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“You’re not good enough”
“You should keep quiet”
“What a stupid thing to say, you idiot”
“You can’t do that”
That voice in our head has a spectacular talent for running us down.
Our gremlins cast judgment (usually negative) on the past, influence what we do (or don’t do) in the present, and poor cold water over future plans. The have a huge impact on the quality of life we lead.
Dealing with our gremlins is a vital part of any Mental Spring Cleaning.
A friend of mine was telling me about their inability to ask for a promotion at work.
She felt she was totally outperforming their peers, had great feedback from her line manager and had surpassed every goal she had set. Yet when it came to pulling the trigger and asking, a voice in her head kicked in saying “who are you to ask for a promotion – you don’t deserve it”.
My friend described feeling paralyzed by the strength of this thought and found an excuse to run away without broaching the subject. Afterwards, she was furious with herself for “bottling it”.
We tried to figure out how this gremlin came about in the first place. Gremlins almost always come from childhood experiences where we create defence mechanisms to protect ourselves.
My friend recalled asking a teacher in primary school for permission to join the school choir and being told “No – you haven’t worked hard enough on your singing”. Even now she recalled the sick feeling in her stomach that day.
Her gremlin formed to protect her from that feeling, and since then she has always struggled to ask others, particularly in authority for what she wants. On reflection, she recalled many times when she held back from asking for something and told herself “you don’t deserve this”.
Creating these protection mechanisms takes a lot of hard work. We use a lot of mental bandwidth once the emergency red light comes on and a gremlin kicks in. My friend felt exhausted for the rest of the day – probably because she had used her adrenaline rush for flight rather than fight.
Many of our gremlins are no longer useful to us in adult life. My friend’s gremlin worked well when she was a little girl, but now it was a serious pain in her backside, holding her back from being successful.
6 Steps to bust that gremlin!
If you have a voice in your head that is holding you back, this is a powerful technique to move on. I used it with my friend and it has helped countless coaching clients:
- Identify the gremlin you face (how does it manifest and what does it say to you) and give it a name
- Understand the gremlin’s purpose and history. Think back through your past to the first time the gremlin appeared. What was its’ purpose back then (usually protecting you in some way).
- Acknowledge the gremlin and thank it for helping out. Let the gremlin know that it is no longer needed for this purpose. Tell yourself that you can handle things from now on.
- Identify your new approach – how would you like to act differently in the next situation where the gremlin might arise (e.g. for my friend she would like to confidently ask for what she wants)
- Ask the gremlin to help out – the gremlin can provide a lot of energy to the new approach. Ask the gremlin to help you act differently next time.
- Set a goal – identify the first time that this energy can help you out and what outcome you’d like. In my friend’s case she set the goal to go back to her boss and this time she asked for and got promoted.
Over to you
Answer the following questions:
- What gremlins do you have?
- When do they appear for you?
- How do they hold you back?
- Which gremlin would you like to change the most?
Try the gremlin buster and set yourself a goal. Leave a comment on what you are hoping to change and email me if you’d like support in this Spring Cleaning activity.
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Photo Credit – Inti (Flickr Creative Commons)