Episode 116: Negative Self-Talk and the Job Search with Steven Campbell
Author, Speaker, Educator and Coach Steven Campbell joins Carol to discuss the power of the brain and how destructive negative self-talk can be, especially during a prolonged job search. Steven points out “your brain believes everything that you tell it” and having a more positive discussion with your brain can change your life. He will also discuss how his personal experience changing a negative narrative into a positive one led to the work he’s doing today. For more information on Steven’s work and courses, see link below.
Links to Episode Content
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host for today. Today, we welcome Steven Campbell, author of Making Your Mind Magnificent.
And this is what he says about it. He says, it reveals how my feelings did not come from losing my job, they came from what I said to myself about losing my job. So by learning how to replace what I was saying to myself with positive messages, I also learned I now had the power to create any life I wanted.
Stephen speaks nationally on the topic of self talk, the destructiveness of negative self-talk and the benefits of positive self-talk. He teaches a course on it called Tame Your Mind. And that is exactly what we're gonna talk about today in our conversation about self-talk and relaunching, how your negative self-talk can derail your relaunch and what to do about it.
Steven, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.
Steven Campbell: Oh, thanks so much for having me. This is gonna be so much fun.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, I'm very excited to have this conversation with you. We've been talking about mental health and the prolonged job search, and this topic feeds right into that, and I wanna get into some of the most difficult aspects of the self-talk topic, specific steps to fight negative self-talk, the narrative that's so easily formed during a prolonged job search, how society links so much of our identity to our work lives, and what we tell ourselves when we're feeling professionally disconnected during a career break, and then need to build back up our diminished sense of self again. And the link between self-talk, perfectionism and procrastination.
So let's dive in. Steven, can you talk to us in general about negative self-talk? Like how does it happen and how do we get out of it?
Steven Campbell: Well, unfortunately most of us, most of what we say to ourself is negative. And this isn't just if you're out of a job, it's just a general state of being.
And our negative self-talk affects how we see ourself. We have not one self-image, but thousands of them. I was born a baby boomer and I was taught I have a self-image that I need to flourish. But it turns out that we have thousands of self images. I have a self-image for how I see myself as an author, as a husband, as a grandfather, as a father, all these things. And those self images, and this is really important to understand. Those self images are based, ready?
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, I'm ready.
Steven Campbell: Those self images are based on your self-talk. Those self images are learned. You were not born with them. Now you were born with certain natural dispositions. I was born a natural teacher. When I was a kid, I used to put rocks in my backyard pretending I was teaching them. I was a weird kid. My wife was born as a natural organizer. My daughter is born as a natural writer. So we have these natural abilities, but that's different from self images. Our self images are learned. We were not born with them. And they're learned by what we say to ourself about ourself. So when we say, I am so stupid for doing this, do you know what our brain says to that? It says, Oh, okay, yeah, you're right. You really are. And then make sure that it continues that. In fact, that is the basis of everything that I say, and that is this, now I'll say it all in one sentence.
Ready? Here we go. When we talk to ourself, our brain believes everything we tell it. Without question. No arguments. Ooh. . That's scary. And that's wonderful both at the same time. When we say, I can't believe I'm still out of work. I can't believe that it's not going well. I can't believe all this and that. The brain says, Yeah, you're right. Or when you say, You know what? What an opportunity. There's no commute. I get time by myself. I get time with my family. I get time with getting up when I want to. And so it's not all, it's not all negative. It's so interesting. I lost a job when I was 62 years old in the beginning of the great recession right? 2008. Devastating. Mary had been dependent upon me to teach so that she could retire 'cause she was an elementary school principal, and at that time the California school systems were imploding. And she had gotten cancer once because of the pressure that was on her. So I lost my job.
I was gonna have to tell her that. And I was devastated. And I came home early and she came home from her work and walked up the stairs and sat across from me and she could see something was wrong. And she said, what happened? And I told her, she looked at me the longest time and she said, You know what, Steve? Something wonderful is gonna happen here. How do you know? I don't know. But that's what we're gonna lock onto. And what's so wonderful about this is that when we lock onto something, our brain rewires itself so that what we lock onto becomes a mindset, and a mindset becomes who we are. So let's go back and make it so 1, 2, 3, 4.
