“I’m not good enough so I won’t even try.” “They’ll find out I’m a fake.”
“I could never succeed making that change.” “I’ll embarrass myself.”
Those thoughts and that voice in your head saying those things is your inner critic – Gremlin – that tells you you’re not good looking enough, smart enough, you’ll never be able to do that, you picked the wrong career path so just suck it up, etc. It’s been with you forever and is such a familiar voice that it’s hard not to think that’s who you are. It’s not true.
Your gremlin is not you; it is merely part of you.
There are three steps you can take to let your gremlin know you’re done with letting it hold you back.
1. Name Your Gremlin
After you acknowledge that there is that inner critic that is judging you, and not serving you, it’s time to give it a name. When you do this you are bringing it out of the shadows, and making it clear it is only part of you and not your entire being.
So, name your Gremlin! Spend some time with it. It can be anything: a name (Hank), an inanimate object (Tree), or an animal (Bear), or whatever. The only rule is it cannot be the name of a person in your life you don’t like or has hurt you, because that will make it hard to distinguish the gremlin from that person.
2. Confuse your Gremlin
I ask my clients to make a list of 60 of their strengths. Yes, 60! There’s always push back saying that that’s impossible. But they do it. (I do say that when you hit 50 or so, they can ask family or friends to help out.)
The results range from “I’m funny” to “I’m a caring parent,” to “I’m a problem solver,” to “I’m an excellent financial planner,” and so on.
When you do this, you realize you have all these strengths that have led to a list of accomplishments and successes a mile long! And, when you create this list, you are confusing your gremlin. Your gremlin likes to look at what might go wrong, rather than acknowledging the truth: you have a lot of accomplishments.
What the gremlin is saying to you just isn’t true and you have the data points to prove it!
3. Control your Gremlin
When you have named it and found contrary evidence to what it’s saying, you can control it.
When you start to hear that voice saying it’s going to be too hard, or you’ll embarrass yourself, or you’ll never succeed at it, just say, “Shut up Gremlin!”
If it’s still criticizing you and causing doubt, remember your list of accomplishments, and tell him again, “Wait a minute, Gremlin, I have all these successes that prove I have and can do amazing things. You’re wrong!”
Or you can politely say, “Thank you, but I don’t need your input right now.”
You will never get rid of your Gremlin. It has been with you forever, and will continue to be. It has been with you during hard times and is a familiar presence and voice. But, it is not serving you now. It holds you back from being who you are meant to be, and from doing what you’re meant to do.
Becoming aware of and then naming, confusing, and controlling your gremlin can lead to very rapid change and the ability to move forward with confidence.
Tim recently discussed inner critics and his coaching practice in an interview with Forbes.
Ressmeyer Partners is a Chicago-based life, leadership, and executive coaching company serving clients around the globe. Happy Hour Coach® is a service that provides impactful group coaching “in the spirit of a happy hour.” Tim Ressmeyer, Ph.D. is a certified professional coach and Founding Partner, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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