back control and use them in a more positive way to enhance your application and interview performance. 

The discovery of your natural strengths and weaknesses during the job application process provides you with a valuable insight that will be useful for the process but also in life in general.

The first step in spotting and stopping your negative self-talk

To help you start to listen out for your own negative self-talk, it’s important to know that everybody experiences this is some way so you are definitely not alone! Even if you think you don’t or you think you know someone who couldn’t possibly, think again. It can be tricky to spot but once you do, you’ll realise all the ways this has been holding you back from reaching your true potential and the happiness you deserve. 

The main instigator of your negative self-talk and the first voice to start the unhelpful chatter is your inner-critic or Judge. This damaging voice brings up a range of negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety, disappointment and regret. It reminds you of your ‘faults’ as well as those of others and stops you from experiencing contentment or happiness with your current circumstances. 

Our Judge beats us up but you can stop it!
Our Judge beats us up but you can stop it!

As mentioned earlier, your Judge will recognise that you are feeling doubt, stressed or anxious about applying for a job or attending an interview and will kick in to remind you of your past ‘failures’. It will evoke feelings such as shame, anger and disappointment about the experience in order to scare you away from taking the same risks again thus avoiding the possibility of the same negative outcome. This will keep you in the negative emotions for longer than is helpful and will impact your next steps.

When the Judge takes control of your emotions, it is driving you through fear. This fear of a negative outcome, if listened to, controls the actions you choose to take next. For some this may mean not even applying for a job in the first place. For others this could lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety during an interview that impact your performance. As well as having a direct, negative impact on your performance, it can also be damaging to your wellbeing. 

Your Judge likes having all the facts so in the absence of these it will make assumptions to fill in the blanks. In the job application process, there will be periods with little or no new information from the school or your recruitment consultant. These might include periods of waiting to see if your application will move to the next stage or if you were successful at interview. During this time, your Judge will begin to fill in the blanks with negative self-talk and start a damaging cycle of feelings such as worry, anxiety or self-doubt. This is a highly unpleasant state to be in which has a damaging impact on your wellbeing and resilience throughout the process.

Start to gain control today! 

In order to gain control of your negative self-talk and get the next international post you deserve, you need to become aware of the messages you hear and when you hear them. That way you can gain control over them and decide whether you want to listen to the voice telling you ‘don’t’ or ignore it and go for your dream job!

To begin to quieten your Judge voice, listen out for any negative, internal messages you hear and make a note of what the message is and in which situations it most often occurs. When you can spot a pattern, you are in a great position to pre-empt the situations that you know will trigger it.

If you’ve been reading this and thinking you don’t ‘hear’ messages, then I invite you to be on the lookout for feelings, such as anxiety, stress, self-doubt or any other ‘negative’ emotions that come up when you consider the job application process. Staying in these emotions for longer than a few seconds is an excellent way of spotting that you’ve been hijacked by your Judge! 

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting about other ways that negative self-talk can show up and sabotage your success. This will help you to spot how it shows up for you, which situations really get it going and how it holds you back.

In the meantime, start Judge spotting to put a stop to sabotaging your own success so that you can shine and show your true potential at every stage of the application process!

About me

Rachael Kobylecki

Hi, I’m Rachael Kobylecki. Having been a teacher and school leader in the UK and in international schools for 15 years, I understand how challenging it can be to move schools, countries or to move up in leadership. Now, I help school leaders quieten their negative self-talk so that they can become laser-focused on what they really want and turn their ideas into action. By developing your self-awareness and working out how you’re holding yourself back, the journey towards your dream job can become a lot smoother!

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Written by Camilla Cook
Camilla has been working in education for the past sixteen years, teaching English in the UK, El Salvador, Thailand, and Tanzania. She participated in the Teach First Programme in 2005, and went on to support another Teach First teacher in her efforts to set up The Literacy Pirates, an education charity working to develop the literacy, confidence, and perseverance of young people referred for extra support by their teachers. As their first Director of Learning, she was responsible for planning, leading, and evaluating the learning programmes. She has worked as the Head of Language and Literature in international schools for the past five years, and is now living in Brighton with her husband and two children, attempting to reacclimatise to the weather by cycling around as much as possible and eating lots of ice cream.
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