Number one, your brain believes what you tell it without question everything. In fact, what you say, in fact, let's see if we can put this out the way you are today, and this is the work of Dr. Albert Ellis, one of the founders of cognitive psychology. The way you are today is primarily based on what you say to yourself about yourself today, and you can change what you say to yourself about yourself when? Today. Is it easy? Of course not, but we can choose to tell ourselves different.
So how does it happen and how do we break the cycle? Again, it's happening right now because we're talking to ourselves still. It didn't happen years and years ago. It's happening based on what you're saying to yourself right now. Right? Why is that so?
Because you can change what you're saying to yourself right now. And what we learned a few minutes ago? The brain just says, Oh, okay, is it true? Don't care. All I care about is what you tell me. Let me share with you my, my, my favorite story that I love. I share this in almost every presentation I make. I am teaching math at the University of San Francisco, and I'm student came to the office.
She said, Mr.. Campbell, I'm so glad you're my professor. I'm a C student in math. I said, how do you know Sue? She said, I've never gotten above a C in math. So I work with her. She got an A in the first midterm. I gave her the test. She freaked out and she said, Oh, Mr. Campbell, this is a mistake. I said, what do you mean?
She said, I've never gotten above a C on a math test. You must have made a mistake. And I said, I didn't, Sue. This is a genuine A. So then she looked at it longer, and you know what she said? She said, do you know what this means? I said, of course I do. She said, this means that when I flunk the next test, I can still maintain my C.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh . Gosh.
Steven Campbell: I said, Sue, just get A in every test. She said, I can't. Why? What was her answer, Carol?
Carol Fishman Cohen: Because I'm a C student. Right.
Steven Campbell: And that's exactly what happened. She flunked the next test. She got a C in the course. So I sat down with her. I said, Sue, what would've happened if you had flunked this first test?
Carol, do you know what she said without a moment's hesitation? What did she say? She said, I would've studied like crazy to get an A on the next test. I have to to maintain my C. I said, Sue, just get an A in every test. She said, I can't Mr. Campbell. Why? Because I'm a C student. And that applies to everything that we say. I'm a C student.
I'm unemployed. I can't get a job. This is really hard. I'm not making money. This is the way it is, or. Carol, do you know when your old life ended? Exactly one second ago. Done. Which means when did your new life begin? One second ago. So do the math. 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day.
In one 24 hour period, you have 86,400 new opportunities for new life every single day. All you have to do is choose to take them. So when people ask me, Steve, how do you break the cycle? It's actually a bit easier than you think. It's looking at what you are saying to yourself and saying, I'm just not gonna say that anymore.
At first, yes, it is very hard, but from what we know of neuroplasticity, you keep saying it and you lock onto these new messages, as I said a few minutes ago. Those new messages become your mindset. And then become a part of who you are. Wow.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. Steve, it's so powerful what you're saying. And for someone to make that shift does take a certain amount of fortitude and resilience.
And I just wanted to push back a little bit and ask you how that happens when you have this additional environment of being in a full employment economy. When we are working with relaunchers who have been trying to get back to work for a long period of time, have experienced a diminished sense of self trying to rise up and get beyond that, and then they hear around them everywhere from the media, this is a full employment economy. There's so much demand and you feel like, wow, I can't even get a job in a full employment economy. Okay, so how do you work against that?
Steven Campbell: Okay, what you just said. I'm gonna repeat what two things that you just said.
The first thing you said is, Wow, this is a full employment comedy. I feel that I can't do that job. Okay. Let's look at both of those statements. It turns out, and this turns psychology around back in the 1960s with the book of A Guide to Rational Living by Dr. Albert Ellis. Our feelings do not come from what has happened to us, from events in our lives, from how we were raised, from our being unemployed. Do you know where our feelings come from, Carol? They come from what we say about, events in our lives. They come from what we say about how we were raised. They come from what we say about there being a full employment economy.
We can say, Oh my gosh, this really makes it harder because it's a full employment economy. Or we can choose to make another statement. We can choose to say full employment. You mean? That means that there's more jobs out there. Wow. , and it's our choice. We make the choice. So the feelings about being unemployed don't come from being unemployed.
