How To Tame Your Gremlin.
Do you have an inner Gremlin? I do. She appears regularly (mines a she). Although I am pleased to say she appears far less than she used to. She used to pop in many times a day before I learned how to tame her. She is much calmer than she used to be. I am alert to her most of the time, but she’s devious. She now knows to pick my most vulnerable moments, such as first thing in the morning before I am properly conscious, or last thing at night when I am just dozing gently off to sleep. The rest of the time I have her in check these days. When she does appear, wow, she is totally over the top – by that I mean that she is in there for a SERIOUS moan. She criticises, worries, she is very anxious, she pokes and picks at any concerns that might be going on in my life at that time. She catastrophises and is relentless. Mostly her worries are to do with me – my future, my money, my relationships, my appearance, my life. She criticises everything I do, and everything I haven’t done. She is impossible to please and she is always miserable, cranky and unhappy. That is her job and she does it well. My Gremlin is my inner critic, my negative voice, the voice of my brain trying to keep me safe from harm.
Let me tell you some more about your inner gremlin and share some tips and techniques to tame your gremlin that work for me.
- Your gremlin isn’t you, and you are not your gremlin.
Your inner gremlin is just your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. When your inner gremlin pops in for a moan, don’t trust him/her. Separate yourself from your gremlin. One way to do this is give him/her a name. Draw a picture of him/her. Is your gremlin male or female? How old is your gremlin? It will help you to see yourself as separate from your gremlin. Sometimes, when I get caught off guard, I actually believe that my inner gremlin is ME – and sometimes it takes me a short period of time to work out that it isn’t. It’s always a relief to discover it’s the Gremlin.
- Understand WHY your gremlin is there and thank it.
The reason we all have a gremlin is to protect us. Usually they shout and moan the loudest when we have something going on, and when we are stressed. The gremlin’s job is to keep you safe and it has woken up because something has warned it that you are stressed. Your job is to recognise when your gremlin is awake and moaning, realise it isn’t you, and tell it something like ‘Thank you gremlin, I realise you are there to keep me safe, and I appreciate it. I’ve got this, you can relax now.’ I know that sounds daft, but it works!
- What your gremlin is really good at.
Gremlins are great at repetition. It repeats worries over and over like a broken record. Also it loves patterns and it will search through your long forgotten memories remind you of them. ‘Remember when you tried this before and you failed?’ ‘You are going to look an idiot.’ ‘People are going to laugh at you.’ ‘Small businesses fail all the time.’ ‘What makes you think you are special?’ and on and on and on….. It does this to try to make you agree and say, ah yes, that’s right, I did fail before. It’s true, small businesses DO fail. Perhaps I should give up. That’s what the gremlin wants. When your gremlin brings up these memories and facts, you can acknowledge it – hey well done gremlin, that’s clever of you, now you can go back to sleep. Hopefully that should pacify your inner critic and that allows you to get back to whatever you were doing.
- What your gremlin is really bad at
Gremlins aren’t creative but you are! Therefore one thing that helps to quieten your gremlin is to write down positive goals that you want to achieve – do this either before you go to bed or when you get up in the morning. This keeps you focussed on the future in a positive and creative way. Your gremlin can only regurgitate old and limiting belief patterns and thoughts. You, however, can create new positive beliefs and take action. Your gremlin just can’t cope with all that positive reinforcement and he or she will hopefully then be quiet.
- Acknowledge what your gremlin says
I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it works. When your gremlin starts its tirade of negativity, write it all down. Get all that stuff onto the paper. You can shred it or burn it later if you like. Your gremlin will be surprised about this, and happy because you are listening and then it can go back to sleep and so can you. You are taking the words from your sub-conscious, acknowledging them, and releasing them.
- Ask yourself, is it true?
Take one of the thoughts that the gremlin is giving you and ask yourself, is it true? Are you sure it is true? How do you know it is true? For example, if the gremlin says something like ‘you tried this before and failed, and you are going to fail again, so it’s not worth trying – give up.’ Ask yourself, did I fail before? Perhaps you did, so it is true, you did fail before. Is it true that you will fail again? No, it is impossible to know that as truth. It’s not worth trying? Is that true? No, you can’t know that to be true. Also, if you failed before, what did you gain from trying? You may have learned a new skill, or met a new person, or something in that experience was positive even if you ultimately ‘failed’, the experience may have taught you something amazing and valuable.
- Ask yourself, ‘what is my gremlin trying to protect me from?’
It is a valuable exercise to examine why your gremlin is jumping up and down. Is there something going on for you right now? Are you worrying about something? Is your gremlin trying to protect you from doing something which might cause you disapproval, pain, uncertainty, difficult tasks, the possibility of looking a fool, of being criticised, of failing? His job is to keep you safe, remember. It is your responsibility to live your biggest, best most authentic and courageous life, so this means upsetting your inner gremlin from time to time.
Gremlin doesn’t want you to put yourself out there, to be brave, to start a new business, to do anything remotely dangerous! Gremlin wants you to sit home, eat and sleep. Gremlin is like an over-protective parent who doesn’t want her child to play out with the big kids. Heaven forbid you might scrape your knee. Don’t listen to the gremlin – you need to get out there to live your life. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and look back and realise you have all these regrets because you listened to your grumbling gremlin do you?
- Realise how the gremlin was created.
Your gremlin is unique to you – he/she was created from your doubts, fears, insecurities, negative experiences, criticisms from other people, low self-confidence, lack of approval, worry. He remembers it all and is ready to bring it to the forefront of your mind at a moment’s notice to remind you.
When your gremlin wakes up and starts to rattle his cage, just remember that your gremlin is doing the best job he can to protect you from harm, and he uses the only tools he has, your memories and insecurities. Say to yourself, this is not me, this is my gremlin. It’s not real. The bully runs away when you confront him.
These are my favourite ways to deal with my inner gremlin. I hope that when your inner gremlin rattles his cage that you will try these and see which work for you. Keep them in your toolkit ready for when you need them, and change tactics from time to time to confuse your gremlin.
Tell me about the struggles you have with your gremlin – I’d love to know how these tips work for you.
And if you know someone who struggles with their own grumpy gremlin please share this post.