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Be Careful of Self-Talk Sabotage

Job fair discussion.

Before an important meeting, or a critical presentation, what do you tell yourself? Do you give yourself a pep talk of reassurance and affirmation? Or, do you anticipate the worst and prepare yourself for failure?

"Self-talk" is what you tell yourself about your value, relevancy, abilities, etc. Self-talk is either positive ("I am great!") or negative ("I always fail…"). As you talk to yourself, you behave in ways consistent with your statements about yourself. For instance, positive self-talk makes you confidently walk into a meeting, open to possibilities and full of hope. Negative self-talk, can take away all self-confidence and pride in your abilities, sabotaging your potential for success.

Some examples of positive self-talk are:

  • You got this! You know how to answer those questions. Just be yourself and you’ll do great.
  • Remember the last time you were here? You nailed it. You can do this!

Negative self-talk looks like:

  • Once again, here I am with an opportunity to fail. How fun.
  • I hate these kinds of interviews. I never do well.

In your transition and job search, your self-talk should be positive, affirming and constructive. Your ability to see things clearly and optimistically is reinforced when you have a positive dialog with yourself. While it’s important to be realistic, negative or pessimistic self-talk can interfere with your ability pursue a successful career after military service.

Restrictive Self-Talk

In working with many military veterans transitioning to civilian careers, I hear many examples of self-talk, which is limiting opportunity. One Colonel I worked with often replied, "yah… but," to every suggestion I offered. His contradictions focused on why my suggestion wouldn’t work, why he wasn’t qualified, or why he didn’t want to pursue the opportunity.

I asked him to change his narrative to be more positive and open-minded. After all, with no experience in what I was suggesting, he had no basis for declaring my suggestions impossible. His objections were coming from fear rather than reality. He was afraid of the unknown, so dismissing it was more comfortable than trying something unfamiliar.

Self-Talk Impacts Your Personal Brand

Self-talk is a critical part of how you see yourself and it directly influences how others will see you. If you repeatedly tell yourself you’re friendly, approachable and confident, then that is how you will behave and show up.

In my field, personal branding, we focus on what’s controllable and what isn’t. You can’t control other people. But you can control your thoughts and behavior. Positive self-talk creates more positive outcomes and is a key to success!

Next time you find yourself talking yourself out of success with negative self-talk, STOP! and regroup. Remind yourself that your military career wasn’t easy, and this transition isn’t easy either. But you have a career to be proud of, and you should hold your head high. You must be your own advocate and champion in order for others to see you as valuable.

"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact"
– William James

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.