They come from what we say about being unemployed. And we can change what we're saying, and our brain says, Oh, okay. Yeah, you're right. Absolutely. Wow.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Right. Thank you for making that point. So let's just take it a step further and say, okay, I'm turning the situation around. I'm trying to find the positive, and I'm keeping in mind this mindset, even though I'm in the middle of getting a lot of rejections, I'm applying online, I'm getting rejected. I may be making a little headway with a particular opportunity. Maybe I even made it to the finals and then I got rejected. Others, I get rejected immediately as soon as I send in my application. So, just in the face of constant rejection, do you have a recommendation for how to keep turning the situation around to tell yourself positive messages?
Steven Campbell: Well, again, this is what's really helped me. When I first began doing this after I got fired from that job, and I got rejected a lot, I said to myself, you know what? Being told no is a part of growing, because being told no makes me stronger. Being told no says I need to work differently next time and I need to change what I'm saying to myself when I'm told no.
Being told no isn't personal. It's just saying, no, you won't fit our company. Our employees are in a different place where you are. What I tell myself is, don't take it personally.
Carol Fishman Cohen: People, I know I've felt this myself, I know so many relaunchers, especially when there's repeated rejection, when you start to feel like it must be me, it's really personal.
How do you fight that aspect of what, what can then be a torrent of negative self-talk as a result?
Steven Campbell: Well, first of all, remind people that it has happened to everyone. It's happened to everyone. It's if you're in America, if you're in the world today, you're gonna get some really hard stuff that happens to you.
Whether it's a loss of a job, whether it's a bankruptcy, whether it's a sickness, it just happens to everyone. But it's, what's so interesting is that, people take it differently. How can they take it differently? Because they choose to take it differently. So you have met people, I'm sure, Carol, who have been raised in horrible situations that were just horrendous, and yet it's amazing what they have done to their lives. You've also met people who have been raised in situations to die for and some of them wish they could. Yeah. What's the difference? It's not the situation, it's what they said about the situation. It is what they said about, I'm gonna take this personally.
Well, you can do that. That's absolutely fine, but it's not fine because when you take it personally, then you are affecting how you feel about yourself. You're saying this bad things indicates that there's something wrong with me. Unfortunately, what did we say in the beginning? Your brain says, Oh, okay. Yeah, you're right. It is something wrong with you. 'Cause the brain believes everything we tell it. So you can switch that and you can say, Okay, maybe I've been told no for the umpteenth time, but that simply means I haven't gotten there yet. I haven't got that perfect fit. I haven't gotten where I need to be. And that's all right.
Now, will that be a one time statement? No, you'll have to probably say it a lot of times because what the brain needs to do is it needs to rewire itself. And the brain rewiring itself doesn't take just one statement. It takes a mindset. And what's a mindset is simply saying, this is what I'm gonna believe. This is what I'm gonna believe. And the wonderful thing about the brain, and I keep saying this, is that whatever you believe the brain believes it too. The brain says, Okay, yeah, you're right. You're right. You're right.
Here's another thing that gets us stuck with procrastination. When we are out of a job, we say, I've got to get this job. Now, Carol, I want you to, wherever you are right now, hold your hand up so your palm is facing my palm. Are you with me?
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yep.
Steven Campbell: Okay. I'm gonna, I'm gonna press on your palm with my palm. What is your palm doing right now? What are you doing right now?
Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm pressing back.
Steven Campbell: You're pressing back. That's right. That's called restrictive motivation. When you say, I've got to get this job, or else, the brain does all sorts of negative stuff. The first thing it does is procrastinates. The first thing it does is, I hate being told what to do. I don't like that. So the story that I love to tell was when they opened up a hotel in Galveston and the manager said, people are gonna be fishing off the balconies. What should we do? And one guy said, we should make signs in all the balcony, all the rooms in the second, third floors positively no fishing from the balcony. So they did that. And they opened up the hotel. And what do you think happened, Carol? Everyone fished off the balcony, they saw that sign. Oh, wow. And they broke all sorts of windows from people's weights. Kidding. So finally they got together and they said, what should we do? What should, and one guy said, take down those stupid signs. And they did. They haven't had a problem since.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, wow.
Steven Campbell: You see, the brain doesn't know what the word, the brain does not know what to do with the word not. The brain doesn't know what to do with that. When you say, I will not do this, that confuses the brain because one part of that sentence that says you will do it, and the other one says you won't. And so what it does is when you say, I have to do this, is procrastinates. Now sometime procrastination doesn't work, so the next thing it does, is it says, Okay, it's gonna use perfectionism. Perfectionism is, I'm gonna do that absolutely perfect, and I'm gonna really down on myself. If it's not perfect. I'm just gonna load myself with negative self-talk if I don't get the perfect job and the perfect situation. You can do that, but again, that's your choice. And that perfectionism and that procrastination both leads to negative self-talk.
So let's switch that. Let's go to constructive motivation, and I'll say this really slowly so your listeners can write this down. Constructive motivation is, I don't have to do this, I want to. I like what I'm becoming. I love what I'm doing and it is my idea. Being out of work is hard. But as I said at the beginning, it's also an opportunity to see myself differently, to learn something differently, to take the time to go back to school or take an online course or do some of the things that I have not been able to do because I've been out of work. I've always worked. Again, it's a choice that we make.
It's a choice that we make. And what's so wonderful is the brain just says, Oh yeah, okay. Yeah, you're right, you're right, you're right, you're right.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. And now can I just like circle back to something you were saying before about the procrastination and perfectionism and negative self-talk?
And then I wanna get back to what you're talking about right now. So you're saying that procrastination, like, is procrastination and perfectionism the opposite of each other? Is it, are they, do they go hand in hand with them?
Steven Campbell: Well, they can go hand in hand. If procrastination doesn't work. So I can't procrastinate anymore. I gotta do this. So then what we say is we say, okay, if I'm not, if I can't procrastinate, I'm gonna find the perfect job. I gotta find the perfect job to stop myself from procrastinating. And unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect job. No such thing.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So it perpetuates it. So then it makes you perpetuate more?
Steven Campbell: And makes, and then it makes you feel worse about yourself. So rather than saying, I must do this and I've got to do this and I better do this, you say, you know what? I'm doing this because I want to. I like the fact that right now I can look for something that I really want to do. Is that easy to say? Of course not, because you don't have money coming in. But it's a, it's a message you can give yourself and you lock onto it.
That message becomes eventually part of who you are. Lemme give you another story. For the first 42 years of my life, I said to myself, I'm really dumb in math, stupid in math. And I was, 'cause that's what I said. And then I discovered computers back in the seventies, began messing around with computers.
Eventually got a graduate degree in computer science, began teaching computer courses. And one day the dean came in my office, he said, one of our math professors just quit. So you're a new math professor. I can't do numbers. He said, you want a job? Learn? There's the book. Next semester you're teaching math. So I needed the job.
So I ran down to the Roanoke Park Library of all places and I picked up all the books on brain-based learning. That's how this whole thing started back in the seventies. And I began teaching my course based on how the brain learns and students began saying, you are such a good math teacher. And then the dean said, all the students saying, I will only take math if Mr. Campbell teaches me. And what I began doing, Carol, is I began listening to what they were saying rather than what I had been saying about myself for 42 years. I began switching. I began saying, You know what? Math is really fun. I'm having a good time doing this. And the more fun it was and the better I got it, I eventually ended up writing two college textbooks.
On what do you think? Math. Okay. Is it magical? No. It's a matter of changing what you are saying to yourself about yourself and being out of work. If it's all negative, the brain's gonna say, Yeah, you're right. It is, it is, is. But you're gonna also say, being outta work is really hard. But it's also an opportunity for me that I haven't had maybe in a long time.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you, related to that, can you talk about the role of people around you? Like expectations of parents, or naysayers or people in your social circle or your peer group and feeling peer pressure and feeling the pressure of expectations of society. I don't, you know, feels like there's a lot of expectations out there, and how do you synthesize that when you're trying to keep from getting too negative?
Steven Campbell: I tell my, my clients be very careful about the people who surround you. If you've got naysayers, they're just not gonna help you any. And maybe you can find another group. Maybe you can find a networking group or in the same spot that you're in.
I do a lot of presentations for networking groups in the Silicon Valley because there's a lot of people out of work in Silicon Valley, so you're not alone. And so I tell people, what if you have people that are just being negative and make you feel down, maybe you shouldn't be around them as much. And that can include your family or that can include people that are just not healthy for you.
Again, it's a decision you have to make. You can't say, you gotta stop telling me that, 'cause that's probably who they are. But you can say, you know what? That just doesn't really help me. And right now I think I'm gonna, go get some coffee or something because this isn't just good for me. Right now I need encouragement and that is not encouraging to me. I need to feel good about myself, and that doesn't help. That doesn't help. And so it's, I know it seems like a simplistic solution, but I just tell, don't get around them. Don't. Don't. Just very gently say, you know what? This isn't gonna work for us for a while.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like it's not even , it can not only be what people are saying or not saying to you, it's just like who they are and what they do in their lives.
Steven Campbell: Yeah. Yeah. And unfortunately, most of what we communicate to another person is non-verbal. It's non-verbal. It's not what they say. It's how they say it. And some, and if this person doesn't make you feel good about what you're doing, maybe you should just say, you know what, I think maybe we should just maybe quit seeing each other for a while until I get back on my feet, until I, I get in a healthier place. And it, they take it personally, that's their problem, not your problem. That's their problem, not yours..
Carol Fishman Cohen: Steve. Okay. We're in, we're wrapping up right now and I wanna make sure that anything that you have, that you want to communicate to the audience about specific steps, or that have not been discussed so far gets out into our conversation. Is there anything that we have not covered?
Steven Campbell: I think we've said it all, but let me resay it again because it's, what's so wonderful about this is that it's so easy to understand, number one. Number one, your brain is believing everything you tell it. Pay attention to what you were saying to yourself about your brain.
Number two, you can change what you were saying a about yourself. You can decide to, and your brain says, Okay. Number three are the feelings that you have about yourself do not come from being out of work. They are coming from what you are saying about being out of work, and you can change what you are saying.
So when Mary said to me 10 years ago, something wonderful's gonna happen, I looked at her in a really, really strange way. But since then I've spoke to around 31,000 people and have written all these books, have done amazing things that never would've happened if I hadn't lost my job. So it, it really comes down to number one, the brain believes what you tell it, without question. The way you feel about yourself is not based on how you were raised or even being out of work. It's what you're saying about being out of work. And you can change what you're saying. And when you do, your brain says, Okay. Is it true? Don't care.
Let me share with you a story that I tell at the very end of my presentation, really, really quickly. I was on my way to work waiting for light to change, and the kid came up to me in a very fancy jalopy. He looked at my Toyota, I looked at him. He, the light changed. He went peeling up the freeway, passing everyone. As I watched this whole scenario, had this epiphany, how many cars are already in front of him? Millions. How many cars are behind him? Millions. So maybe it's not a matter of how fast you get there. Maybe it's a matter of you're going in the right direction. But you know what, Carol? Even when we go in the right direction, sometimes we just run out of gas. Sometimes we get a flat tire, sometimes we even lose our way.
But you know what? You can buy some more gas. You can replace the tire, you can get a map. And what's so wonderful is the brain just says, Oh, okay. Is it true? Don't care. All I care is what you tell me. You say it. I believe it. You lock onto it. You know what I will do? I will do everything I can to make it true in your life.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow. Wow. Very powerful. Stephen Campbell, thank you so much, for being with us today. Yeah. Can you tell our audience how they can find out more about your work?
Steven Campbell: I have a website. It's stevenrcampbell.com, but more than that, I have an online seminar of about six hours in 40 minute segments from which you get, a seminar that I gave in Silicon Valley a year ago, and usually the cost is $599, but for your people, I'm gonna lower it down to $120, 'cause I've been there. And if you would like to hear more about that, the website is stevenrcampbell.teachable.com.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you spell that?
Steven Campbell: Sure. S T E V E N R C A M P B E L dot T E A C H A B L E.com. And let me give you my email because you'll need to contact me to get the discount. My email is email@example.com. And just tell me that you heard me on Carol Fishman Cohen's podcast and I will get back to you and give you the discount. I also have a book called Making Your Mind Magnificent on Amazon and Making Your Mind Magnificent on Audible. So I have those two. Okay, and my email again is s t e v e n c @sbcglobal.net.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thank you Steven, and thanks for those resources and for that discounted offer for access to your course. We really appreciate that. And most of all, thank you for the conversation today and the advice
Steven Campbell: Thank you, Carol. Thank you so much for having me on your program. What a privilege.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thanks for joining us and thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discussed strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch, go to iRelaunch.Com.
And if you like this podcast, be sure to rate it on iTunes and your favorite podcast platform. And be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Thanks for joining us.